Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Combo Pack)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by  Michael Apted

    Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
    Year: 2010
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1   1080p   AVC codec  
    Running Time: 113 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese

    Region:  A
    MSRP:  $ 39.99


    Release Date: April 8, 2011

    Review Date: April 8, 2011

     

     

    The Film

    3.5/5

     

    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third in the series of Narnia films, but this one constitutes an advance on the last one Prince Caspian which was mainly a regurgitation of the fantasy explorations and epic battles from the original story. This new film, directed by veteran Michael Apted, is a quest film, so the big battle scenes with armies slaughtering one another are thankfully not present. Instead we have a much more interesting narrative of our heroes facing temptations, overcoming their weaknesses, and preparing to enter the next phase of their lives. Had the budget allowed for more elaborate special effects which would have appeared more seamless and real, the film would have been an even greater achievement. In any event, this one is much more enjoyable than the last effort.

     

    Stranded out of London with their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) and his family while World War II continues to rage, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) Pevensie long for the adventures that they had previously enjoyed in Narnia. As if by magic, the three youngsters are transported by Aslan (Liam Neeson) to Narnia through a painting. There, now-King Caspian (Ben Barnes) finds himself battling an evil green mist which is causing havoc all over Narnia. In order to defeat it, they must gather the swords of seven lords who had been battling evil in the land but have mysteriously vanished. As they encounter a host of unusual and intriguing new beings in the land, Lucy, Edmund, Eustace, and Caspian find that battling the mist brings them into conflict with their strongest internalized temptations, respectively longings for beauty, power, wealth, and love. Only by conquering these compulsions within themselves can they hope to finish their quest and defeat the mist.

     

    With a new director on board, the chronicles are being seen by fresh eyes that are most welcome. The youngest of the four Pevensie children are here (the older two make cameo appearances only), but their added years make them more interesting and less youthfully tiresome. For that, the new character of Eustace fills the bill admirably, so his journey to find self-worth amid the loss of his self-involvement is also involving for the audience (much like Edmund’s hard-won realizations in the first film). As the journey to find the swords take the group to five different islands, each with its own special inhabitants and strangeness, there is no end to the fantasy elements the artists get to play with, and each new adventure, while not extended past the breaking point, holds one’s attention. The Dufflepuds are the most fascinating of the new creatures, one footed dwarfs who have been made invisible by the evil mist. The climactic battle with the sea serpent is pretty standard stuff (in fact, through all of the death-defying adventures, the sense of urgency and ultimate danger isn’t quite ratcheted up to its maximum degree), but one would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the very heartfelt farewells that take place at the film’s conclusion. If there is a fourth Narnia movie (the box-office returns for this third edition were the weakest yet domestically though the film was a much bigger hit overseas), the cast of characters would appear to be quite different indeed.

     

    It’s lovely to see the striking maturity of Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes blooming before our eyes during the film. Both of them (but especially Georgie who has been the heart and soul of the series since the beginning) give wonderful accounts of themselves acting these characters through prickly adolescence. Will Poulter gets to be that character one loves to hate through the first half of the movie, but as he turns things around for himself through his experiences in the movie, it’s bracing to see a young actor fit so well into this fantasy world. Ben Barnes might not quite have the full regal bearing he needs to be called king, but he’s on the way there. As in the first two films, Tilda Swinton’s every appearance as the White Witch is memorable, even in the barely there snippets she has in this entry. So strongly has her character been established in the first two movies that just her face and voice is enough to bring forth shudders. Liam Neeson’s majestic voice once again brings majesty and strength to Aslan, and Simon Pegg steals every scene he’s in as the wily, feisty mouse Reepicheep.

     

     

    Video Quality

    5/5

     

    Director Michael Apted has altered the film’s aspect ratio from the theatrical 2.35:1 to the Blu-ray’s 1.78:1 in order to give an at-home audience a greater sense of intimacy with the characters. The frame seems in no way compromised by this decision and no issues with action being lost or characters cut from the frame appear to be present. As far as the 1080p/AVC codec transfer’s sharpness is concerned, it’s a gorgeous transfer with detail aplenty. In fact, the image is so good that the sometimes less that sterling CGI effects become a bit noticeable in certain scenes. Color in the London scenes is slightly desaturated as was the case in the earlier films but is rich and strong in the Narnia scenes. Black levels are tremendous. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.

