The conversion of book to cinema has never ceased to be a difficult feat for filmmakers ranging from problems to whittling down the story into something that appeases the average audience member’s attention span, to replicating the imagery that the author invokes on the reader. Some of the most difficult ones are the books that have an entire series rather than serving as a standalone story, and a lot that have been converted into movies find themselves unfortunately unable to continue due to lack of interest. The Chronicles of Narnia, a series rich with over a half dozen books, has been one of the few franchises that has thrived in its movie adaptations; this being the third in the series.
Precocious siblings Lucy (Georgie Henley, The Chronicles of Narnia series) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Heynes, The Chronicles of Narnia series), along with their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter, Son of Rambow), are swallowed into a painting and transported back to Narnia. They join King Caspian (Ben Barnes, Dorian Gray) and a noble mouse named Reepicheep in a quest to rescue noble lords who had been lost fighting evil on another island. Aboard the magnificent ship The Dawn Treader, the courageous voyagers travel to mysterious islands, confront mystical creatures, and reunite with the Great Lion Aslan on a mission that tests their characters to determine the fate of Narnia itself!
Although the audience for this franchise is mostly children, it seems to manage to appeal to a wide variety of adults as well – even those that didn’t grow up reading the books. Even those that don’t really enjoy the story itself can usually appreciate the vast world and its visuals that the movies have managed to capture, and this trilogy maker is no different. In honesty, I don’t personally care for The Chronicles of Narnia, but the various movies have managed to keep me, at the very least, entertained. Even the start of this movie showing off war-torn England during World War 2 was done with an impressive attention to detail and managed to invoke a sense of wonder even with the little time that was spent showing it. Although, the camera swooping was a bit overdone. It’s considerably a brief amount of time before they get to Narnia and yet each minute is well spent in setting up the characters and their personalities. This is especially a great aspect for people such as myself who aren’t very familiar with the characters.
A common bane with a lot of movies tends to be the child actors. There are a lot of good ones out there, and there have been several over the years, but more often than not a decent movie is easily brought down in its enjoyable potential by the poor decision of a child lacking in decent acting talent. Fortunately, that hasn’t been a problem for the Narnia series and is most likely one reason why this series has been able to continue on through three movies, so far. This time around the trio is made up of two veterans to the Narnia series, Georgie Henley (Lucy Pevensie) and Skander Keynes (Edmund Pevensie) along with Narnia-newbie Will Poulter as the slightly bratty Eustace Scrubb. Obviously they haven’t been in much outside of Narnia, but given the performances they gave throughout the movie I can see them going on to have some decent careers. On occasion they do falter a bit, mostly Poulter, but that’s to be expected. They join Prince Caspian, played by Ben Barnes – who hasn’t had much of a lengthy career either. Oddly, he seemed to have more moments that I found a bit off-putting than the few faltering of the children, but fortunately none of them reached the point of pulling me out of enjoying the movie.
Of course, being an epic such as Narnia, the supporting cast thrives in its numbers. Surprisingly most of them seemed familiar but turned out to be people I’d never heard of, but I enjoyed Liam Neeson as the voice of the famed Jesus impersonator, Aslan the Lion. Admittedly, though, Simon Pegg stole the spotlight as the voice of Reepicheep (apparently a role which was formerly voiced by the great Eddie Izzard). Pegg, even at his most subtle, is one of the most enjoyable personalities that has been slowly and carefully affirming his presence in Hollywood. I suppose it helps that the casting obviously requires those of United Kingdom origins, but it’s obvious that Pegg is seen as a rising star – and deservingly so.
Overall, the story is really the most lacking when it comes to the enjoyment of this movie as it gets a little repetitive and the pacing drags at times with some less than favorable editing choices. However, the strong cast and stunning visuals mostly distracts you from most of that and it only comes across as a brief annoyance. Certainly not something that will destroy the enjoyment of the movie. And, honestly, if it does get to you then mute it and admire the pretty special effects. If you’re a fan of the previous movies, this is Highly Recommended!
Fox pushes Voyage of the Dawn Treader out on Blu-ray in a three-disc release. Inside the slipcover-draped cardboard case is a series of goodies – one Blu-ray, one DVD, and one digital copy. Menus for the Blu-ray are simple and easy to navigate and the overall presentation that is nice enough, but it’s really the packaging that stands out here the most. The book and the other little extras is a really nice combination and I wasn’t expecting such deluxe treatment for a film that I completely forgot about. A word to the collectors out there though—my copy arrived with a crushed top portion, so the cardboard was all bent up. This is sadly because there really is nothing at the very top of the case, so be careful in checking the condition of the case if you’re a collector.
Moving onto the AVC encoded 1080p 1.78:1 transfer we get the usual flawless presentation out of Fox. It should be mentioned that while the film was shown theatrically in 2.39:1, it was shot in 1.78:1 so we have an Avatar like situation. It’s not one that overly concerns me personally because the film still looks great and seeing as it was shot in 1.78:1, everything feels and looks great. The majority of the film oozes detail out of all of the frames, boasting plenty of detail in the myriad of sequences and locations that this film takes us to. On top of that we have plenty of detail on character faces and the like. The audio matches the visual presentation with incredible dexterity. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix thuds and booms at every turn, spreading the love around to all of the surrounds and making full use of the LFE output. There is quite a bit of dialogue in this film and all of it spits out of the center channel with superb clarity while all of the films many, many (many) varied sound effects echo throughout the room. For some odd reason the film was put into theaters with a 7.1 mix, but we somehow didn’t get that out of Fox this time…kind of disappointing, but I guess it’s no big loss in the end considering how great this mix sounds.
• “The Untold Adventures of The Dawn Treader” Animated Short
• King Caspian’s Guide to the Dawn Treader: Legends and Lore of the Great Ship
• 4 Deleted Scenes
• 5 Islands Explorations
• Narnian Discoveries: Friends and Foes of Narnia (7 featurettes)
• 3 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes including Battle on the Sea
• Sword Game
• 4 Fox Movie Channel Presents Behind The Scenes Featurettes
• Audio Commentary by Director Michael Apted and Producer Mark Johnson
The real highlight here is the audio commentary, although there is still quite a bit of other features to check out as well. Sadly they’re kind of stuffed under a cumbersome “Extras” menu system which makes you travel from island to island to find all of the bonus features. Kind of a cool set up for the first time around, though I imagine repeat viewings will be kind of tedious as you try to figure out where you watched that one particular featurette.
In any case this is a Recommended disc if you enjoyed the film and series. It’s not the most robust of the Narnia packages, but it’ll still please the vast majority of the fans—plus there commentary is really quite good.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of The Dawn Treader is now available on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy, Blu-ray, and DVD.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter