The NARNIA flicks really should have an epic feel to them and while the first two strived for that kind of scope DAWN TREADER brought it back down to essentially a small band of heroes on a boat. This allows for a much more rich and fulfilling story built around the characters and not the world, with really only five central characters this time around and it is less about the spectacle and more about development. Don’t worry though as DAWN TREADER is a beautiful film full of rich landscapes and a menagerie of creatures it is that this is more about time for some of the moral (and often overt religious) lessons that make the books so poignant.
Returning for the third time we have Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skandar Keynes as Edmund and they both close out their time in Narnia (It is their characters last outing) in a bittersweet way. Their characters and themselves as young actors have come a long way since THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE back in 2005 and have matured well and are given some meaty material to work with in dealing with their characters inadequacies. Also returning for the second time are Ben Barnes as King Caspian (The boy formerly known as Prince … Caspian) and his noble hearted swordsmouse Reepicheep voiced by the always welcomed Simon Pegg. THE DAWN TREADER picks up just three Narnian years after the the last adventure in PRINCE CASPIAN and not a lot has changed but both characters remain true. Liam Neeson again lends his talent as the voice of Aslan and Tilda Swinton returns briefly as the White Witch, and while both of their screen time is pretty scant it wouldn’t be a NARNIA movie without either of them.
But it is the newcomer, cousin Eustace played by Will Pouter, who just might be the reason DAWN TREADER is such a good movie. He is often the narrator, in the form of his private journal, and is clearly less than happy to have been “kidnapped” into this adventure. He despises his cousins, Lucy and Edmund, for their thrilling stories of a magical world and he is a logical realist that does not see the point in such childish things. But as the film progresses it is his character that sees the most change and it is his first experience in NARNIA (But hopefully not the last) that give the movie a lot of heart.
There are some liberties taken with the source material, as is always the case with film adaption, but even the purists among us can see that the spirit of the story remains the same. Regardless DAWN TREADER stands on its own as a great fantasy flick appropriate for all ages and is an engaging adventure filled with magical beasts and very realistic challenges that we can all relate to.
If you ever loved the NARNIA books or have been a fan of the first two films in the series DAWN TREADER will not disappoint. While the scope of the film is toned down after the first two it puts a heavier emphasis on characters and story and really succeeds as both a fantasy film and a tale of morality and self-acceptance. It accomplishes this without out me ever losing my sense of wonderment or awe. Watching this movie takes me back to when I was eight years old hiding in my very own Cair Paravel fort made out of bedsheets and pillows with nothing more than a flashlight to read and flip pages by. I love films that can still bring that out in me as, sadly, it is not an easy task anymore.
Audio Commentary: Director Michael Apted and Producer Mark Johnson, very insightful and interesting listen
Deleted Scenes (4 1/2 minutes): Quick showcase of a few scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, nothing too exciting.
The Epic Continues (2 1/2 minutes): Cast and crew quickly setup this third installment in the NARNIA series, very brief but welcomed.
Featurettes: Several featurettes ranging in length from 4-11 minutes that include everything from Liam Neeson getting into character and story development to looks at sea battles and more!
VFX Progression (13 minutes): A look at, and shot by shot analysis, of some of the special effects and action sequences that went into this film. It is truly amazing how much the accomplished on such a relatively sparse budget compared to the first two films.
This release of DAWN TREADER also comes with several collector's postcards featuring scenes from the film, mine are never going near a mailbox though!
I hope to see more NARNIA films in the future, so far all have been solid and have made me revisit the books on more than one occasion and DAWN TREADER is no exception and it deserves to be seen as both part of the NARNIA series and on its own terms.