     

     

    Audio Quality

    5/5

     

    The DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix is exactly the expressive, expansive system-challenging soundtrack one would expect from a top tier fantasy film. There are tons of effects which pan across and through the soundstage, and David Arnold’s music wraps through every nook and cranny of the available channels. Dialogue is well recorded and mostly resides in the center channel though directionalized dialogue (especially on Magician’s Island) is also nicely utilized from time to time.

     

     

    Special Features

    4.5/5

     

    The audio commentary is provided by producer Mark Johnson (who has produced all of the films to this point) and director Michael Apted. They have a very good give and take in their discussion making this a commentary track fans will definitely want to listen to.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, the video featurettes are in 1080p.

     

    There are short video explorations of the five islands which the Dawn Treader voyages to during the movie. They are Goldwwater Island (¾ minute), the Lone Islands (¾ minute). Magician’s Island (¾ minute), Ramandu’s Island (1 minute), and Dark Island (1 minute).

     

    There are eight brief featurettes on friends and foes of Narnia. They are the dragon (1 minute), the Minotaur (¾ minute), Dufflepuds (1 minute), Reepicheep (1 ¼ minutes), Aslan (1 minute), Liliandil ( ¾ minute), White Witch (½ minute), and the sea serpent (¾ minute).

     

    “The Epic Continues” has director Michael Apted and the cast providing an overview of the narrative for this installment of the series. It runs 2 ¼ minutes.

     

    “Portal to Narnia” explains how the effect was achieved in which the children were transported through the sea painting into Narnia early in the movie. It runs 7 ¼ minutes.

     

    “Battle on the Sea” shows how the climactic fight with the sea serpent was filmed on an Australian soundstage in this interesting 11-minute featurette.

     

    “The Secret Islands” is narrated by Ben Barnes as he describes events that transpired between the end of Prince Caspian and the beginning of this film, illustrated with colorful animated drawings. It runs 7 ¼ minutes.

     

    A progressive montage of special effects enhancements is narrated by director Michael Apted as we see bare film with layer upon layer of special effects added to get to the finished product. This runs 13 minutes.

     

    King Caspian’s Guide to the Dawn Treader is also narrated by Ben Barnes as he takes us on a 4 ¼-minute tour of his vessel separated into five sections.

     

    Four deleted scenes may be viewed separately or together in one 4 ½-minute grouping.

     

    “Search for Swords” is a family game requiring memorizing the locations of the seven swords in order to win the game.

     

    There are four Fox Movie Channel featurettes dealing with the film. All are presented in 480i. Liam Neeson discusses his work on the project in a 5-minute piece. Georgie Henley and Will Poulter together discuss doing their own stunts and their opinions of the film in a 5 ¼-minute vignette. Director Michael Apted discusses his work on the movie in a 6 ½-minute clip. Another examination of how the entry into Narnia was filmed provides the fourth segment lasting 9 ¼ minutes.

     

    The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes.

     

    There are promo trailers for Rio and Marley & Me: The Puppy Years.

     

    The disc is BD-Live ready, and there is one exclusive entry for the film: Carrie Underwood’s music video of “There’s a Place for Us” which runs 1 minute. Three other entries are also present on the Blu-ray disc.

     

    The second disc in the set is a DVD copy of the movie.

     

    The third disc is a digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for transfer to Mac or PC devices.

     

    Also included in the package is a set of ten collectible post cards for the film.

     

     

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

     

    It’s surprising how entertaining and involving The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader can be. The Blu-ray features reference quality picture and sound and a host of extras (even though navigating through the bonus features is a bit of a chore with the way they’re arranged on the disc). Recommended!

     

     

     

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks for the review Matt. I was very happy to see the series continue and glad Fox picked it up. I'm also glad to hear that the aspect ration change doesn't impact the picture and was director approved.
     
