Monday, December 06, 2010

Narnia 3: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: muddled and badly acted, but better than the first two

Some of my favorite books growing up as a child were the Chronicles of Narnia series. They were subversive, irreverent and wickedly silly, yet still had those good old Christian morals that made them ok to read by any parents standards. On the flip side, I have never really been a fan of the movie versions of the books. The first two were badly paced, horribly acted and were really awkward for some reason. The costuming and makeup were pretty lame and I honestly don’t recall what either was about (except what I remember from the books). So on this third go-round, I had high hopes. Not only is Voyage of the Dawn Treader my favorite of the Narnia books, but I had assumed the filmmakers had realized their mistakes and made some needed corrections to make this third installment a lot more enjoyable…well, not really.

Dawn Treader follows Lucy and Edmund (two of the original four world hoppers) on an adventure back to the land of Narnia. In tow is their cousin Eustace, and annoying dweeb who will do anything to try and get you to leave the theater. In returning to Narnia, they reunite with Prince Caspian who is onboard the Dawn Treader, the finest ship in the Narnian fleet. In the film its not quite explained as to why Prince Caspian is sailing around other than he wants to repay the seven Lords who swore allegiance to him. (yeah, read the book for clarification). Whilst abroad, they happen upon an evil green mists that eats people and decide to find out what it is and destroy it. Hijinx ensue, funny creatures are revealed and everyone acts so horribly morose you would think they were returning a ring to Mordor expecting death.

What I really want to do is spend an entire paragraph on the actor who plays Eustace (Will Poulter). There is a common phrase I reserve for actors who are so intolerably unwatchable that I can’t really come to terms with how ridiculously over the top bad they are. In this case it is entirely appropriate. I wanted to kick him in the throat! There, I said it. I know he is supposed to be an insufferable know-it-all from the books, but the thing couldn’t open his mouth without nails on the chalkboard type reaction from the audience. Lets just say I’m glad when he…well, I don’t want to ruin the movie, but all you book readers know what happens to Eustace and I welcomed his silence.

I would also like to comment on the other actors but I’m sure you’ve seen the other movies and therefore know how bad they really are. It seems that the filmmakers have taken some notes and removed the two of the four lead actors. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmond (Skandar Keynes) have not progressed much and poor price Caspian (Ben Barnes) has maybe 10 lines in the whole film. A shame since he was the best live action actor there. Of course, they are all outdone by the large Mouse Reepicheep (Simon Pegg) and of course Aslan (Liam Neeson). Despite minimal screen time for any one character in this movie, these animated characters do enough scenes salvaging to make the characters somewhat enjoyable.

The film of course is not all bad. I really and honestly enjoyed the special effects. They have certainly stepped it up a notch in terms of detail. I think what bothered me about the first two is that everyone wore such bright neon colors and nobody ever got dirty…even in battle. Luckily, I think due to the source material, the film is distinctly darker than the other two. Perhaps because the themes of pure evil and temptation are the plotlines that actually move the story along. The editing could be spruced up a bit as there were a lot of long awkward pauses as characters reacted to lines or looked at each other after a particularly witty line. The directing seemed adequate to get such a meandering story under control and the cinematographer should have realized that this was going to be a 3D movie…meaning that close up fight scenes are a no-no. The 3D was OK; a little nauseating at times which makes me think that it was post converted to 3D rather than filmed that way.

In all the film was very serviceable. I must admit that I enjoyed it more than the previous two even though I will probably have to rely on the books again if anyone asks me what its about. Of course, that is what the movies are about. Mindless entertainment can be fun, too bad there was little fun in this adaptation. It’s just a shame that all of the subtle relationships, adventures and connections that the book relates so simply, seem so muddled and incoherent here. It is quite enjoyable, but if you want any meaning or connection to the characters, read the book.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

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