Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 3D

Royals Ahoy!

It sure took quite a while for the Chronicles of Narnia series of fantasy books to make that leap onto the big screen, and we're still not sure whether there will be another made, though signs are pointing in that direction, so all it depends is the box office response for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Already Disney had developed cold feet with its expectations of Prince Caspian not being met, which led to its decision not to co-produce or co-finance any more Narnia films. But all's not lost just yet with Fox taking its place, and entering the fray with Walden Media.

Voyage continues the good work done by director Andrew Adamson who redeemed himself with the second film of the series, before turning the director's chair over to Michael Apted. Sure it may have once held onto its potential of being the next big film franchise after Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, which is getting all the fanfare for its march towards the final film, but I suppose it sort of crumbled under the weight of pressure and expectation, especially when the The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe didn't break new ground both in effects and story telling, leading to an average effort which could have been a lot more. Prince Caspian proved otherwise, and my hopes for the franchise returned.

With Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it's an adventure in the high seas with half of the Pervensie children Edmund and Lucy, played by Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley reprising their roles respectively, being summoned back to Narnia to join Caspian (Ben Barnes), now King, to do battle against what would seem to be slave traders in the business of wheeling and dealing with Narnians, and to uncover the mysterious disappearance of those who have been sacrificed to great evil brought about by a green mist. That forms the gist of the premise to allow for some exploratory sailing to unchartered waters and what could be the ends of the world to Azlan's country, but first there's this plan to unite 7 enchanted swords belonging to 7 lords who have also set out on a similar quest, so that all evil that's threatening Narnia and its citizens could be dispelled.

The Christian allegories in this film cannot be more pronounced, and leading the charge toward this is the introduction of the Pevensie cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter), a disbeliever of all things airy fairy and Narnia, and no prizes guessing who gets converted into a firm believer by the time the end credits roll. Will Poulter must be given credit for portraying the spoilt brat designed to make you really hate him for the first hour, before he undergoes a trial of damnation and ultimately, redemption. We're all too familiar with the characters of the Pervensies, where Edmund still harbours deep rooted resentment at always having to be playing second fiddle, and Lucy experiencing the growing up pains of a teenage girl who yearns to be as beautiful as her sister, if not the fairest of the land. And Caspian, being the de facto leader, has to grapple with his lack of confidence.

And the allegories really got hammered home by the time Azlan came into the picture, majestically voiced by Liam Neeson to provide that Almighty sounding voice that resonates. There's no qualm that the pearly gates were reached, and what could be Heaven was blocked from view by a very well done Red Sea parting homage that you can't take your eyes off. The discussions during this epilogue of sorts reminded you once again of a higher being always around to protect and watch over, and who is known by more than one name in different realms, lest you forget during the many secular adventures earlier on.

Battle sequences are never too intense as compared to the previous installments with large scaled fight sequences, although the best in this film was definitely kept for last, and had its fair share of intensity that may make children squirm. But the rest do tread along acceptable limits for its targeted audience, and in some ways is that refreshing pause after being numbed to too much blood, gore and dismemberment that come to pepper gladiatorial battles as seen in equivalent movies. I thought there was a moment of hilarity in its nod to the direction of Ghostbusters with regards to the creation of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, where the heroes have to do battle with a giant being just because one of them couldn't keep their mind blank.

3D wise, this was one of the very weak efforts that is almost on par with that hack job that is known as Clash of the Titans. Seriously nothing in this film was designed to exploit the intended 3D gimmickry, so why bother other than for the film to try and rake in bigger numbers at the box office. Having its strategy here which is growing more prevalent - of opening a film in 3D format only followed by the 2D version a week later, means you're likely to fork out good money if you intend to catch the film in its opening weekend, but not get rewarded for doing that at all with a lacklustre experience gained. My advice? Stick to the 2D version of the film, because it looks brighter and better, as far as the trailer goes, and I swear each time I remove my 3D glasses, you can almost watch the film without a need to put them back on because the 3D application didn't blur out much of the screen at all, which says a lot of the effort poured into the film to enhance the depth of field. not.

Time will soon tell whether The Silver Chair will get made, since we have bade fare thee well to the Pervensie children (Susan and Peter did make cameos here) and they have outgrown what's permitted for visitors to come over, and to rest the remainder of the franchise on Eustace Scrubb instead. Still, the Voyage made by the Dawn Treader provided adventure expected from the Narnia books, albeit a little bit disjointed through the standalone episodes encountered by the explorers in their island escapades, and never quite lived up to the excitement felt in the Prince Caspian installment.

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