  3. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    I'm not thrilled by the AR change, and hope it won't become the norm for future releases. "Intimacy" is not why I bought a big-screen TV. However, I'm really looking forward to checking out the pristine PQ (picked the movie up tonight, won't get a chance to watch it till tomorrow).
     
  4. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    ^ Agree. The expression used in Canada-produced stuff like this is "modified to fit your TV" or similar, which is really not much diff than what Full Screen was for some years ago. Usually when we get stuff MARed to 1.78:1 it's because the transfer was made for (or by) a mostly TV-oriented company. I am disappointed... Doesn't fit the AR of the previous Narnia movies on BD either, not that it has to, but those looked just fine to me as is.
     
  5. Khai L

    Khai L Stunt Coordinator

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    I hear that the Narnia change in aspect ratio was really to open up the frame that was matted out for the theatrical run. So no actual picture is lost. Still, I think a movie such as this should be set to the scope ratio, just for the extra sense of granduer that I think it gives.


    Could you imaging the LOTR trilogy, or Star Wars for that matter, being shown in 1.78:1? I would hate that. I grew up with Star Wars on Pan & Scan on VHS, so couldnt believe it when I saw it in widescreen.


    Still, if it's the director's call, what can you do :)
     
  6. Mark_TB

    Mark_TB Second Unit

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    I, too, was disturbed to hear of the change in AR, but if it is truly a matter of just opening up the frame (instead of cropping), I can live with it.


    I wish this had done better in theaters. I found it very entertaining, even though it was clearly done on a lower budget than the previous two. The final scene between the major characters (particuarly Reepicheep) and Aslan brought tears to my eyes. I'm ready for further adventures with Eustace -- I thought Will Poulter did a terrific job -- but I'm afraid that might not happen because of the diminished box office returns.


    - Mark
     
  7. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    There is definite side cropping present in this release. Check the thread in the Movies forum for evidence.
     
  8. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    When a director goes back and tweaks the AR numerous years after a film's release, that's one thing, perhaps they learned a lot in the meantime and have a new perspective. But after relative months? And such a massive change? Regardless of what the director says, as though their word is the last word on a project... There's another reason, almost certainly to do with $$, and my guess is there was only room for the most broadcast-TV-friendly AR format. That is presuming they expect to get more $$ back from TV than home video sales, you'd think Fox of anybody might have a different perspective on that.
     
  9. Bryan Tuck

    Bryan Tuck Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review, Matt. This is definitely a better movie than Prince Caspian, and I think I even liked it better than the first one. My main problem with the first two movies was that they were kind of absurdly epic, and there wasn't really enough actually going on in the stories to support that scale. Ironically, the book Dawn Treader did have a bit of a larger scale than the first two books, and because the movie has been downsized a bit from its predecessors, the scale feels just about right this time. Does that make sense?


    Anyway, it is basically a simple children's adventure story, but the fact that it's allowed to be that is nice.


    I do wish Apted would have kept the theatrical aspect ratio (or that he had just framed it for 1.85 to begin with), but oh well. I have to wonder what Dante Spinotti thinks of this, though.
     
  10. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    Why is this one movie the exception where they didn't have the budget for a 2.35 transfer for home video and a 1.78 transfer for TV like so many other movies? And why is the director going along with his movie being altered against his will to the point where he's lying and saying that the 1.78 is his preference?
     
  11. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    ^ I don't know. It's just my speculation after all. If you want to do more business with a studio in the future, or maybe even other studios, I guess you have to go along with what they tell you to do, so might as well make it sound like it's your idea and/or go along cheerfully. Many movies that don't meet box office expectations get a bunch of home video releases, maybe this'll be one of them. I expect different marketing than Disney's. Bottom line is it's not theatrical AR, and that's all that matters to some, regardless of explanation. Close would be more acceptable, this is pure MAR a la full frame because it *is* full frame in the 16:9 era. I also suppose that they expect people are buying it for kids and IME kids don't like black bars and don't care about AR. You'd think Disney has "some" insight to this too, yet they did the previous ones right.


    Edit: I should say I am really surprised by this. I thought we were past the time where we had to be vigilant of AR for home video releases of recent movies. Except those from Canadian studios, who often don't have or allocate a budget for any but a TV-friendly AR.
     
