Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship The Dawn Treader. Along the way they encounter dragons, dwarves, merfolk, and a band of lost warriors before reaching the edge of the world.
This is the third instalment in The Chronicles of Narnia. The first two focussed on the adventures of all four Pevensie siblings. At the end of the second film, Peter and Susan were told by Aslan the Great Lion, the Creator and Lord of Narnia, that they would not return to the magical kingdom, but the two youngest, Edmund and Lucy, would.
As with the first two films, DAWN TREADER begins in England during the Second World War. Lucy and Edmund have been sent to live with their relatives the Scrubbs. Peter and Susan are in America with their father. Edmund and Lucy want to travel to America, but the presence of German U-Boats make the Atlantic crossing potentially lethal. So they are stuck with the Scrubbs. Neither Pevensie is enjoying this, particularly because their cousin Eustace is a tale-telling, overly sensitive, priggish boy who dislikes having to share his home.
No sooner have we been introduced to the annoying Eustace then bang! Director Michael Apted cranks up the pace and transitions our hero-children back to the world of Narnia. They find themselves plucked out of the ocean and onto the deck of The Dawn Treader. Aboard are two friends, Reepicheep the swash-buckling soldier mouse and Caspian, the Prince of the second movie who has now become King Caspian and rules Narnia.
The King is on a mission to find some former friends of his late father. They are seven lords who set sail for the Lost Isles. As Caspian, Edmund and Lucy delve more into the mystery of the lords, greater questions unfold. The further they travel, the more they come into contact with the darker part of Narnia.
DAWN TREADER is essentially a quest tale and thus has the rhythm of a nautical “road movie”. The ship travels to distant lands and discovers strange people and exotic creatures. It’s Jason and the Argonauts, it’s Ulysses, and it’s Gulliver’s Travels without the satire.
Walden Media, the company responsible for all the Narnia movies, have improved the look and feel of CS Lewis’s fictional universe with each outing. The computer graphics in this are the best so far (although The Merfolk don’t cut it). The real locations and fantasy sets combine to make these new parts of Narnia visually stunning and more real to the eye than say, the White Witch’s castle of the first film.
The main performances are in the capable hands of Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund. These two have always been stronger actors than their older movie siblings. Anna Popplewell who played Susan has quite an Internet following and this is catered for in her cameo appearance. Will Poulter who plays newcomer Eustace is notable in a difficult comedic role that nonetheless has some serious moments. Fans of TV series SCHOOL OF COMEDY will recognise the talented Poulter from that. Eddie Izzard who voiced Reepicheep in the last film was unavailable and has been replaced with Simon Pegg. Caspian is again played by actor Ben Barnes. He is surer of himself in this outing, perhaps aided by the decision that he somehow lose his “Telmarine” accent. Australian audiences will be amused to discover Gary Sweet in the role of The Dawn Treader’s captain, Drinian.
Veteran director Michael Apted has had an amazing career that has taken him from his famous 7-UP documentary series, through to dramas like GORKY PARK (1983), COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER (1980) and GORILLAS IN THE MIST (1988). He has covered most areas of film directing in his 40 plus year career. He has even directed a Bond film, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999). He effortlessly brings this one home for the Walden Media folk.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is a solid addition to this children’s film franchise. It has the same elements of action and danger as the other films. Which is to say low-level violence and no blood. It has great visuals and some humour. For those who have already enjoyed travelling to Narnia, this particular voyage should be as enjoyable as the others. The movie has a run time of 115 minutes and is available in 3D.
DAWN TREADER is released in Australia on Thursday December 2. I rated it 3/5.