Sneak Peak - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
So after a short adventure of our own (but that's another post) Jill and I made it down to the Regent E-Walk 13 in Manhattan. We had missed the first forty minutes, but that was alright - we were still let in. We had to surrender our cellphones at the entrance to the theater, which added to the mystique of the event.
Warning! There be spoilers here!!
I was not a huge fan of the Prince Caspian film. I thought it kind of long and drawn out, trying to be too much of a The Lord of the Rings kind of film. Certainly, the effects were amazing, but the story wandered a bit. Caspian is one of the least popular of the Narnia books. Dawn Treader, on the other hand, is one of the most popular, and with good reason. The book is fast-paced, and interesting, with a lot of interesting twists, including a huge one at the end. (I will assume the reader is familiar with the book, so proceed at your own risk.)
Dawn Treader takes us back to the cinematic roots of the series. It is much closer in scope, pacing, editing and effects to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Whether it was from financial necessity after Disney pulled out of the project, or director Michael Apted's British sensibilities, or the poor performance of Prince Caspian (or, more likely, a combination of all of that) the film is tightly paced and slightly scaled-back in its effects - only slightly - which makes for some great storytelling. Many of the sequences in the film were Digital 3D, although we sat too far up front to really get the full effect.
The story follows the two youngest Pevensie children, Lucy and Edmund as they are once again drawn into the world of Narnia, this time with their cousin Eustace. Now a young man and a young woman, Lucy and Edmund have lost some of their childlike qualities, replaced by a sense of responsibility, and indeed, a regal manner. They have been summoned by Caspian X, now king for three years, to help on a voyage to the end of the world, to find the lost Lords of Narnia. Along the way they encounter a mysterious evil mist, mer-people, a sea monster that the Kracken would swim away from screaming, and one brilliantly rendered digital dragon.
Of course, there are also the usual centaurs, minotaurs, and fawns, as well as the swashbuckling mouse Reepacheep, this time voiced by Simon Pegg. I must admit, that stupid mouse had me almost tearing up at the end of the film.
Speaking of the end of the film, I will say that the end of the Dawn Treader book is one of the key moments in the entire series, especially if you understand the Christian subtext of Narnia. In fact, it is at this point where Lewis takes it from subtext to text. I was very interested to see how Apted would handle this delicate and important moment. I think he gets mixed marks; positive for including the sequence in the first place in a mainstream film, negative for leaving out a key part.
There are, in fact, several differences from the book in the film, notably toward the ending. Lewis deliberately left Caspian out of the the final leg of the voyage; Apted took him along. The film is also more clear on what happens to Reepacheep than the book. Some other aspects were changed around a bit, but not too seriously, and mainly (I would guess) done for story economy.
All in all, an excellent film, and well worth seeing. I would be careful about the youngest children, not for the violence (which is less than Prince Caspian) but because some of the suspenseful sequences might be a bit scary. Other then that, this is great family fare, and will leave you with something to talk about. I'm looking forward to seeing it again with my own kids.
Here's the trailer, to whet your appetite a bit.