The film adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ classic fantasy tale The Chronicles of Narnia have been accused of being highly safe in terms of family fare. This is a fair assessment of the franchise but it is not the negative that many critics of the series make it out to be. In fact I view it as a positive that I can safely watch The Chronicles of Narnia with my seven year old daughter and not feel as if I need to shelter her from any of the content. “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, the third film in the franchise, is just as safe as its two predecessors and will surely delight younger viewers but at the same time may out older viewers off due to its overt Christian underpinnings.
At its core Dawn Treader is, as the name implies, a story about taking a journey. Edmond (Skander Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) return to Narnia to venture forth with now King, Caspian (Ben Barnes). Caspian is looking for seven lords that fled the Telmarian lands before the events of the last film, “Prince Caspian” and the search brings them in contact with an evil mist that devours anything that gets in its way. As such Caspian and company must uncover the mystery of the mist and put an end to its evil.
If the idea of fighting an evil mist sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry then you are on the same page with the film because the crew of the Dawn Treader face off against everything from slavers to giant sea monsters. It is all quite exciting, even if most of it feels like filler. However it does reveal one of the main issues plaguing the film makers of this series, most of this series does not lend itself well to exciting two hour epic films.
C.S. Lewis, much like his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, did not write cinematic prose. Yes the events of the Narnia series are fantastic and imaginative but they are generally simple stories that most not lend themselves well to the video camera. That is not to say that Dawn Treader is not an enjoyable film. Director Michael Apted does a good job with what he has to work with but when compared to the two previous films, Dawn Treader is the weakest in terms of both story and action set pieces, making it rather less enjoyable across the board.
The biggest issue with Dawn Treader though is that explicitly points out the pink elephant in the room. That of course being that the Narnia series is a Christian allegory. Dawn Treader, more than any of the other films in the series, beats viewers over the head with that fact during certain points, most notably the incredibly long and drawn out ending.
I have heard the Narnia franchise, specifically these recent movie adaptations, called Christian propaganda. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Narnia is not about selling religion to unsuspecting youngsters, it is about trying to understand belief in the unknown. Yes, it is a series that has a message but it is up to the viewer to interpret the meaning for themselves. This was true when C.S. Lewis wrote the series and it is true today regardless of how some want to paint it. Regardless of one’s beliefs, the Narnia series succeeds at being a fun, if somewhat safe fantasy and that sometimes is all one needs to believe in.
3 out of 5.