The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
7Apr/111

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

Andrew DISLIKEAs our frequent readers may know, Danny has a section on our site called Films Of Faith where he looks at the curious subgenre of religious films.  It's curious how many movies try to make the spiritual process specifically about the religion and structure and less about the personal journey or moral tests.  The latest Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader would have you think that it is more about the journey than the structure.  Sadly, any piece of the journey reinforces the overarching Christian hierarchy and not in the most pleasing fashion.

In short, if I had to pick my movies for this week all over again, I would let Danny tackle this one years down the road and I would have watched Jackass 3D instead.  At least in that case I would have seen young men looking directly at death and experiencing any number of faith crisis points.  Or at least they would have some kind of giant shopping cart smash into a wall, that's always good for a chuckle.

The Narnia films are the most boring and plodding of any fantasy series I've stumbled across.  That there are few fantasy series that manage to survive beyond a film or two and that Narnia has survived through three is more a testament to the love and affection that people have for the books of Narnia than the quality of the movies.  I, sadly, have not read any of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series and I will be rectifying that shortly if only to rekindle some hope that the movies just get the stories horribly wrong.

I don't know why "bratty" and "annoying" are the two defaults for any child performer in this series.

Dawn Treader stars only two of the Pevensie siblings, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley).  The older children Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) appear in cameos but are now too old to experience Narnia properly.  Since the films function as a giant Christian allegory there are some interesting parallels between that fact and how our perceptions of religion change as we grow older, but this movie isn't about genuine theological questions.  Instead it's about being trapped on a boat that looks too fake, on a journey that has no dramatic heft, with characters that we don't like, on a collision course with nothing in particular.

I'd like to say that it's all build up and no pay off, but the movie hardly builds anything up.  Edmund and Lucy are fretting about England before the start of WWII and are stuck with their ultra-logical and book-learning cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter).  Eustace has the annoying habit of disbelieving the existence of anything that is staring him directly in the face.  Which is fine when he thinks his cousin is seeing things when a painting begins to shake, but is less compelling after half an hour when he's faced with another fantastical creature that can talk.

Anyway, the faithful and skeptical alike are swept into a painting of a boat at sea and find themselves aboard the Dawn Treader with Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) at the helm.  They're on a mission to save the lost Seven Lords of Narnia and try to find the mythical land of Aslan (Liam Neeson).  The lion is absent for most of Dawn Treader, except right when we need to know that He exists in our world, just under a different name.  Why he couldn't help the Pevensie siblings and Caspian sooner, I don't know, but I suppose some of the same questions could be levied on this side of the mirror/painting/whatever.

I wanted to feel awe. Instead I was just looking around for a save point.

Nothing in the film works properly.  A scene of Lucy opening up a book and experiencing a shower of sparkles and stars just looks like a child performer over acting against bad special effects.  Even Aslan, when he finally appears, has lost much of his nobility and strength that the character design had in the previous two Narnia movies.  Part of the diminished look of all the special effects has to do with the 3D conversion director Michael Apted was forced to do.  He's gone on record saying it and now I'll join him and the host of others, 3D is a horrible idea and even if it won't be 3D at home washes out the effects on DVD.

Now for that subtext.  Obviously the Narnia books are very steeped in Christian ideologies what with the faith, resurrection and all that jazz.  What I found troubling about Narnia was a subplot involving Lucy's growing hormonal urges.  There's a sequence where she turns into someone that she thinks men will find more desirable and, as a result, Narnia and all knowledge of it disappears.  On the surface it seems to be a message about being yourself, but why would a girl wanting to feel more attractive to men result in the death of Heaven (which, let's be honest here, is what Narnia stands for in the end)?

Oh yes, because it's ok for little boys to become men with all the sexual troubles that implies, but a girl losing her faith early just dooms us all.  *sigh*

If you have kids and you want to watch a film about faith that is truly inspiring, I'm going to once again suggest the stellar Millions directed by Danny Boyle.  If you want to reinforce the same kind of centuries old gendered religious stereotypes about sexuality and blind faith then please get Dawn Treader.  Just don't come complaining to me when you see how boring it is.

TCoN: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Directed by Michael Apted.
Screenplay by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni.
Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes and Will Poulter.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. I personally haven’t seen any of the Narnia movies, but I have heard good things about them, and I know that they are intensely popular. I know The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes out tomorrow April 8th on DVD, I think I am gong to have to check it out for myself and then give an opinion.

    Thank you for commenting and I’m curious about your thoughts! I’ve been bored with the series from the very beginning and at best they’ve been intensely watered down renditions of the Lord Of The Rings movies with just the slightest twist of the fantasy spark. This one isn’t nearly as bad as Prince Caspian (Despair! Anguish! Long flowing locks!) but what little joyous spark they try to wring out of this one just feels and looks false.

    I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt so far and watched them on the big-screen (being fantasy epics and all) but not a single one of them is worth owning or renting and it’s doubtful I’ll be returning to the theater when the fourth hits. However, if you get some enjoyment out of it, then that’s all that really matters. I most certainly did not.


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