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CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER 3D

SYNOPSIS:
Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) and their young irritating, know-all young cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) find themselves swallowed into a painting on their bedroom wall and transported to Narnia onto the ship The Dawn Treader with their friend King Caspian (Ben Barnes), his warrior mouse, Reepicheep (voice of Simon Pegg) and colourful crew. In order to save Narnia, Caspian's mission is to retrieve the seven swords belonging to the Lords of Telmar, which were given to them by the Great Lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson). The treacherous journey takes them far across the ocean to mysterious islands where evil lurks, but their friend and protector Aslan is always close at hand.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
All the wonders a writer's imagination can conjure up and a filmmaker can translate onto the screen are captured in the Narnia series. The children for whom these films are made will hitch their own imaginations to the film and fly into Narnia land.

Adults will find the flight a tad long and lacking in the fire power of top storytelling - notwithstanding having the talented Michael Apted as captain.

The story begins in the usual manner, the magic of Narnia pouring forth from a humble painting in a humble Cambridge house, submerging our soon to be heroes in a watery transition.

Like all the effects and all the fantasy elements, this is expertly done. The performances too, are credible and engaging, as the youngsters meet the many challenges of their journey.

What isn't quite clear is the exact nature of their quest - apart from finding the seven swords that, once together on Aslan's table, acquire super powers.

A greater sense of the enormity of their mission would help raise the stakes and thus the tension.

A somewhat wet ending (in every sense) further dilutes the film's power - at least for adults. The 8-14 year olds though, may well shed a quiet tear as their hero figures say farewell.

Review by Louise Keller:
The strength of this fantasy adventure franchise is the marvellous juxtaposition of the real world with that of the magical land of Narnia, which we experience through the impressionable eyes of the young protagonists. In this third chapter, there is little to ground us with the reality of war-time England and the plight of the Pevensie children before being swept all too soon into the fantasy world. Much like the latest Harry Potter film, which is for the ardent fans of the books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader relies heavily on its audience being au fait with the story's premise, the characters and their predicament.

Having said that, the film will no doubt please the fans, with its fantastical 3D special effects and spectacular New Zealand locations, although the storytelling is convoluted and muddled, never allowing us to wholly engage with the emotional journey of the characters.

In the opening sequence, we are only given a brief rundown that the two younger children Lucy and Edmund are stuck in Cambridge with Eustace. (Their brother is away studying and their sister is holidaying in America.) The scene in which a painting of the sea comes to life is one of the film's best. As Lucy looks at the painting, the waves begin to rise and fall and before we know it, water seeps through the canvass and floods the room. This is the magical moment in which the children are transported to the world of Narnia and rescued at sea by Caspian and his crew (Gary Sweet is a welcome presence as the Ship's Captain).

There are many compelling elements about the adventures that transpire as The Dawn Treader, whose masthead resembles an imposing dragon, navigates treacherous seas. There are dangers beneath the crest of every wave and on each of the seven islands visited, with temptation being one of their greatest foes. I like the scene in which Lucy wishes on a spell to become beautiful; she peers into the mirror and sees her sister's pretty face, but quickly learns her own value. In order to defeat temptation, our heroes first have to defeat the darkness within themselves.

There are quaint dwarfs with big feet, a fire-breathing dragon with a secret identity, an evil green mist that ingests everything in its path and a splendid, gigantic sea-serpent that makes its dramatic appearance in the final reel, when extravagant special effects envelop us. There are brief (and effective) appearances too by Tilda Swinton's White Witch and Aslan (Neeson), the magnificent lion with the fur that looks so real, we would like to touch it. The humour comes from geeky Eustace and Reepicheep, the talking mouse (Pegg), but it is Lucy who establishes the heart and soul of the film.

With director Michael Apted at the helm, there's a new, darker feel to this Narnia adventure and some of the imagery may frighten the very young. There's a feeling of finality at the end of the film as goodbyes are exchanged, although as the third adaptation of C.S. Lewis' seven books of the series, chances are there will be more instalments to come.
First published in the Sun-Herald

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER 3D (PG)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Laura Brent, Gary Sweet, Arthur Angel, Tony Nixon, Bruce Spence, Bille Brown, Roy Billing

VOICES: Simon Pegg, Liam Neeson

PRODUCER: Andrew Adamson, Mark Johnson, Philip Steuer

DIRECTOR: Michael Apted

SCRIPT: Christopher Marcus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni (novel by C. S. Lewis)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dante Spinotti

EDITOR: Rick Shaine

MUSIC: David Arnold

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Robison

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 2010







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