Animation: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
BBC: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader | The Silver Chair
Walden Media: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) is the third and final Chronicles of Narnia adaptation made by Walden Media based on the famous book series by CS Lewis. Made in collaboration with 20th Century Fox1 rather than Walt Disney Pictures who co-produced the first two Narnia films, it strays quite far from the novel's original story.
During the Second World War Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are forced to stay in Cambridge with the Scrubb family, including their unpleasant cousin Eustace Scrubb2. The siblings find life in Cambridge grey and dull compared to their previous magical adventures in the land of Narnia. Having been a leader in Narnia who commanded armies, Edmund tries to enlist in the army but is seen as being too young, leaving him feeling powerless.
In the Scrubbs' house Edmund and Lucy admire a painting of a ship on the ocean, which appears to be coming to life. Just as Eustace takes the painting off the wall it fills the room with water, and the three children emerge baptised3 in Narnia next to King Caspian's new flagship, the Dawn Treader. Caspian is on a mission to find the Seven Lords of Telmar: Bern, Octesian, Restimar, Rhoop, Mavramorn, Revilian and Argoz. These were his father's closest friends who, after he was deposed, chose to sail into exile rather than serve Caspian's wicked uncle, Miraz.
Their first stop on the voyage is the Lone Islands - specifically the islands' capital, Narrowhaven. Captured by slave traders they encounter Lord Bern in gaol. They learn that people are being put in boats that magically sail out to sea into a mysterious green mist. The mist swallows them up and the boats return empty. The missing lords had previously made a pact to find and defeat the mist. Divine lion Aslan had made seven magic swords to guard Narnia. Bern gives the sword he had hidden to Caspian, who promptly passes it to Edmund. Eustace is a nuisance, attempting to steal food, doing no work and generally complaining constantly.
On the second island they arrive at, Lucy is kidnapped by invisible creatures and sent into 'the invisible house of the oppressor' in order to read a spell to make the unseen seen. The invisible house and its contents become visible to Lucy once she enters inside. She learns that the oppressor is the magician Coriakin who had made the local islanders, the Dufflepuds, invisible in order to hide them from the Green Mist. He reveals that Dark Island is the source of the mist. Dark Island can make dark dreams and nightmares come true and the evil is spreading and increasing in power. Only the seven swords carried by the seven lords can defeat it; by placing all seven swords on Aslan's Table on Ramandu's Island the evil will be banished.
However, the mist manipulates the crew constantly, scaring and tempting them all. Lucy, who doubts her own value as she feels less beautiful than her older sister Susan, is tempted to wipe herself out of existence. She finds herself in an alternate reality in which she is Susan with Peter and Edmund in America but none of the others know of Narnia. She is rescued from this by Aslan with a new appreciation of her own worth.
After a fortnight-long storm, they reach their third island. Here Caspian and Edmund find a cave with a pool that can turn anything placed in it to gold. One of the lords had fallen victim to this pool. Tempted by the power that unlimited gold represents, Edmund and Caspian are prepared to fight each other to possess it. Aided by Lucy, they overcome the evil inducement. Meanwhile Eustace discovers a vast treasure hoard that had claimed the life of another lord. Enticed by the riches, Eustace is controlled by greed, steals gold and is turned into a dragon. Yet as a dragon, physically cut off from all around him, he becomes emotionally part of the crew. After leaving the island with two more swords they are becalmed, trapped in a windless sea, until dragon-Eustace pulls the Dawn Treader to Ramandu's Island.
There they meet Liliandil, Ramandu's daughter, who is a blue star. They also find three of the Lords of Telmar in an enchanted sleep next to Aslan's Table. With those three lords' swords they have six of the seven. The final sword is located in Dark Island. Bravely they sail to the island to battle their own inner demons and their nightmares made manifest. Caspian has a vision of his father disappointed in him while Edmund sees the White Witch. They are then attacked by a vast sea serpent as they rescue the last Lord of Telmar. The lord plunges his sword into the heart of Eustace, not realising that Eustace is not a fearsome dragon.
Can the mist be defeated? Will Eustace remain a dragon forever and what will his mother say? Will the quest succeed, can all seven swords be reunited and will Aslan help save the day?
Recurring characters and actors are shown in Bold.
|Lucy Pevensie||Georgie Henley|
|Edmund Pevensie||Skandar Keynes|
|Eustace Scrubb||Will Poulter|
|Captain Drinian||Gary Sweet|
|Lord Bern||Terry Norris|
|Lord Rhoop||Bruce Spence|
|The White Witch||Tilda Swinton|
|Susan Pevensie||Anna Popplewell|
|Peter Pevensie||William Moseley|
Simon Pegg replaced Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep. Due to other commitments, Liam Neeson recorded Aslan's voice in Canada and Europe; he was never on the same continent as rest of the crew. In fact, during the film's premiere Georgie Henley met Liam Neeson for only the second time in her life, despite having been involved in the Narnia films for seven years.
