The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
2 stars (out of 4)
The Second World War rages, and brother and sister Edmund and Lucy Pevensie have been shuffled off from London to the relatives to ride out the remainder of it.
There they encounter cousin Eustace, played by Will Poulter, who, on an annoyance scale as conceived by the fictional rock band Spinal Tap, would be an 11. He’s rude, sneering and contemptuously dubious about his cousin’s stories of visiting Narnia.
He quickly realizes they’re not telling tall tales when a picture of a ship on the high seas opens up, deluging his bedroom with water and swishing them all away to the mythical land.
Soon they are fished out of the drink by the crew of the Dawn Treader and on their way to a new adventure in The Chronicles of Narnia. Oh joy.
This time, Caspian, played once again by Ben Barnes, is off in search of seven lords of Narnia who were exiled by his evil uncle Miraz (dispatched in part 2).
Caspian, now king, has grown some facial hair and ditched the odd, vaguely southern-European accent he and other characters had in the previous installment. He’s now speaking like a product of a proper British public school.
Edmund and Lucy are no longer the cute youngsters of the first two films in the series although — unlike older siblings Peter and Susan, who appear in brief cameos — somehow they’re still eligible to enter the magical land of Narnia.
Though it’s the third in the Narnia series of movies based on C.S. Lewis’s books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the first to use 3-D, which, it’s a pleasure to say, works well, lifting the film above the mundane and into the bearable.
Still, there isn’t a whole lot that is likely to appeal to adults, other than the message it conveys without much subtlety to children: be good, avoid temptation, believe in imagination and yada-yada.
Despite the livelier pace set by director Michael Apted, who takes over from Andrew Adamson, there’s a sense that beneath the film’s strong visuals, there isn’t much real dramatic tension or suspense.
Sure, there are some nasty slave traders who are quickly brought to heel and a mysterious and menacing green fog that gobbles people up and, for reasons unknown, another brief appearance by the White Witch from the first two films (although Tilda Swinton is no doubt glad of the paycheque.)
Once again, Aslan the Lion (still voiced by Liam Neeson) comes in at the end and there’s all kinds of soulful hugs and goodbyes ad nauseam.
Discerning young people aren’t likely to find Dawn Treader very challenging or engaging and the accompanying adults are certain to find it pretty bland fare, although Dawn Treader will still hold some appeal for very young minds, which makes it a safe voyage indeed.
Bruce DeMara is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.