'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - the Film

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The Chronicles of Narnia Adaptations
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 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 Fox rather than Walt Disney who co-produced the first two Narnia films, it strays quite far from the novel's original story.

Plot

During the Second World War, the youngest two Pevensey siblings, Edmund and Lucy, are forced to stay in Cambridge with the Scrubb family including their unpleasant cousin Eustace Scrubb, while their older siblings Susan and Peter are staying in America with their parents. Life in Cambridge is grey and dull. Used to being a leader who commanded armies, Edmund tries to enlist in the army but is seen as being too young, leaving him feeling powerless.

When Edmund and Lucy return to the Scrubbs' house they 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 baptised in Narnia next to King Caspian's 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 Miraz. Their first stop is the Lone Islands, specifically the islands' capital of Narrowhaven. There they discover slave traders who capture them and when imprisoned they encounter Lord Bern, the first of the seven lords, in gaol. They also learn how ordinary people are put in boats that magically sail out to sea and into a mysterious Green Mist which swallows them up, leaving the boats to return empty.

The lords had made a pact to find and defeat the mist. Bern had hidden one of seven magic swords given by Aslan to guard Narnia, which he gives to Caspian, who then gives it to Edmund. Eustace continues to be 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. She learns that the oppressor is the magician Coriakin who had made the Dufflepuds invisible in order to hide them from the evil green mist. He reveals that Dark Island is the source of the evil green mist that corrupts. Dark Island can make dark dreams and nightmares come true and the evil is spreading and increasing its 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 and with Peter and Edmund in America with none of the others knowing of Narnia. She is rescued from this by Aslan with a new appreciation of her own worth.

After a storm has lasted a fortnight they finally reach their third island. Here Caspian and Edmund find a cave with a pool that can turn anything placed into it to gold. One of the lords had fallen victim to this pool, and 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 which had claimed the life of another lord. Enticed by the riches, Eustace is controlled by his greed, steals gold and is turned into a dragon. Yet as a dragon, now that he is physically cut off from all around him, he becomes emotionally part of the crew. After leaving the island with two more swords they are trapped in a becalmed sea until Eustace pulls the Dawn Treader to Ramandu's Island despite the windless sea.

On Ramandu's Island 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, with the final sword located in Dark Island, a place of ultimate evil, darkness, dark thoughts and nightmares. 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 all attacked by a vast sea serpent as they rescue the last Lord of Telmar, who 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?

Cast

Recurring characters and actors are shown in Bold.

CharacterActor
Lucy PevensieGeorgie Henley
Edmund PevensieSkandar Keynes
CaspianBen Barnes
Eustace ScrubbWill Poulter
AslanLiam Neeson
ReepicheepSimon Pegg
Captain DrinianGary Sweet
Lord BernTerry Norris
Lord RhoopBruce Spence
CoriakinBille Brown
LiliandilLaura Brent
The White WitchTilda Swinton
Susan PevensieAnna Popplewell
Peter PevensieWilliam Moseley

Simon Pegg replaces 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, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was filmed almost exclusively in Australia rather than worldwide like the first two films. Filming only took 90 days and the US/Australian Dollar exchange rate combined with Australian tax incentives encouraged filming to be completed there. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was not only filmed normally but also directly in 3D as well, rather than converted later.

Michael 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. Listening to this advice, the 100-ton Dawn Treader vessel was never actually placed on water but instead 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 interior 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 for the final Dark Island sequence, which was all filmed in a soundstage. The reassembled Dawn Treader seen in the climax did not have its tail or figurehead attached in order to allow it to fit inside the studio, so these were digitally added later. In the scene in which the ship sails into the Green Mist, all the mist is computer-generated. No mist effects or smoke-machines were used as it interferes with the 3D filming process.

Many other exteriors were filmed at the Australian studio's back lot, including the streets of Narrowhaven. Deathwater Island was a combination of shots of volcanic White Island1, New Zealand that were used to provide the backgrounds, with the cast filmed in an abandoned quarry. The ravine containing the vast treasure that Eustace is tempted by was actually a small set that again was built on the back lot. Ramandu's Island when seen from the Dawn Treader was a computer generated exterior, however 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 underwent fencing and SCUBA2 diving training to learn how to hold their breath for the transition scenes to and from Narnia. The children also had a maximum of five hours filming per day, with their schooling a priority. As filming took place in Australia rather than Central Europe, the director decided the Telmarines should have English rather than Mediterranean accents. This included Ben Barnes who had already appeared in Prince Caspian with a Mediterranean accent but now was free to speak with his normal voice. The computer-generated dragon that Eustace's character turns into was designed to have 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.