  12. David Norman

    David Norman Cinematographer
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    I just picked up the Blu/DVD combo pack and I absolutely hate this packaging. Pretty cover, but the whole disc retention system is beyond atrocious. The Digital Copy under that ridiculous flap, the DVD and Bluray in side pockets so that they cna slide around and there is no way to get to the discs without touching the surfaces. Any time fingerprints show up on a disc something is wrong -- Edge and inner ring only should get direct contact. Anytime you have to slide the disc surface across something to extract it ought to be recalled immediately for just sheer stupidity -- slide it in, slide it out. I don't even mid the different size packaging that many people are complaining about with many custom cases, but the disc issue is beyond explanation for me. I've already moved them to spare cases and will store the outer box separately.
     
  13. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Are people honestly suggesting that the former President of the DGA is being railroaded into altering the home video presentation of a film when the series has done just fine as 2.35:1 on home video before, and that he's openly lying about it on the commentary in order to keep up the facade that he's just a studio lackey? Seriously?


    No, what's far more likely is that a director with 50 years of experience - and a lot of that experience on TV programming - has strong opinions about his work should be presented, and therefore he's being sincere that he prefers the 1.78:1 composition for home viewing for the exact reasons he cites.
     
  14. Adam Gregorich

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    Craig-

    This was a Fox release.


    James Cameron expressed similar feelings on Avatar, so its nothing new. I also don't see a director caving to studio pressure.
     
  15. Ryan-G

    Ryan-G Supporting Actor

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    I don't know, I'm kind of disappointed.


    Part of it is probably because Dawn Treader is my favorite of the books, but I felt the movie was forced.



    The changes to the movie in order to include the green mist just felt very weak to me. I was relatively ok with it, and the changes to the first island.

    It was later in the movie that it started breaking down for me. Edmund seeing the white witch seemed to exist only in order to find a way to put her face back in the movie again, which really wasn't necessary. Consdering they're moving onto a 4th movie with the White Witch in it, instead of the next book, just overloads the series with her. What's the plan with the rest of the books where she doesn't appear?

    The 7 swords thing came off as really weak to me as well. It contradicts the preceeding movie by having the invaders suddenly carrying Aslan's swords, when they were opponents in the preceding movie, and Peter's Sword suddenly gaining magical power from them just made no sense at all. Why is Peter's completely unrelated sword suddenly gaining magic power?

    Nitpicking, but really, couldn't they have made Edmund's death blow to the sea serpent look like a death blow and not a pin-prick?

    I don't think this movie did the book justice, it just added in a completely unrelated plot element that changed pretty much everything else to accomidate it, and I really don't understand the reason for the change.



    Overall, I'd still say the movie is worth watching, it just wasn't what I expected. Which I guess is generally what happens with book adaptions.
     
  16. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    Adam: Yes, I know it was Fox, thought that was clear, I was only contrasting with the previous Disney Narnia releases, only reason I mentioned Disney. Apted is not Cameron, nobody rational would ever consider trying to tell Cameron what to do, and they have tried... I guess I'm the only one who'll skip this release for now then. I really did like the first two though...
     
  17. filmftw1

    filmftw1 Auditioning

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    Strange that the director would do a "James Cameron Move" on the Aspect ratio... but I'm still picking this up.
     
  18. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    I agree completely. The packaging is pretty, but useless. I'm going to order some 2-disc BD boxes and try to find some custom cover art, although a standard width BD case should slide nicely into the outer sleeve (NOT the O-ring).
     
  19. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Let me know how that goes, because I'll likely do the same if I decide to pick it up, The packaging is what has prevented me from doing so already.
     
  20. David Norman

    David Norman Cinematographer
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    Someone on another forum did scan the outer box and resize it where it fit into a standard Bluray package. I printed it onto just regular paper and it doesn't look

    too out of place. Eventually I may put it onto some glossy thin paper, but for now it's OK.



    Here's the link to the cover scan -- click the spoiler and print since it should already be the proper size for a 2 or 3 disc case


    http://forum.blu-ray.com/4592815-post247.html
     

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