December 13, 2010 -- The Narnia series of movies, based on seven Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis in the 1950s, continues to head downhill. This could be the end of the troubled movie franchise which began with great promise with the big opening weekend five years ago of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” but has dropped off steadily after that big opening with the less successful release of “Prince Caspian” and now “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Disney bailed on this series after the first film, while Twentieth Century Fox has held grimly on. This could be the end of the current movie series, with four books left to go in the Christian allegory series set in Narnia. This latest film has a look of finality in it, and its box office results have been the worst of the series.
“Voyage of the Dawn Treader” seems to suffer from a general malaise, despite a fairly solid story spiced up with magic swords, dragons, mermaids and some action scenes. Perhaps what is missing is a proper villain. It is a battle of good versus evil, as usual, but the evil is a sort of amorphous fog or smoke with tentacles of temptation. It doesn't really work. The closest thing we get to a real good versus evil battle is early on in the film. Lucy and Edmund Pevensie (played by Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes, reprising their roles from the first two films) return to Narnia with their spoiled cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter of “Son of Rambow”) and are captured by slavers who have taken over an island. Aided by the crew of the Dawn Treader, they overthrow the slavers and free the island. This battle is fairly brief.
The film then slogs wearily along on the quest to find seven magic swords which have to be gathered together to defeat the evil that is building on a remote island. A dragon appears and there is a brief battle, but it turns out to be a friendly dragon. A sea serpent also appears to do battle with the crew of the Dawn Treader. The dragon, now spurred on by the valiant mouse, Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg of “Hot Fuzz”) joins in the battle against the sea monster. All of this is mildly interesting, but not compelling. Part of the problem is that few of the characters are very interesting. Two of the best are the cranky kid, Eustace, and the animated mouse, Reepicheep. Lucy also has her own brief bout of temptation in the film. Edmund's bout with temptation is not at all convincing, nor is Caspian's (played by Ben Barnes, reprising his role from the last film in the series).
At the end there is a brief journey to the end of the world in a very short long boat. At the edge of “Aslan's Land” there are no answers, just more riddles from Aslan, the cryptic lion lord. Caspian has a decision to make, as does the brave mouse Reepicheep, who goes surfing on Narnia's last big wave, and the three children. These final scenes have a look of finality to them. If the film makes enough money, which does not seem likely at this point, there are more adventures in Narnia ahead for Eustace Scrubb. If not, this is a good place to stop. This film rates a C.
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