Making The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Unlike the first two Narnia films, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was co-produced with 20th Century Fox and directed by Michael Apted, with the music composed by David Arnold. Apted hoped to recapture the spirit of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which had been aimed at a younger audience than Prince Caspian. Having a much lower budget than the first two films, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was filmed in only 90 days almost exclusively in Australia rather than worldwide - the US/Australian currency exchange rate combined with Australian tax incentives encouraged filming to be completed there. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was filmed in 2D and directly in 3D, rather than being converted later.
Apted consulted with the directors of films featuring ships, especially Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and was advised to avoid filming on water if at all possible. Thus the 100-ton Dawn Treader vessel was filmed next to the Queensland coastline, giving the impression of the ship being at sea. For shots showing the ship ploughing through the ocean, a similar-sized ship and its wake was filmed and digitally replaced with the Dawn Treader. The cabins, which were richly decorated with fine illustrations showing incidents from Narnian history, were a set. The gull that Eustace talks to on the ship was a real, trained seagull.
The sail and the top of the mast were computer-generated, while the ship itself was designed to be able to be taken apart. This allowed it to be reassembled inside a film studio soundstage for the final Dark Island sequence - the tail and figurehead did not fit inside the studio, so these were digitally added later. The Green Mist is all computer-generated - no mist effects or smoke-machines were used as it interfered with the 3D filming process.
Many exterior scenes were filmed at the Australian studio's back lot, including the streets of Narrowhaven. Deathwater Island was a combination of shots of volcanic White Island4, New Zealand in the background, with the cast filmed in an abandoned quarry. The ravine containing the treasure that Eustace is tempted by was actually a small set built on the back lot. Ramandu's Island when seen from the Dawn Treader was computer-generated, although the scenes in which the crew walk to Aslan's Table were filmed on a soundstage.
As part of preparation for filming, the main three children learned fencing and underwent SCUBA diving training to learn how to hold their breath for the transition scenes to and from Narnia. The children had a maximum of five hours filming per day, with their schooling a priority. The director decided the Telmarines should have English rather than Mediterranean accents so Ben Barnes, who had already appeared in Prince Caspian with a Mediterranean accent, was free to speak with his usual accent. The computer-generated dragon that Eustace turns into was designed to have actor Will Poulter's eyes and eyebrows. For many scenes in which Reepicheep appears, a full-scale stuffed replica nicknamed 'Stuffy' stood in for him, in order to give the actors the correct eyeline so they would know where to look.
Voyages of the Chart Treaders
A number of music videos were made and launched as singles in 2010. These were: 'There's A Place For Us' by EMD, 'Someone Wake Me Up' sung by Joe McElderry and 'Stand Up' by Stan Walker. None approached the Top 50 of the charts either side of the Atlantic and instead sank without trace.
Differences from the Novel
CS Lewis' original novel is extremely episodic in nature, with a voyage of exploration that includes both a search for seven Narnian lords and an aim to discover the End of the World. When Walden Media came to adapt it they felt a more coherent thread and threat was needed, which resulted in numerous changes. In the film, the crew search for the seven magical swords the lords carry, as only they can defeat an evil Green Mist – a new plot device for the film - that threatens to spread and engulf all life in Narnia. The mist is linked to many of the adventures early in the film, so for example the reason the Dufflepuds were turned invisible was to hide them from the mist. This mist is able to turn into whatever you fear, from sea serpents to personifications of the White Witch. In the novel its nearest equivalent is Dark Island5, which is merely one of the myriad of threats that the voyagers encounter and does not imperil anyone outside its vicinity.
Other changes result in much of the action on the various islands being condensed. The order that the islands are visited in is rearranged. Dragon Island and Deathwater Island, separate locations in the novel, become the same island for the film. The visit to the slave-trading Lone Islands is the most changed, as it is revealed that imprisoned slaves are sacrificed to the Green Mist rather than being sold for profit. At the end, the reason that the Dawn Treader sails to near Aslan's Country is also changed.
Caspian seems to be semi-expecting Edmund and Lucy on the voyage, carrying clothing and weapons for them6, and even Edmund's torch. Eustace remains a dragon for far longer than in the novel, helping to propel the ship when there is no wind and fighting the Green Mist. Aslan features less than in the novel but in contrast the White Witch, Peter and Susan all make cameo appearances that are not in the book. Jill Pole, a character in later books, is briefly mentioned though not seen.
