‘A voyage on the ‘Dawn Treader’ is a trip hardly worth taking,’ Claudia Puig of USA Today writes.
By Eric Ditzian
The winner of the award for the 2010 major theatrical release with the longest title goes to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” It wasn’t even close.
Sorry, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”! Try again next year, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.” Simply embarrassing, “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” If only there were some correlation between title size and critical consensus: the longer the title, the better the reviews.
Alas, that’s simply not the case. While “Deathly Hallows” wowed most critics, those scribes were less impressed with “Percy Jackson,” “Legend of the Guardians” and “Dawn Treader,” which arrived in theaters Friday (December 10). Here’s what they had to say about the third film in the “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise.
“The story opens in World War II-era London as Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), living in their uncle’s home, yearn for old friends and adventure in the otherworldly kingdom. Who can blame them, with their snotty younger cousin (Will Poulter) spying and snitching on them? … Returning to Narnia through the portal of an enchanted painting, the three find themselves aboard the royal galleon Dawn Treader, with King Caspian (swoony Ben Barnes, now with a regal goatee and without his odd exotic accent) and the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep. Their expedition to rescue missing lords and collect mystic swords will lead to encounters with a book that conjures magic spells, a shining star in human form, a titanic sea monster and the dread White Witch (the always-extraterrestrial Tilda Swinton in a brief, scary cameo).” — Colin Covert, Star-Tribune
The Comparison To “Harry Potter”
“[T]his is a rip-snorting adventure fantasy for families, especially the younger members who are not insistent on continuity. Director Michael Apted may be too good for this material, but he attacks [it] with gusto. Nor are the young actors overly impressed by how nobly archetypal they are; Lucy (who is really the lead) could give lessons to Harry Potter about how to dial down the self-importance. A universe may hang in the balance, but hey, it’s only a movie.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
The Religious Subtext
“There is, as anyone who has read the books knows, a powerful Christian subtext that runs throughout these tales. It’s one that the films have never shied away from. The wise and powerful Aslan the lion, for instance — a beautifully rendered computer-generated character (voiced by Liam Neeson), who died and was resurrected in the first film and who reappears here — is an obvious Christ figure. Don’t worry. There’s nothing quite as heavy-handed as martyrdom here.” — Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
“The mission is haphazard. The fate of Narnia is threatened, but the reasons are vague, gaining little clarity as the movie progresses. While all three must confront their greatest temptations, these challenges are easily faced down, since a parade of scenes presents a revolving door of perilous situations without the appropriate mounting tension. It’s not surprising that Disney dropped the Narnia franchise after box-office sales for the second movie, ‘Prince Caspian,’ dropped dramatically. The first, 2005’s ‘Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ was the most enthralling, capturing Lewis’ whimsy and transporting viewers to a visually arresting fantasy world. In contrast, a voyage on the ‘Dawn Treader’ is a trip hardly worth taking.” — Claudia Puig, USA Today
The Final Word
“So Aslan says to Hogwarts: I’ll see your Harry Potter and raise you a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ The eye-popping and entertaining ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ offers a merry seafaring jaunt together with plenty of adventures led by magically empowered kids. Director Michael Apted brings back a sense of the old-fashioned fun of the low-tech 1960s myths-and-monsters matinees, when no roiling sea ever failed to harbor a giant serpent — and men stood in the bows of ships facing peril with chins of iron.” — Kyle Smith, New York Post
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
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