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The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series, arrives in movie theaters with little, if any, of the anticipation of its two predecessors, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader picks up several months after the end of Prince Caspian. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) are back in the “real” world (World War II England) while the two older siblings, Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Peter (William Moseley), are off in America with their parents doing something or other. They’re safe there, safer than they’d be in England for obvious reasons, but there’s no clear explanation as to why Lucy and Edmund have remained behind in the U.K. Instead we’re plunged, along with Lucy and Edmund, into an unfortunate encounter with their obnoxious cousin, Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter). Spoiled rotten, Eustace is nothing short of insufferable to Lucy, Edmund, and soon enough the audience.

After the latest in apparently endless series of disputes between the cousins, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace are transported back to the magical world of Narnia, this time via a painting of the “Dawn Treader” of the title, the flagship of King Caspian (Ben Barnes). Caspian seems clueless as to why Lucy and Edmund have been pulled back to Narnia, but he welcomes their company. Caspian alerts them, however, that he’s headed for the Lone Islands, ostensibly to investigate reports of a green mist and disappearing Narnians. Ever the complainer, Eustace runs afoul of Reepicheep (Simon Pegg), a talking mouse with a penchant for getting into sword fights, regardless of the size of his opponent.

When they arrive at the Lone Islands, Caspian, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace decide to leave Caspian’s men behind on the beach while they investigate the seemingly uninhabited island. It’s not. Pirates capture them, necessitating a tiresome rescue by Caspian’s men.

Eventually, something like a goal emerges: a green mist appears regularly, islanders are sacrificed to assuage the green mist’s hunger, and it departs. The green mist’s appearance suggests that Narnia is, once again, out of balance and Caspian, Lucy, and Edmund have to save Narnia for the Narnians. They go island hopping, questing for seven long-lost swords that once, long ago, belonged to seven Narnia lords.

Narratively, that doesn’t give Caspian, Edmund, and Lucy much to do. They stop on another island, more or less to ask for directions before venturing back out to confront the source of the green mist. Missing, unsurprisingly, from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a sense of something tangibly, personally or meaningfully at risk for the central characters and, by extension, for moviegoers.

It doesn’t help that the evil they must vanquish is never personified. Instead, it’s an amorphous evil that, when confronted, manifests the central characters’ fears and/or desires.

Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), a.k.a. “deus ex machina,” appears in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, most egregiously in the denouement when he meets Lucy, Peter, and Eustace (and the others) at the end of the world, a white-sandy beach and a The Ten Commandments-inspired wall of water that separates Narnia from “Aslan’s Country” (a.k.a. Heaven). It also provides Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace with a portal home.

Before they return, however, Aslan reveals his true nature (as if we didn’t know already) and suggests Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace can find him in their/our world (as Jesus, of course). It’s heaviest of heavy-handed moments in three films filled with heavy-handed moments.