Sunday, June 10, 2012

Movie Review: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

And now for Sunday's normal review! I remember that my school was going to show the movie a while ago (I guess a year or year and a half ago) but removed it from their line-up which is never a good sign (for reference, the only other movie I can recall them changing was The Last Airbender). I was also a bit worried by the fact that this film came out in December 2010 and there's been no word since (plus, I seemed to recall it didn't do so well in the US). A quick google search reveals that the situation has gotten a bit complicated, personally I'd like for them to produce The Silver Chair next (they even had a tie-in to it at the very end of this film) since I would hate for them to change actors and the same actors are needed in The Silver Chair and to an extent in The Last Battle (teeeechnically in The Magicians Nephew and The Horse and His Boy as well but those would be much smaller roles involving characters who haven't had as much screen-time), but I like The Magicians Nephew so I wouldn't mind seeing that either, provided that at least one of them is made sometime before 2018.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 Summary: In England, World War II is still raging on and, while the older Pevensie children are abroad, Edmund and Lucy are staying with relatives including their horrendous cousin Eustace. All three of them are dragged through a painting in the spare bedroom to find themselves in the sea east of Narnia and are quickly rescued by Prince Caspian (of the previous story, about two years have past) and join him, less than willingly on Eustace's part, to find out why a mysterious green mist has been haunting the seas and spiriting people off to the unknown.

The Good: It's clear that the producers want to make more Narnia films and went to the effort of putting in a few details foreshadowing which characters will be important in future films which was a rather nice touch. The returning cast, and new character Eustace, all act well, although I do wish some side characters had more chances to actually act.  And, as odd as it sounds, after the movie I checked out the deleted scenes to see what got cut and I agree with all the cuts made. Sometimes I wonder why scenes didn't make it into the feature film but here I could see why so, regardless of how I feel about the writing, it seems like they at least knew how to edit. 

The Bad: When I was a kid I loved this story because it was an adventure for the sake of adventure. Narnia is safe, well-ruled, so Caspian has a chance to go out, explore, and possibly find out the fate of a some of his father's closest followers who were exiled by his uncle. Here the story has been tweaked so that each of those retainers actually has a magical sword and together all seven of those swords can kill a people-eating, green mist which has started running around in the past few months because, um, well, they really don't explain that. They take some original ideas and ideas from the books, mash them up, put them out of order, and even mess with the character growth in the books* so it ends up being a very messy tale. A messy, watered down tale that I can't really recommend to anyone, especially since the other films are in limbo now so people don't even need to be concerned about keeping up with them for at least another two or three years.

The Audio: A lot of the music feels rather, well, standard fantasy-ish, like the composer got their inspiration from listening to just the Harry Potter soundtracks over and over. Even though I saw this movie less than a week ago I had to go to itunes and listen to clips from the soundtrack to remember the themes, the music simply isn't that memorable or different and that's never a good sign. The song used during the credits was odd too, I'm not a big fan of "wordless BGM for the whole movie and then song with lyrics used during credits" style since it just feels too out of place for me.

The Visuals: While not the best special effects I've seen of late, the movie looks fine on all accounts. The CGI is solid, the props, setting, and costumes look fine as well, although I do suspect that in another half decade or so much of it will look horribly out-dated. The film did have a smaller budget than the other two ($75 million smaller than Prince Caspian but only $30 million less than The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), and for some reason the scenes set on the deck of the Dawn Treader never quite looked real to me, but for most people the movie is going to look just fine.

All in all a weak adaptation and that makes me rather sad since this was one of my favorites of the books. I was unhappy with a lot of the changes, especially the ones that changed the character's growth since a lot of those used the Christian theology/imagery that CS Lewis sprinkled quite heavily throughout the story which gave a lot of those scenes deeper meaning, here the characters appear much more shallow (and for god's sake can they please stop doing the "Edmund is still battling the darkness in his heart" bit? Poor guy can never catch a break). Don't foresee re-visiting this movie anytime soon, although regardless I hope it's sooner than 2018 than the next movie comes out since I would like there to be a full, seven movie set (or six, as much as I love The Horse and His Boy I can live with it not getting a film) for the sake of completion.

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