This was the penultimate film to show the 20th Century Fox 75th Anniversary logo, followed only by Gulliver's Travels (2010).

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

Of the three Narnia adaptations made by Walden Media, this is the most different from the novel by CS Lewis. While CS Lewis' novel is extremely episodic in nature and linked by the search for seven Narnian lords, in the film the ship searches for the seven magical swords the lords carry, as only they can defeat an evil green mist that threatens to spread and engulf all life in Narnia. This green mist is a much greater threat than its equivalent in the novel, Dark Island3. In the film, 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.

Many of the individual adventures that take place on the islands are compressed for time. Two of the places visited in the book, Dragon Island and Goldwater Island, are combined into the same location for the film. The adventures on the slave-trading Lone Islands are also much shorter, with imprisoned slaves sacrificed to the green mist as well as being sold for profit. The order that the islands are visited in is also changed. Later, the Dawn Treader sails to Aslan's Country simply because it is close by, not because someone needs to go there.

Caspian seems to be semi-expecting Edmund and Lucy on the voyage, carrying clothing and weapons for them4, 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. As with Prince Caspian, Aslan features less than in the novel. However as if to make up for this, the White Witch cameos. Peter and Susan do too. Lucy uses a magical spell hoping to make herself look like Susan, which instead would turn her into Susan and wipe herself out of existence.

Ramandu's daughter was nameless in the novel, however she was named Liliandil by producer Douglas Gresham, CS Lewis' stepson. In the film she is a blue star, in the novel her father Ramandu was the star and she was only his daughter. Jill Pole, a character in The Silver Chair, is also briefly mentioned.

Review

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 voyage. 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.

The film's biggest weakness is that it is based on an episodic novel that has no central villain. In order to rectify this, a Green Mist is the film's villain. This was inspired by the next Narnia novel The Silver Chair. This featured Narnians being kidnapped and disappearing into an evil underground world controlled by a Green Witch. This uses the same theme of Narnians been kidnapped by a force of evil, this time off shore, and would have tied in to the Green Witch in The Silver Chair.

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 magic swords he had given. These swords, being magical, can defeat evil if placed on Aslan's table. Why Aslan took the swords all the way to Narnia to give them to 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.

Will Poulter who plays Eustace successfully treads the fine line between being an annoying character and being unlovable and nasty and pulls it off. When he is cursed and transformed into a dragon, the audience feels he actually has learnt his lesson and, like Pinocchio, want him to turn back into a real boy. When Eustace is stabbed by the last lord's seventh sword, which being magical penetrates his scales, 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 saves the day by running away with the seventh sword to Aslan's Table while the Dawn Treader's crew fights the mist monster.

The various islands visited do look impressively different. The Lone Islands look like it was filmed in a genuine Mediterranean location, Coriakin's Island has the theme of a fantasy English Country Garden while Deathwater Island is volcanic. As the islands appear different it 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, 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 out of the rowing boats, leaving the boats behind.

A particularly nice touch is to contain original Narnia novel illustrations 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 and made The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Disney financing the film, 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 Walden Media and Disney's 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 with a lower budget than the first two. 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 Narnia film rights in 2013 in order to find another film company to adapt the Narnia novels, choosing the Mark Gordon Company, owned by Entertainment One, also called eOne. However the terms of their original contract with Walden Media prevented the making of any more Narnia films within five years of their contact ending. This meant that no Narnia adaptation can begin filming before late 2018. The Mark Gordon Company have announced that they intend to film The Silver Chair.

1Also known as Whakaari, the volcanic White Island should not be confused with the Isle of Wight.2Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.3In the original British version of the novel, Dark Island is destroyed after the Dawn Treader passes through but in the revised US edition it still existed. Since 1994 only the British version has been published.4A deleted scene has Caspian apologise that the ship has no clothes for boys, however Lucy finds clothes that fit her perfectly.

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