Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I’ve never really enjoyed the Narnia films. The books are second only to the Harry Potter series in terms of their importance to my childhood and yet these films have never captured my imagination. The decision to go with Prince Caspian as the second movie was a bizarre one when it’s a muddle of plot and character, and The Magician’s Nephew seemed a much more logical choice. With The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the films are returning to much more tight and memorable plotting. It’s a shame, then, that the film is, once again, let down by a poor script, some atrocious acting and hammy visual effects.

I’ll start with the last problem first. Last week’s release Monsters has illustrated how possible it is to create top notch visual effects on a shoe string budget. Well, the Narnia budget is pretty close to the top budgets worldwide and yet the visuals pale in comparison with Gareth Edwards’ minor masterpiece. The particular let down is the dragon, which genuinely looks like it’s been lifted from How to Train Your Dragon. There’s a giant sea worm that is more convincing but, especially as we’re forced to wear 3D glasses to see the film, there’s not much to show for your buck. The writers of the Avatar sequel should take note of the fact that the underwater sequences in this film fall flat in 3D.

But let me come to the acting. Since I watched the first film it’s been a source of irritation for me. I let it go then because they were ‘young’ and ‘inexperienced’. Well two films down the line the two actors (Susan and Peter only make fleeting appearances in this adaptation) have gotten no better. It’s never fun to be unkind to young actors but these two genuinely make the Harry Potter cast look Oscar worthy. Georgia Henley has been truly dreadful in all three movies as the youngest Pevensie and, although it’s unpleasant to say it about a young actress, just doesn’t look right for cinema. Skandar Keynes no longer even has the excuse of being young. At 19 he needs to stop being judged as a child actor. Coming from one of the most influential families in the country probably helps (his ancestors include John Maynard Keynes, Charles Darwin and Elizabeth I) but it seems to clear to me that this is one young man who has no future in the film business. The delivery of the dialogue wouldn’t even be acceptable in line readings for most films, let alone in the final cut. Some of this blame has got to fall on the head of director Michael Apted. After all they do warn not to work with animals or children.

So what’s good? Well, Will Poulter redeems your faith in child actors everywhere with a solid performance as Eustace. Having excelled in Son of Rambow it’s good to see him being cast on merit and not by way of nepotism. Aslan is, once again, beautiful rendered, as are some of the locations in the film including wartime London, the Lone Islands and Aslan’s country. That they could not be supported by better material is a shame, especially when C.S.Lewis’ stories are, on the page, so vivid and memorable. I doubt anyone will be able to accurately recount the plot of this jumbled up confusion of a movie.

I’m not impressed. The tone is so light and the acting so bad that they have missed the chance to step up to the mark like Alfonso Cuaron did with Harry Potter 3. Drab.

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