This third big screen Narnia, bank-rolled by Fox after Disney bailed out when the second film in the series, Prince Caspian, underperformed, is big kid’s entertainment writ large. It’s accomplished stuff though, director Michael Apted turning in a veritable epic full of swashbuckling ripping yarns, a fire-breathing dragon and a raging sea serpent which is genuinely ugly and scary (for the young ones, you understand). But the film’s theatrical performance remained indifferent which seems to suggest that the only Narnia story the public are really interested in is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because that’s the most famous one.
Apted’s no-nonsense film streamlines and tightens up the original CS Lewis text and in many ways I’m reminded of the old Ray Harryhausen movie Jason and the Argonauts as the great sailing ship the Dawn Treader sets off across Narnian waters, its crew and just-got-here human charges Lucy and Edmund Pevensie (the only two kids to properly return from the previous movies) and their obnoxious cousin Eustace (played by Will Coulter from Son of Rambow) off on a quest to find the long-lost Seven Lords of Narnia. On their way they encounter slave traders, one-legged Dufflepuds and the dreaded Green Mist.
This really is a children’s film through and through with absolutely no pretensions to being anything else. Our young heroes are swept back to Narnia at a time of great crisis, they have a few rollicking non-threatening adventures, they save the day and they’re home in time for tea. Dawn Treader is as much about growing up and becoming responsible as it is about CS Lewis’s notorious religious allegories; here Lucy has to come to terms with being the ‘ugly duckling’ of the Pevensie family, constantly wanting to look like her prettier sister Susan whilst her brother Edmund has to rise to the challenge of living up to his elder brother Peter’s heroic reputation. Then there’s snobby cousin Eustace who resents being dragged, almost kicking and screaming, to Narnia but in the end he learns the value of tolerance and understanding just like everyone else. Awww…
Peppered with big impressive set pieces, stunning effects and a top-notch cast (including Simon Pegg taking over Eddie Izzard’s voice duties as Reepicheap the talking rat), Voyage of the Dawn Treader is perfect entertainment for little ‘uns not yet ready to the more intense Lord of The Rings movies and while it’s simple, fairly lightwight stuff, it’s a pretty harmless way of passing a couple of hours and it never outstays its welcome.
As usual the bulk of the added material is on the Blu-ray edition but the DVD release boasts a music video from X Factor has-been Joe McElderry. Wow.