The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Posted on April 5, 2011 at 8:11 am

A gallant warrior mouse and a dragon with a secret join the two youngest Pevensie children for a voyage and a quest in the third and best so far in the Narnia series. War has come to England and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) tries to enlist, protesting “I’ve fought wars and led armies,” when he is rejected for not being old enough to join. Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) are on the brink of the adult world. But the younger children, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund are packed off to live with relatives, including their arrogant meanie of a cousin, Eustace (“Son of Rambow’s” Will Poulter), a young man who believes that he (with the help of science and logic) has all the answers. Time for a trip to Narnia, this time via a magic painting of a ship at sea, which suddenly floods the bedroom and washes them away.

They are picked up by a ship called the Dawn Treader, led by their old friend King Caspian (Ben Barnes). And soon they are on a quest to find seven banished lords and their seven swords.

They will face daunting challenges, some of the most terrifying coming from themselves, sometimes amplified by malevolent magic and sometimes just a reflection of their own youth, inexperience, and insecurities. They accuse each other of not being up to the tasks as they wonder themselves whether they are. They are drawn to worldly prizes. Lucy is so eager to be as pretty and grown up as her big sister that she steals a spell from a book of incantations. Eustace keeps stoutly insisting that he wants them to get the British consulate to sort things out and tries to stuff treasure into his pockets. Edmund sees a vision of the White Queen, still tempting him to betray the others. In one moment reminiscent of “Ghostbusters,” “Harry Potter,” and “1984,” an evil force brings into life whatever is most feared by the people it is attacking.

The movie succeeds most as a visual treat. The title vessel is genuinely enchanting, exactly what you would want a fairy tale ship to look like. The series moves smoothly into 3D, designed more to draw you into the world of Narnia than to make you swat away distracting objects seemingly suspended in front of your nose. It also achieves a nice balance, accessible to those who are not familiar with the books and the first two movies or interested in the Christian allegory but satisfying for those who are.

Parents should know that this film includes fantasy action and peril with scary monsters and transformations, a slave auction, swords, skeletons and enchantments.

Family discussion: What does it mean to want what was taken from you instead of what has been given to you? Why was Eustace so skeptical and unpleasant? Why was Reepicheep the only one to explore the other land?

If you like this, try: the first two Narnia movies (and the books) and “Stardust.”

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17 Replies to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

  1. “War has come to England and Peter (William Moseley) tries to enlist, protesting “I’ve fought wars and led armies,” when he is rejected for not being old enough to join.”
    That was Edmund, not Peter.
    The one complaint I had about this one was Simon Pegg, who was good but not as entertaining as Eddie Izzard. While the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is still my favourite, I think this series has been virtually flawless and probably the best book-to-film adaptations in recent years. I hope the last four can be made a bit faster so the child actors won’t have to be recast.

  2. Thank you, Toby. The kids are growing up so fast I got confused! Izzard had a grace that Pegg doesn’t quite match, but he’s still my favorite character. And I agree — they’ve done a beautiful job.

  3. Hi Nell,
    My son Thomas and I just got home from seeing this movie and I think your age recommendation is spot-on. Thomas is nearly 8, and he spent a good part of the movie curled up in my lap with his hoodie over his eyes. So why did I bring him? He’s just a complete a total Narnia-devotee, he’s read each of the books twice, was King Peter for Halloween and he’s taking fencing lessons, I think in the secret hope he will be swept to Narnia someday.
    Anyway, we knew it would be scary and it was, and he was teary at the end, but I know he wouldn’t have missed it for the world. He said it’s the best one so far (the others he saw on the iPad) and he rated it a 10, despite being a bit drained at the finish.
    For kids who are not so obsessed, I think 4-6th grade is perfect, just as that is probably the perfect age for the books as well.
    All the best,

  4. I was bored out of my mind and almost got up and left. I enjoyed the first movie – kind of. The second movie – not so much. This movie, not at all. It was well done, and even well acted, and it was visually beautiful most of the time. But frankly I was bored… same song, third verse… etc. Definitely a kid movie, but not even close to How to Train your Dragon. I found myself wishing for the time I spent watching it, back. I was one of three people in the theater, apparently nobody is going to see this movie – at least at night, and I normally enjoy kid fantasy movies. Prediction – huge Box-office flop.

  5. I was a wonderfully moving movie. If anyone hasn’t seen the first 2 movies, they should watch those first, of better yet read the books. Allegory, is such a useful tool in telling the story and none did it better than Lewis.

  6. I saw this movie on Saturday, Nell. Perhaps it was my mood, which was not great, but I found it disappointing and unsatisfying. As much as I loved the book of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” I found the numerous changes in the movie annoying. I usually don’t mind changing the text of a book in a movie adaptation because I understand that the changes are usually dramatically necessary and books and movies are not the same. But, I felt the numerous changes destroyed the tone of the book, which was very episodic, and sort of “The Odyssey” for children, as they visited one mysterious island after the other.
    On the other hand, I thought Will Poulter was absolutely wonderful as Eustace. I thought the dragon was very beautiful, and the sea monster was truly frightening. Simon Pegg was fine as Reepicheep, and the rest of the cast was also good. But “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” did not “take me out of myself” and I was totally unmoved by the scene with Aslan at the end (except for Will Poulter, again, as Eustace).
    Still, I’m sure I will go see “The Silver Chair,” when that comes out.

  7. You list most of the things I liked best about the movie, Alicia. My mind wandered a couple of times but overall I found its story worked better as a movie than the two previous. I look forward to Silver Chair!

  8. The episodic nature of the book made for a difficult translation to a film experience, where we want a single thread of quest, conflict, and resolution. Still, the visuals are wonderful and the individual moments that shine, shine brightly. I would like to have been pulled along through the film more effectively, but it’s still a good part of the chain (I’m thinking that these films, in retrospect, will hold together better as a series than they do on their own)
    The end? Loved it – and yes – I was very moved by it. For me, it redeemed the film.

  9. “War has come to England and Edmund (William Moseley) tries to enlist,
    I apologise for my continued nitpicking, but Skander Keynes played Edmund (as mentioned later in the paragraph), William Moseley played Peter.

  10. Toby, I am always grateful for corrections! The nitpickier the better. I love the way my readers help keep this site better than I ever could alone. Thanks for your wonderful comments this year and all best for a healthy and happy 2011.

  11. I haven’t had the chance to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader yet, but I heard great things about it! It comes out on DVD and Blueray this Friday, April 8th!

  12. Nell, you are perhaps the first person to suggest a comparison between C. S. Lewis and Neil Gaiman. Visually and narratively there may be a case for holding the filmed versions of Narnia and Stardust in the same light. But I think the metaphors and images are quite different. The books are starkly different. However, that being written, I will have to watch both again.

    Dawn Treader is the book most visual and lyrical in its settings. The Last Battle will also be quite visual. But it will be interesting to see how they choose to handle the others.

  13. We very much looked forward to the opening of Voyage of the Dawn Treader and were very pleased with it once we saw it! They were true to the story line and captured Eustace perfectly! I was a little worried when we learned that Disney had backed out of the franchise, but it did not hurt them at all!

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