Ramandu's daughter was nameless in the novel, but she was named Liliandil by producer Douglas Gresham, CS Lewis' stepson. In the film she is a blue star, giving off a faint blue glow. In the novel, her father Ramandu was the star and she was his apparently human daughter.
To the glistening Eastern Sea, I give Queen Lucy the Valiant
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Lucy finally sails to the end of the Eastern Sea on the Dawn Treader. In this film Lucy and Edmund seem to alternate between having knowledge of Narnia and not having any. When they come on board the ship, Edmund and Lucy are called the 'High King and Queen' when they were not; their siblings Peter and Susan were. They both recognise the Dawn Treader as being a Narnian ship when they see a picture of it but do not know what is off Narnia's shore until they get to the Lone Islands, when they suddenly know Narnian history and geography again and declare that the Lone Islands have always been Narnia's.
While there are recurring characters from previous films in the Narnia series, particularly from Prince Caspian7, you do not need to have seen the previous films in order to watch or enjoy this one - all you need to know is that the film is set in a magical world where Aslan represents the forces of good who are combatting evil. In fact, with a new director and new studio involved, this was an attempt to sail the series in a new direction, although its failure at the box office meant it ended the series abruptly.
The film's villain, the Green Mist, was inspired by the next Narnia novel in the series. The Silver Chair featured Narnians being kidnapped and disappearing into an evil underground world controlled by a Green Witch. The theme of Narnians been kidnapped by a force of evil, this time off shore, was to have tied in to the Green Witch in The Silver Chair had Walden Media made a fourth film in their series.
The film contains several plot holes and often contradicts Prince Caspian. In the earlier film it is revealed that, with the single exception of the young Caspian, the Telmarines do not believe in the existence of Narnians, nor in Aslan. In this film the seven banished Lords, who are now called Lords of Telmar, not only believe in Aslan but each carry one of the seven valuable swords he had created. These swords, being magical, can defeat evil if placed on Aslan's table. Why Aslan took the swords all the way to Narnia where they could be found by a race of people who do not believe in his existence, rather than leave the swords on his table where they could do some guarding instead, is left unexplained. Viewers are left to surmise that Aslan works in mysterious ways and enjoys setting challenging quests for those loyal to him.
Will Poulter, who plays Eustace, successfully treads the fine line between being annoying and being unlovable and nasty and pulls it off. When Eustace is cursed and transformed into a dragon, the audience feels he actually has learned his lesson and, like with Pinocchio, wants him to turn back into a real boy. When Eustace is stabbed by the seventh lord's magical sword, it seems possible that he will in fact die. It is fitting that, after Aslan scratches away his scaled skin to reveal his new reborn form beneath, it is the renewed Eustace who saves the day, though how he returns to Ramandu's Island is explained only by 'Aslan's magic did it'. It is also anti-climactic that Eustace merely runs to Aslan's Table with the seventh sword while the Dawn Treader's crew fights the mist monster.
The various islands do look impressively different. The Lone Islands look like they were filmed in a genuine Mediterranean location, and Coriakin's Island has the theme of a fantasy English Country Garden while Deathwater Island is volcanic. This reinforces the idea that the crew have undergone a long voyage.
The climactic battle in which they face what they most fear, only for a manifestation of that fear to come to life, is rather reminiscent of Ghostbusters (1984), only without the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Curiously once Dark Island's spell has been broken, all the people that the Green Mist had kidnapped are returned in rowing boats. This is despite the audience seeing at the Lone Islands that the Green Mist kidnapped people but left the boats behind.
A particularly nice touch is that original Narnia novel illustrations feature as part of the end credits. This was in memory of the illustrator Pauline Baynes, who had died on 2 August, 2008.
Return to Narnia? The Series' Future
Following The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the Narnia film series paused. Walden Media had the rights to the films. They had made The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Disney, which had been extremely successful. The follow-up, Prince Caspian, was also financially successful but much less so than the first film. Following tensions between the companies' different visions for the film series, Disney pulled out of financing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 20th Century Fox agreed to finance the film, but with a lower budget. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was a modest success, making almost as much as Prince Caspian.
As Walden Media had made so many changes to the story, the CS Lewis Estate were extremely dissatisfied. Following a three year period of negotiations, the CS Lewis estate revoked Walden Media's film rights in 2013. They approached the Mark Gordon Company, owned by Entertainment One/eOne. However, the terms of their contract with Walden Media prevented the making of any more Narnia films within five years of the contract ending. This meant that no Narnia adaptation could begin filming before late 2018. The Mark Gordon Company announced that they intended to film The Silver Chair. However, in October 2018, the CS Lewis Company announced they were instead looking to work with Netflix.