Monday, December 27, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia : The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader

Like most people, I read movie reviews, especially about movies I want to see. Sometimes this can be good or bad. Often, reviews give away too much of the plot. And if the reviews are negative, are you still ready to plop down $10 of your hard-earned money? After reading several reviews of the latest Narnia installment, The Dawn Treader, I had mixed feelings. Most film critics said that it was mediocre at best, lacking character development as well as offering nothing more than a weak, tired story. They did give a positive nod to better overall visual elements and cinematography.

This raises an interesting question. Are the critics being fair or is there some form of bias at work? It’s no secret that the Narnia series is based on Christian concepts. Walden Media directed a significant part of their promotional campaign toward a Christian audience. Are the critics reacting to their own bias toward Christian-themed films? In the case of Narnia, I would say yes. Also a case can be made for the fact that anyone who has not received Christ as his/her personal Savior would have a difficult time understanding or evaluating Christian or spiritual concepts. Therefore, nonChristian critics would undoubtedly have a difficult time of evaluating the merits of any of the Narnia films.

The bottom line is The Dawn Treader is a solid film that offers good entertainment value with a strong but not overpowering message. It is a major step up from Prince Caspian but not on the same level as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The story goes something like this: Lucy, played by Georgie Henley, and Edward, played by Skandar Keynes, travel back to Narnia once again to assist King Caspian, who is searching for the seven lost Lords of Narnia. Joining them along the journey is newcomer, Eustace, who is their younger cousin. The older siblings, Peter and Susan, who are now grown up can no longer venture to Narnia because only children can enter this magical kingdom.

The Dawn Treader is the ship on which they embark upon the journey to the ends of the world in search of the Dark Isle where the seven Lords may be found. To make matters worse, an evil spell seems to be emulating from the island and spreading throughout the world.

The Dawn Treader is unique in one sense in that it does not offer a physical antagonist. There really isn’t a bad guy or creature to contend with. This movie is really an allegory about man versus himself or the inner conflicts that we all deal with. It’s ultimately a showdown between being tempted by our inner desires and fears versus following the will of Aslan, who serves as an analogy representing the will of God.

As any film student will tell you, movies dealing with inner conflict are not the easiest to tackle. Most people want a visible bad guy to direct their anger toward. However, the producers of the Dawn Treader have done a remarkable job finding the right balance between meaningful content and action while, at the same time, dealing with conflict at a personal level.

This isn’t your typical fantasy film. Perhaps that’s why Disney Pictures is no longer on board. Walden Media has made a conscious decision to remain faithful to the original writings of C. S. Lewis. Disney was hoping for the next Harry Potter series based more in action and adventure and less in substance. Most media reports pointed to differences over the overall budget as the reasoning for the breakup. But I’m convinced it was artistically based on the overall vision of the remaining five books.

Thankfully, in the last hour, 20th Century Fox stepped in to save the Narnia series. I think they have made a sound investment and have put the series back on solid ground. My advice is to forget what the critics are telling you about this film. It is well worth your investment of time and money. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dawn Treader, is a delight. It is visually interesting and a joy to be part of an island-hopping quest for truth and freedom and is a solid adventure for the entire family.

The Dawn Treader is the first of the series to be offered in 3-D. It certainly is not at the level of the 2009 Avatar 3-D, but you will still enjoy this 3-D experience.

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