In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy discover a magical world of talking animals called Narnia and end up saving it from the tyrannical White Witch. In Prince Caspian they return to a Narnia set far in the future and help Prince Caspian reclaim the throne from his evil Uncle. This time Edmund, Lucy, and their annoying cousin Eustace journey back to Narnia to help the now King Caspian save Narnia from a new evil.
Dawn Treader starts out with Edmund and Lucy stuck in Cambridge living with their Aunt and Uncle and cousin Eustace while their older siblings Peter and Susan are traveling in America with their Mother and Father. The family has already been split up longer than expected and a reunion doesn’t look likely until the Germans stop trying to sink anything that looks like it might be heading to England. Did I mention that it’s the middle of World War II. Eustace, played by Will Poulter, an only child is bit of a whiner and momma’s boy at his best, but after 253 days, he’s been counting, of sharing his house with Edmund, portrayed by Skandar Keynes, and Lucy, played by Georgie Henley, he’s far from his best. Eustace is a fact and figures sort of boy who takes a particular relish in heaping scorn on his cousins if they make the mistake of letting him overhear them discussing Narnia, today though something very strange happens.
While Eustace is reciting his newest derogatory rhyme to Edmund and Lucy Edmund decides that enough is enough. He grabs Eustace and shuts the door. While Edmund is telling Eustace off Lucy notices that the very Narnia like painting of a ship on a churning sea, the only thing in the house that seems Narnia like, seems to be coming to life. Soon the sea is pouring out of the painting and filing the room with water. All three are quickly submerged, but instead of drowning stuck against the ceiling they break the surface in Narnia with the ship from the painting bearing down on them. The sailors on the ship not only see them in the water, but they immediately recognize Edmund and Lucy and immediately pull them out of the drink. Not too surprisingly, after all this is the way things just seem to workout in Narnia, its Caspian and a crew of Narnians manning the ship. Caspian explains to Edmund and Lucy that three years have past since their last visit and since he has claimed the throne that he has brought peace to all of Narnia. Edmund and Lucy aren’t really all that concerned about why they have been called back to Narnia they are just glad to be back and in the middle of another adventure. Eustace just wants to go home and mutters about being kidnapped. Along the way they find the Lords, discover a dire threat to Narnia and most improbable Eustace turns into a boy that reasonable people can stand to be around for more than five minutes.
I enjoyed the books as a kid and I remember Dawn Treader being one of my favorites. What I remember loving the most was the sense of awe and wonder as the crew journeyed ever farther into the unknown. Of course stuck in with the pools that turn submerged items into gold, the silly little people who hop around on one large foot, the dragon, spells and stories of lost swords there are embedded moral messages about keeping the faith, believing in your self, and resisting temptation. It’s all still here in the movie but the process of squeezing it all into two hours has leeched some of the magic out of the tale. Each of the main characters has some kind of moral struggle to overcome, but basically al the have to do is recognize that there is a problem. Once they recognize they are being vain, greedy, or self centered or whatever the problem is, the problem is resolved. The character with the most to learn is Eustace. From the beginning he is an unlikable brat, but soon after coming to Narnia he reveals himself to also be a thief, a liar and a coward. Fortunately for everyone, including Eustace, he gets exactly what he deserves, but even his redemption seems a little rushed.
One thing that has always amazed me about the movies is the casting. The Pevensie children all looked like they just stepped straight out of the books. This is actually the first of the Narnia movies that I have seen so I didn’t have a clue about their acting ability but they looked perfect. Then you have Liam Neeson giving the lion Aslan his voice and now Simon Pegg providing the voice for the valiant and courageous mouse Reepicheep. I can’t speak for the fist two movies but Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley and Ben Barnes for the most part shine in Dawn Treader. It’s Will Poulter as Eustace who steals the show though. Not only does he make Eustace’s transformation from useless git to likeable kid believable he’s fun to watch at both ends of the spectrum. Of course it shouldn’t be a surprise as he pulled off a similar feat in Son of Rambow. Another revelation was Simon Pegg’s voice acting as Reepicheep. I didn’t know it was Simon Pegg until I was watching the bonus materials and I love Simon Pegg. So the acting is pretty darn good, the CGI is better than average if not quite top notch, the score is more than serviceable. There are a bunch of things I absolutely loved, but unfortunately they just don’t add up to a great movie, the story just doesn’t quite sell itself. The wonder of finding new and strange lands just doesn’t come through and the moral journeys of the characters seem forced and rushed.
The MPEG-4 AVC 1080p video is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. 1.78:1 is considered widescreen but this is a cut down from the movies original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video is sharp and crisp with gobs of detail. The color is generally good if a little washed out in some of the brighter exterior scenes. Even in darker scenes the video stays crisp and grain free. I never noticed any moiré or blooming or other digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English and in Dolby Digital 5.1 in French, Portuguese and Spanish, along with subtitles in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. The sound is good, the creaking of he ship, the lapping of the waves, really help to immerse you into the film. The dialog is always clear and it’s never covered up by the foley or the score.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This three disc set comes in a clever foldout cardboard holder with a doubled slipcase. The two additional discs aren’t full of bonus materials, one is regular DVD, and the third is a digital copy that can be played in iTunes or Windows Media Player or devices that sync through iTunes or Windows Media Player. I can sort of see the usefulness of the digital copy disc, even if I couldn’t get it to play on my Android phone, I have heard of people using them. I can’t make any sense though of including a DVD copy with a Blu-Ray disc. The only thing I can think of doing with it would be to give it to a friend or family member that doesn’t have a Blu-Ray payer yet, but I can’t imagine that’s what the studios have in mind. The artwork is a bit on the busy side but it is pretty with it’s faux gold leaf. There is also a booklet of very nice postcards that fit neatly into their own little slot in the cardboard case if you want hang on to them. The menus are straight forward for the most part but the bonus materials are spread out a little awkwardly if you just want to watch all of them. There are a bunch of short character sketches, an animated short explaining what has happened in the years between Prince Caspian and Dawn Treader, there is a guide to the Dawn Treader, some deleted scenes and an audio commentary with the filmmakers.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
While Dawn Treader is a flawed movie it does at least interest me in the first two Narnia films. What I really want though is to see Will Poulter in more movies.
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10