Having finally watched the second 'Chronicles of Narnia' film (Prince Caspian) last week, we decided to watch the third in the sequence, 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', which I was also given for Christmas.
It's many years since I read the book - probably the last time was when I read it aloud to my sons, at least twelve years ago. But I re-read it many times as a child and young adult, and know the story well. It begins with Lucy and Edmund, the two younger Pevensie children, staying with their somewhat ghastly relatives, including their young cousin Eustace. He is taunting them when a picture of a boat comes to life, and they are drawn into the scene, finding themselves in Narnia - or, rather, sailing away from Narnia on a quest with their old friend Caspian.
The quest is to find seven lost lords who were exiled some years previously. The crew visit various islands, with some exciting adventures along the way. Eustace is obnoxiously awful at first, but a dramatic experience improves his character enormously.
At first, the film version - with Georgie Henley as Lucy, and Skandar Keynes as Edmund, a little older than in the previous films - stays fairly close to the book, at least, as far as my memory goes. However there are some rather odd extra themes thrown in - such as a green fog, the 'dark', which threatens to overtake everyone. I suppose it helped to show the rise of evil in a visual way, and I wouldn't have had too much of a problem with that - but for the fact that this 'dark' can only be conquered by seven swords being placed on Aslan's table... a storyline which does not exist at all in the book, and seemed rather pointless.
The book, at one meta level, is about each individual's responsibility for their own actions and behaviour, and the ease with which we fall into temptation (Edmund wanting to be in charge, Lucy wanting to be beautiful, Eustace being generally horrible) and the need for everyone to overcome their failings and errors individually. The idea of a 'dark' which can be conquered by magic swords rather misses the point, in my view.
There were, of course, other deviations from the story, but they were less significant and we could see why they were done. Afterwards we watched a few deleted scenes which were truer to the book, but which, we could see, would not really have added anything to the story. I just wish they had also cut one or two of the fighting scenes that were included.
However, overall, we thought that 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' was very well done. Eustace (Will Poulter) is wonderfully done, quite believably dreadful - arrogant, bullying and generally rude - and his eventual transformation seems quite believable. Reepicheep the mouse is brilliant - modern technology makes the talking animals seem almost realistic, and Reepicheep's character comes through delightfully.
Definitely worth seeing for anyone who has enjoyed the books, or who has seen the earlier films. It makes sense on its own, but I would recommend watching 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' first (or, at least, reading the book).
Rated PG in both UK and US, as there are some potentially disturbing scenes which might upset sensitive children.
Our version had very few extras - the deleted scenes mentioned above were the only ones worth watching. There were some rather odd music videos, and a commentary about the film, but no 'making of'. Perhaps the two-disc version would have more.
Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews