Thursday, 9 December 2010

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

It begs the question, if the pencil pushers at Disney can't seem to make visually breathtaking and universally enjoyable Narnia adaptation, what makes the people over at 20th Century Fox - synonymous for making mostly bland and uninspiring family films, not to mention, Avatar - think they can achieve a different result?

Set a year after the previous film, Prince Caspian, the film forgoes two of its main protagonists, Peter and Susan, to concentrate on their younger siblings', Lucy and Edmund, (George Henley and Skander Keynes) return to Narnia on an epic quest across the ocean, lead by the newly crowned, King Caspian (Ben Barnes). New additions to the cast include their bothersome cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) while everyone's favourite on-screen geek, Simon Pegg replaces the brilliant Eddie Izzard as Reepicheep the mouse.

One of the few good things that can be said about the Narnia films, unlike the Harry Potter films to a certain degree, is that you don't necessarily have to see the previous instalments to understand what's going on. The works of C.S Lewis can exist as stand-alone tales. That doesn't however take away from the films - including this one - being so flat and mediocre.

Maybe it was the casting of the children, - which didn't work in two films previously - perhaps it was the overly colourful play-school sets or regrettably it might well have been the source material now becoming slowly out-dated in an age of broodier tales such as Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Whatever the case, the Narnia movies just aren't the overly pleasant cinematic experiences they could (and indeed should) have been with more passionate and committed film-makers at the helm than the man who gave us the hideous Bond film, The World Is Not Enough.

George Henley and Skander Keynes as Lucy and Edmund, felt as though they were lifted straight from a slow and tedious ITV Sunday evening drama. While their on-screen cousin played by Will Poulter (credit where it's due, he was excellent in Son of Rambow) came across more like a nagging old pensioner than a cynical 13 year old. Ben Barnes however fared much better in this film than his d├ębut appearance in the series, feeling much more at ease, with the role of Caspian, having dropped the silly Spanish accent - even if it does open him to harsh criticism in regards to the Chronicles' overall continuity.

Though director, Michael Apted, tried to be daring and ambitious with the fantastical settings and action pieces, the entire feature felt largely like it was being held very tightly by a leash. Whether that was in regards to the film's budget - greatly reduced since being dumped by Disney - or the lack of vivid detail into these moments through the original source material, I imagine few would really care. The CGI was second-rate and though I only saw it in 2D, in the cinema, I can't imagine being charge an extra five quid for a shoddy post 3D conversion would raise my opinion any further (quite the opposite in fact).

Final Thoughts
The latest Narnia film, to enter its much maligned series, suffers the same shortcomings as its predecessors. Not dark enough to match the brilliance of the later Harry Potter films, not even comparable to the awe-inspiring vision of Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings. Not to mention, if you're of a certain belief, your skin might crawl at some of the less than subtle religious parables. I'm a fan of the books, I believe they're some of the most beautifully written fantasy novels ever committed to paper, but it might be best for all concerned, if the powers that be, called time on these cinematic explorations into The Chronicles of Narnia for now. No good can come from them.


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in cinemas throughout the UK now.

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