2010 saw the release of the third, and, at time of writing, final Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After the comparatively low box office turnout to the last film, particularly domestically, Michael Apted replaces the incredibly Andrew Adamson to direct the adaptation of C. S. Lewis’ fourth book in the series. In the story, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia along with their cousin Eustace Scrubb. They, after reuniting with Caspian, embark on a journey to find the original 7 lords of Telmar. Original cast reprise their roles, with the exception of the mouse Reeperjeep who is taken on by Simon Pegg, and with the addition of Will Poulter as Eustace.
There’s a lot I take issue with in this film. The departure of Adamson from the franchise meant the entrance of Apted, whose noteworthy filmography includes The World is Not Enough from the James Bond franchise, to take command of the story. His Bond film is one of my favorites, I was not predisposed farther than irritated that Adamson had been ousted. Apted made a number of strange decisions in the making of this film, chief among which would probably include the change in Ben Barnes’ accent. In Caspian, his accent as Caspian was European, which miraculously reverted to the actor’s natural English at the start of this film. Aside from the continuity issues that brings up, there was nothing wrong with the European accent in the earlier film! This is an example of a decision, of which there are more, which seem to show the finger to the older films just for the sake of it. I despise that attitude, it’s pompous and disrespectful to the excellent films that came before. Whether this attitude emanates from the director or from the studio, it’s difficult for me to say. Either way, continuity is not something by which much store is set in this film.
There is a shocking drop in the level of quality of the screenplay. The dialogues and character interactions, which used to be so fresh and real, were reduced to stiff, forced, and tight-lipped conversation that could just as easily have been written and performed by members of a primary school. The performances themselves are hugely inferior to the standards set by previous films, often comically so. There are some interesting story elements; some intriguing emotional situations and conflicts that do keep one watching, but that can just as easily be billed to the fact that you’ve been attached to the characters by this point. Most notably, the film doesn’t feel like it takes place in Narnia. In fairness, most of the film does actually take place on ships and off shore islands that do not technically belong to the Narnian mainland, but the magic and energy that Adamson brought to the first two films disappears entirely from this film.
There is an element of blame that rests on the original storyteller. The Dawn Treader is nowhere near the story that was told in the firs two films, even more loosely held together and less engaging in general. The decision to keep Peter and Susan out of the books after Caspian is a decision I still don’t understand, but even Lucy and Edmund, fully drawn characters in their own right, don’t entertain the way even they could have. Some of the story is just downright uninteresting. The introduction of Eustace, a strong character in the books, is helpful nugget in the film, well portrayed by Poulter. He helps keep things a little interesting, and Lucy, Edmund, and Caspian are interesting and nostalgically valuable enough for you to marvel at the development of their characters, but the film as a whole is bearable, not enjoyable.
The biggest material change between the films has to be Apted. He just didn’t understand what he was taking on, and couldn’t replicate the atmosphere Adamson created and maintained. Whether nose-thumbing was done by him or by someone in an office, the result was a weak attempt at following something excellent, and a sad end to what could have been an even better franchise. At present, Netflix does have the rights to The Silver Chair, the next in the chronological timeline, but from what I understand there are some doubts about whether that film will even be made; much less equal the efforts of past filmmakers.
– Aman Datta
Aman’s Score – Score: 48/100 Aryamaan’s Score –