It will be 2014 or later when the seventh installment of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia saga finishes up its cinematic run. That’s a long way away and, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t dare put a wager on seeing that happening. That’s because the third of the series — The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — continues to lose the charm, the innocence (and most likely, the profit) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and, to a lesser extent, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian enjoyed.
Gone for the most part in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are Peter (William Moseley) and Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell); this alternate world is meant for the young, innocent and faithful at heart and being the oldest of the clan they have more adult things to attend to. Younger siblings Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) run the show now (even though they too have matured a great deal) with uppity newcomer Eustace (Will Poulter) reluctantly in tow.
Upon being sucked into a seaworthy painting, the trio reband with Caspian (Ben Barnes) who is now King of Narnia. Right about now, you’d expect some massive creature-infused battle to have to be won, but you would be wrong. There is . . . gulp . . . peace in Narnia. How boring, especially since the writing tandem of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni don’t use the downtime wisely. They manage to explain Caspian’s excursion — captaining the golden-bowed Dawn Treader to the Lone Islands in a search for the Lords of Telmar — but offer up little else on the who, the what or the why that is compelling or fully thought out.
For the adventurous, though, our heroes sail from island to island overcoming half fleshed-out personal obstacles — Lucy wants to be beautiful, Edmund has no self worth — while battling slave traders, sea monsters, an invisibility cloaking magician and an all consuming evil which manifests itself as a putrid, green mist. If anything, it is a perfect opportunity for the computer effects crew to run wild, providing one of the stronger points of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Cinematography is also nice to look at — you can’t go wrong with wide open ocean expanses with picturesque islands in the distance (even if those islands are, what I suspect, some simplified kiddie version of the planes of Hell).
The after-the-fact 3D whitewashing dims the vibrant colors and dulls the experience and thus should be avoided, if possible. Especially since there aren’t many instances where it is needed or employed to great effect.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, while not a bitter disappointment, is still missing a large part of the wide-eyed wonderment and innocence that made its predecessors so successful. The actors even seem somewhat disenchanted with it — the most colorful of the characters is a CGI swashbuckling rodent named Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg)! Children, however, who found fancy with the first two films, will still have themselves a good time, even if that good time isn’t as immersive as they would have liked.