In 2005 “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” brought the first of seven of CS Lewis’s beloved series of fantasy novels to the screen to big box office returns. The second installment, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” was a summer release and fared poorly, so the film’s producers are hoping for a return to form with “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which arrives in theatres just in time for the family friendly Christmas season.
In this episode Edmund and Lucy Pevensie (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley) have been sent to live with their uncle in the English countryside to escape the dangers of World War II London. With no wardrobes in sight it looks like another trip to the fantasy land of Narnia isn’t in store, but when a painting comes to life, dousing their uncle’s house with sea water they (and their snot nosed cousin) are transplanted to a Narnian ship called the Dawn Treader and reunited with King Caspian (Ben Barnes). Their mission, should they choose to accept—and you know they will—is to battle against slave traders, uncover the mystery of the evil green mist and find seven enchanted swords to bring peace to all Narnians.
The Narnia movies should be a cross of “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings,” but for some reason they never caught fire the way those other fantasy franchises did. Like those other popular movies they have engaging central characters, fantastic creature creations and brave new worlds but they also have something the other movies don’t—dull storylines. The books are classic but the oomph of Lewis’s prose hasn’t translated to the screen. The movies just kind of sit there, despite all the special effect pomp and circumstance. Add to that a deadly character named Eustace—surely a candidate for the British Twit Hall of Fame—and you have a movie that is more an endurance test than enjoyable seasonal entertainment.
“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” feels like a franchise that has over stayed its welcome and as it borrows liberally from “The Wizard of Oz,” the bible and even “Ghostbusters” could more likely re called “Voyage of the Retreaders.”
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