The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review: Bible References Ahoy!
This veritable ‘Odyssey for kids’ treads delicately between The Lord of the Rings and the perpetual thunder of the Harry Potter saga. But while the tone is far from fresh, the self-importance of the last film has certainly given way to a high-octane feast for the eyes, just about managing to stave off any lingering distaste we may have for the Narnia franchise.
In this third installment our milk-cheeked heroes Lucy and Edmund have rested off their perils from Prince Caspian, and now find themselves on a dull holiday with their dour faced cousin Eustace. Son of Rambow’s Will Poulter does well as the insufferable pre-teen, offering smacks of cynicism even after the trio are sucked into Narnia through a painting on the wall. So while siblings Lucy and Edmund seem to take their fantasy world for granted, (or is that just bad acting?) Eustace keeps us amused with his eloquently diarised sulking.
But from the word ‘splash!’ the children are launched on board the good ship ‘Dawn Treader’ and into a Homeric journey that invites all manner of fantastical combat. Although there is no singular task they must accomplish before they can brush down their trousers, they do assist Caspian (now King of the land) on his quest to find the Seven Lost Lords of Narnia. And with this somewhat vague goal on their horizon, the ship quantum leaps from one place to the next, with barely a second to reflect and no connecting cues to remind them what they’ve just done. Were they waiting for the DVD?
Still, we marvel as the trio meet slave traders, a cockney Minotaur, one-legged trolls, jets of sentient green gas, and an unaccountably angry sea serpent. You’ll also find eager nods towards religious undertones from the book (the franchise has it’s own marketing campaign for Christian states in the US), although I wonder how impressed C. S. Lewis would be. He’d probably agree with me that at least the CGI is stunning, and somehow bereft of the gaudiness you might associate with epic fantasy. Every fight, twist and discovery is packed with fluid dynamism, intense choreography and gorgeous effects. Especially when it involves Reepicheap, our spunky mouse-keteer (Simon Pegg) whose furry antics are so well integrated we are less likely to think, ‘What a realistic looking mouse,’ than, ‘how did that mouse get so good at fencing?’
Pity the story feels a bit like a bunch of mini adventures flung together arbitrarily, like the Crystal Maze, or a non-interactive video game that completes itself while you peer on glaze-eyed. But in an age of instant pleasure and 3D spectacle, we probably won’t hear of children marching out of cinemas because ‘as dazzling as that may have been, mother, it patently lacks the thematic delicacy of the book’.