This post is the updated copy of the review published in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday January 2nd 2011 in our film review column Animadversion. A link to the published version can be found at the end of this post.
Is that a Ship I See in the Painting?
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Lions, dragons, a big nasty water-snake and minor doses of self-doubts – "The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" buoys-up the tradition of British children saving an uncharted parallel fantasy-verse, whose lopsided continuity would give nightmares to any Timekeeper.
As far as I understood, decades of Narnia time=minutes of present, vice-versa. So, when in "Dawn Treader", the younger set of the Pevensie sibs – Lucy and Edmund (Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes) – return to Narnia to thwart unnecessary evil years later from our world (it is still the Second World War here, by the way) it would be decades, if not eons, of Narnian time. Instead its just years later in Narnia. The chic looking Ben Barnes – now King Caspian – barely has a grown-mans beard and an English accent (he talked in a tad Spanish tone before).
In "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" the gateway to Narnia was the old, secluded, wardrobe cabinet in a secret room. When "Prince Caspian" came, the children were blown to Narnia by a horn. Now it’s a painting that turns Niagara falls.
It all happens so fast thanks to the ham-fisted, scrunching, job by Narnian-first timer Michael Apted. "I didn’t notice it before, but the ship looks Narnian", says Lucy, peering into a maritime painting with a small boat fighting the waves.
"Are the waves moving", she thinks out loud. In seconds she, the once impressionable Edmund and their invective, squirmy cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) drown in clear-water and transition in front of "The Dawn Treader", a royal-looking mid-sized ship with a crew of man and man-beasts that will eventually get coiled-up by a computer generated sea-serpent.
But before that, there is a rudderless un-magical tailing about seven swords, seven misplaced lords – three of them are found sitting frozen at a table – and forgotten islands. There is an ill-omened green mist that kidnaps people; a pool of water that turns the greedy to gold; invisible hopping dwarves with a genetic foot deformity and an amulet that turns Eustace to a teary-eyed dragon.
As the pettifogging teen, Mr. Poulter is likable as soon as he becomes a dragon. For him (and only him), CGI was the way to go.
"Dawn Treader" falters and foils before ending as a TV-special episode (with a $140 Million budget) and oodles of Christian subtext.
Aslan – the big, furry coated lion who speaks in Liam Neeson’s tone – is god. His kingdom may be heaven. The Dark Island – with its sinister travelling mists and the look of Skull Island – is irrefutably hell.
Secreted in plain sight are proofs of characterizations that petrified the filmmakers. What would have been interesting bits are swatted down, swiftly: Lucy frequently doubts if she will blossom into beauty; in her mind, she grows into big sister Susan, who by the way, is too old for Narnia (Ms. Henley is graceful with a sparkle of maturity in her eyes). Edmund vexes about playing second fiddle to Caspian, and he gets his wonted pill of diffidence when Tilda Swinton returns for a scene as the White Witch, all misty and floating. Caspian is simply stumped on his governance skills.
The only one not in doubt is Reepicheep, the hero-hearted mouse who walks upright, talks regally and brandishes a slim mouse-keteer sword.
Voiced by Simon Pegg, Reepicheep – and Aslan – are the films’ epitaphs. For a fantasy it’s plain dumb sailing.
Released by 20th Century Fox, "Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is rated PG-13. "Prince Caspian" was flawed, but better.
By Farheen Jawaid
“Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” happens during the Second World War, but that is not its setting. The setting is the uniquely greenish-blue looking ocean – thanks no doubt to the film’s color corrected tone – and the Dawn Treader, the ship of adventure helmed by Caspian (Ben Barnes), now King. He’s older. His mane is still conditioned. His accent, now British.
In a fit to maintain a well-brought-up pace, director Michael Apted (heavy handed and arid I may add) and screenwriters Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni have Caspian rescue Lucy and Edmund Pevensie (Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes) from the ocean. The older set, Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Poppelwell) are too old to return to Narnia; innocence lost or something, I guess.
“Dawn Treader” travels on a lackluster, meek, adventure, puffed up by special effects, 3D and nondescript Christian allegory.
At times the narrative sticks out at the seams, dwindling as it incorporates elements that neither work for, nor against, the tale.
Weighty plot threads, like Edmunds unwillingness to accept the part of second fiddle and Lucy’s self-consciousness of beauty, are resolved due-haste.
There are a few bits of elegance in the screenplay, especially when Lucy and Edmund’s whimpering, niggling cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) is turned into a dragon and learns selflessness and camaraderie – a facet the film’s best character Reepichee (voiced by Simon Pegg) knows inside out (he was born with it).
In one scene Eustace, as a scaly dragon, literary cries. Funny how, now, it takes a computer generated dragon to add warmth in a movie.
The published version is here: