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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Film Review - The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Written by Alex McIntyre

Critics may be jamming their quotes down your throat that this third entry in the Narnia franchise is restored to its former glory, but is the magic really back?
In all honesty, no.
You can’t help but feel sorry for this film.  The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is easily the most famous of the books, and would therefore be the most popular.  But alas, Disney got cocky and green lit Prince Caspian with an enormous budget, only to gross less than half of Wardrobe’s earnings.  The rights were ceremoniously dumped by the studio, but shortly picked up by 20th Century Fox.  So here we have Dawn Treader, complete with a new director and a severe budget trimming.  Sadly, all these faults during production have made their way onto the screen.  A terrible thing to say it may be, but Treader just looks cheaper than its predecessors.  Maybe it’s the on-location shooting as opposed to the lavish sets aided by green screen, but it’s certainly lacking some blockbuster polish. 

That’s not to say the cinematography is poor however; the exotic locales and brilliant costumes help bring the story to life compared to other fantasy films, and the action sequences are well crafted.  Director Michael Apted has chosen a handheld approach, and this adds a layer of grit to the picture.  Credit also has to be given to the child actors, who are thoroughly enjoyable and believable amongst the magic surrounding them. 
The script is everything you’d expect from a “sophisticated” (not my words) children’s film, but the plot is far too episodic for my liking.  Hopping from island to island is fine, but we need a reason to want to go there.  Ben Barnes has inexplicably lost his Spanish accent for this outing, and it’s an absolute slap in the face to continuity.  The climax may be by-the-numbers yet sufficient enough (although Tilda Swinton needs to get a real job and stop making cameos in these).  If you ever see any mischievous green mist on screen however, it’s probably the studio breathing down Narnia’s neck.  There are several scenes that feel forced, as if written for the sake of a money shot.  This is the case for a sequence in which Lucy casts a spell that causes the room to snow.  No point.  No outcome.  No mention of it ever again.  Yet I’ve seen that shot in every trailer, TV-spot and promo piece. 
It seems that Narnia isn’t the almighty franchise it used to be; it has weak legs and is overpowered by the domineering company.  20th Century Fox may have a notorious reputation for this, but it’s quite sad seeing this happen to something that was always remembered for being hugely successful, both in literary and film form.  Many areas are cut down for budgetary reasons.  The running time has been significantly shortened (the first two are 150 minutes, but 115’s all you’re getting here) and voice actors are removed or replaced entirely.  Who knew Eddie Izzard was more expensive to hire than Simon Pegg?
All in all, Dawn Treader feels like a failing mall.  Sure you’ll go along because it’s there and it’s that time of year, but you will leave with nothing interesting to show for it.

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