Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Liam Neeson (by voice), Simon Pegg (by voice) and Tilda Swinton
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Runtime: 112 mins. Reviewed in Dec 2010
This is the third film in the 7-part epic fantasy series, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, by C. S. Lewis and brings to the screen the book of the same name, which was published by Lewis in 1952. Narnia is the fictional realm where animals talk, magic abounds, and good battles evil. The Dawn Treader is the ship captained by Caspian, who was the key character in the previous film, “The Prince of Caspian”.
Three children, Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Lucy (Georgie Henley), and Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) are drawn into a painting of an old ship, The Dawn Treader, which is a majestic sailing vessel, whose look is inspired by dragons. The three children come up in the ocean near the ship, and are taken on board where they meet the new King of Narnia, King Caspian (Ben Barnes). The ship sails to mysterious islands with marvellous names and they are islands that are full of creatures, which convey the riches of children’s fertile imagination. The boat sails to places like Lone Island, and Dark Island, and each island lives up to its name in some way. On the last island where a wall of water meets the edge of the sky, Aslan, the Great Lion (Liam Neeson) points the way to the future. The overarching theme of the movie is that temptation must be resisted, and Caspian and the children are tempted in some way to distract them from the task of saving Narnia from the spell of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton).
Following their last visit to Narnia, Edmund and Lucy are delighted to hear that peace has been restored to Narnia, but it is being threatened. They have been to Narnia, but Eustace, their whingeing cousin, has not, and their mission is to save Narnia from the evil that now threatens the realm. As they go from island to island, there are magical adventures, weird characters and wonderful scenes. There is a river that turns everything it touches into gold, a fierce sea serpent which does battle with the Dawn Treader, and a green mist which traps everyone who gets caught up in it, capturing minds as well as bodies. The mist represents the revenge of the White Witch who once reigned over Narnia before being killed by Aslan. The movie is full of characters created in all their eccentricity. Aslan appears three times just when needed to continue his role of protection, there is Reepicheep (Simon Pegg), the swashbuckling mouse, who helps Eustace grow up, and Tilda Swinton returns in a cameo role as the White Witch, who fights against her spell being broken.
There is a new distribution company behind this movie, and a new visual effects supervisor (Jim Rygiel) and cinematographer (Dante Spinotti). All of them contribute to bringing a fresh look to the series that substitutes lightness for some of the darkness that was in “Prince Caspian”. The film returns us to the magic of the first film (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), which deserved its popular success. Here, the special effects never overreach the strong story line and the moral messages that lie behind it.
The movie successfully conveys optimism and hope, and as temptations are resisted, growth occurs and true character emerges. As for most films that convey the rich imaginations of children in fantasy-adventures tales, the creatures that are saved by the children send their saviours back home, and the children are now, for the most part, wiser, more mature and, speaking of Eustace, much better behaved than they were before. The animation works well, and the film’s scenic locations are the surrounds of Queensland. Filming occurred in the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, and Cleveland Point, which helps to give the movie local appeal.
Laying aside its scary moments, and there are some, the movie is excellent fantasy-adventure fare for Christmas viewing. It is best seen in 3-D, but a 2-D version is also widely released. Although not likely to be a rival for the new Harry Potter movie, “Deathly Hallows”, this film offers a gentler tale that is far more family-friendly.
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