Friday, 17 December 2010
Movie review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Well thank goodness, Ben Barnes is at last old enough that I don't feel bad about fancying him.
Oh - you think a movie review should contain a little more than that? Okay; picky picky....
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third in the Narnia series of movies, and unfortunately the first one that I've been disappointed with. Prince Caspian (film 2, introducing Barnes' character) was by far the worst of the books, but made what I thought was an absolutely blistering fantasy/kids' movie: dark, complex, full of character development and laden with themes of despair and genocide. The writers and director put in a ton of work to make it more than its source material and I loved it to bits.
Dawn Treader, conversely, is one of the best books in the series but is basically a travel story where they sail from interesting magical island to interesting magical island: it's episodic and fluffy. The movie makers have tried to rework it into a film with an actual story-arc and plot, with some success, and they've certainly dumped some of the wince-making original material (Cousin Eustace is characterised as a repulsive brat in the book because he is a vegetarian and an anti-monarchist, for example). However, the plot they've given it is a cheap "collect the seven plot tokens and cash them in for an ending" type, the Big Bad doesn't make any sort of sense (the Dark Island sends out tacky green mist to kidnap sailors. Not consume them or kill them, just kidnap them and keep them. Um ... Why? If this is a metaphor for the world being enslaved by nightmares and fear, it could be conveyed with more clarity.) Plus the direction seems just a tiny bit half-hearted. Like there are noticeable continuity errors (Eustace zaps from being barefoot to wearing shoes, and back) and errors of scale. Three of what I considered the most memorable scenes from the book (Lucy creeping, terrified,through the wizard's house: Eustace trapped in a cave with a dragon and then being transformed: Aslan changing Eustace back to his proper form by tearing off his skin) just didn't happen in the movie.
Basically, it's a nice harmless fantasy movie, but it's got no depth and is a bit short on atmosphere. I think they scared too many Family/American Christian moviegoers off with Prince Caspian and they've been trying to back-pedal with the new movie. It might even work, but I'm disappointed.
I will say that it looks beautiful however, and the sea serpent rocks.