The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Directed by: Michael Apted

Premise: The third film in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Pevensie siblings Lucy and Edmund (Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes) and their bratty cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) travel to Narnia and assist Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in recovering seven magical swords.

What Works: Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a return to the lighter fun of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The focus of this film is less on the politics of Narnia and much more on keeping the audience entertained with fantasy adventure sequences. As a result it has a more streamlined story than either of the two previous films. Voyage of the Dawn Treader adds new character Eustace, played by Will Poulter, and the young actor gives the most memorable performance of the film.

What Doesn’t: The problems of Voyage of the Dawn Treader are rooted in its source material. As Dawn Treader departs from the politics of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Prince Caspian, it also loses a sense of purpose. The previous films were about liberating the people of Narnia from tyranny and now that this has been achieved the film needs to give its characters some greater purpose. And Dawn Treader has the start of that early on in the film as the characters discover the existence of a slave trade. But rather than pursuing the infrastructure of that activity, the film sends its heroes on journey to collect mystical objects. The story at that point is less a narrative than it is a concept and as the heroes set about trying to find the magical swords it is never clear why they are doing this, especially when the characters put themselves at great peril. Voyage of the Dawn Treader also suffers from discarding the older Pevensie siblings from the previous films, as the remaining brother and sister are rather uninteresting.

Bottom Line: As a family-friendly fantasy picture, Voyage of the Dawn Treader works. The film will likely entertain children but for those who enjoy the texture of more sophisticated fantasy films will have to look elsewhere.

Episode: #319 (December 19, 2010)