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Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - quick review


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#1 of 109 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted December 10 2010 - 02:10 PM

I found this movie exhausting to sit through, though it loses steam about half-way through, and they just throw in a lot of CGI in the final act to get to the ending. The script is a hodge-podge of story points that don't necessarily happen in a natural manner, it's more like they needed the characters at a certain point in the story, so it just happened. Thus, it felt really sloppy at times.


Director Michael Apted had the camera moving all over the place, which seems to breathe some energy into the film at the start, but then it just felt like he lost control of the characters and set pieces, so it sort of spirals all over the place without a consistent tone and pacing.


I give it 2 stars or a grade of C.


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#2 of 109 OFFLINE   Arild

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Posted December 11 2010 - 03:23 AM

Man... I had such high hopes for this movie, being a fan of the book(s) as well as the first two films. But after everything I've heard and read about the adaption over the last few months, my expectations are pretty low right now. I'll still see it, but I don't exactly feel confident that I'll actually enjoy it at this point.



#3 of 109 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted December 11 2010 - 06:52 AM

I feel the same. I have concerns that they made some poor choices in tone and moving towards being too "safe" in regards to characterizations and, frankly, cheesiness. The structure of the book is more of a series of adventurous events and not one main quest, but they've changed that a bit for the movie and I wonder if that makes both the individual episodic moments and the overall quest less than they could be as a movie.


Regardless, my enthusiasm for the film is much lower than the other two, and I quite like the other two films despite their flaws. The Horse and His Boy is still one of my favorite novels of all time, period, but even if this one is a financial success and they go on to do The Silver Chair, I have my doubts that they'll get to THAHB, or treat it right when they do. The Silver Chair has the challenge of following Eustace and his schoolmate Jill as the primary protagonists, but it's probably the most similar in tone to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of the Chronicles (evil witch, specific outlined quest, new unexpected creatures, etc.).


I may see it tonight.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#4 of 109 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted December 11 2010 - 08:33 PM

I did see the film tonight and thought it was fairly good. Uneven, but good. Overall the budget reduction was notable, but I think that aspect helped the movie more than hindered it - Narnia doesn't need to be "epic" (a misfire in marketing, IMO), especially Dawn Treader. It's a more personal story than the previous two.


The early box office does not look good. Less than $9 million on Friday, which means ~$25 million this weekend, which is well below what they were looking for. Even with  a reduced budget as compared to Prince Caspian.


This film had a reported budget of $140 million. Going by the law of doubling to break even, it needs to do $280+ million world wide to be in the black, which is still doable when considering possible international ticket sales, but not very solid.

What gets me is why I haven't seen the push for church word of mouth like the first film. Aside from releasing Prince Caspian in a busy summer, Disney's other major folly was to not continue within the Christian Protestantism circuit in marketing, and Fox hasn't seemingly done that with Dawn Treader, either. Maybe Christians only go to movies as enthusiast groups for movies where Jesus/Aslan get crucified. Dawn Treader has some very basic "Christian Value" content that would strike me as just as crucial to the tone of typical sunday school rhetoric (and I mean that in a good way).


So, some positives, negatives, and inbetween.

Positives:

- I thought the relationship between Eustace and Reepicheep was done very well. Probably my favorite aspect of the movie, honestly. Maybe the tone is such a shift with Eustace for unfamiliar viewers, but Poulter *is* Eustace Scrubb. I would feel fully confident in seeing him in The Silver Chair.

- Reepicheep's entry into Aslan's Country might be one of the top three scenes in all the movies. It's that well done.

- The film looks very nice for the most part. It doesn't have the same landscapes and scale to work with that the prior films do, but it makes the most of what it's got.

- The cameos by Susan and Peter work rather well for the film, which I did not expect. The scene that this occurs in is handled exceptionally well and also happens to be bookended by Lucy's best moments.

- A few small touches were really well done: the brief mention of Jill Pole, the original art in the end credits, and the incorporation of Eustace's diary, which I thought they would have dropped altogether.

In-Betweens:

- Skandar (Edmund) and Georgie (Lucy) give OK performances, but they're not at the same level as the prior two films. Still better than William and Anna in either of the other two films, though. Barnes is fine, no more, no less.

- The effects are solid, if more economical.

- The score is unremarkable, if serviceable.

- While the scene between Aslan and Eustace is good, it is such a landmark moment in the books that I feel they could have spent more energy bringing focus to it. It seemed the only part of the film that was rushed to me, but perhaps that's my projection on it's importance.

- The adaptation itself is good. Some of it works just fine: changing the order of discovery of some islands, combining a couple of them, all good choices. Other aspects are a bit offkey: the primary quest helps focus the narrative, but it doesn't have a real definable threat like Caspian's uncle or a Witch. While a strength to the book is the vignette structure, this doesn't work as well on film, so I understand the issue here. But giving us a mundane villain in the form of a Fantasia "Nothing" and a brutish/mindless sea serpent doesn't quite bring it to an A-game. The green mist doesn't help too much and is too visually literal, too.

Negatives:

- OK, I get the need to reduce plain exposition by having interactive dialog. But the addition of random guy and his precocious daughter to mirror Lucy/Susan's relationship doesn't quite jive. Not terribly offensive, but mostly unnecessary.

- Bringing back the temptation of the White Witch for Edmund in Caspian made sense, especially considering the book's scene discussing using dark magic to resurrect her. But having her so visually present in Dawn Treader as Edmund's temptation just seemed like overkill. If they do The Silver Chair I hope they do not cast Swinton as the Green Witch. Narnia needs a new villainous face.

- There are a few too cheesy moments. Most of the time the tone doesn't ham it up anywhere as close as I'd feared. Oh, the sentimentality and sweetness for a family film is almost always there, but it's typically under control. At times though it grates, and a couple moments in particular are just bad. One is where Lucy reads and incantation for snow that screams "look how MAGICAL this movie is!" The other is at the end of the sea serpent fight Lucy has a voice over internal thought of "Aslan please help us" followed by a bird (seagull?) breaking through the dark clouds to bring a ray of sunshine. C'mon, this was completely unnecessary and plainly condescending to the entire audience. Everybody knows they're praying for help at this time. They're fighting a giant sea serpent!


So, that's my thoughts. I hope people go see it over the holidays - if it hasn't lost too many screens by then. It's a worthy film in the series, and I'd like to see more. Looks like a long shot right now though, which is too bad. At least I can always re-read the books. I'd recommend this film to most anybody who likes the first two and/or enjoys quality family entertainment. It's not spectacular but it is enjoyable.

7/10


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#5 of 109 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted December 12 2010 - 02:20 PM

Good news for Narnia: international numbers are VERY good, with $80 million internationally to bring it to $105 million world wide. http://www.eonline.c...ohnny_depp.html


It may yet make $300+ million world wide, which may be enough to green light The Silver Chair. It would need to be a lower budgeted film ($75 million?), but I think that's fine. The majority of die hards that are still wanting the films aren't as picky about visual effects, and most of the creature types have been designed and created in the computer already, so R&D is not as big a deal. Neeson is the only high salaried actor in the bunch they must keep, too.


And take this statement with a grain of salt, however it's promising spin: "Fox said it succeeded in its aim of resurrecting the franchise, and was "excited" about its overall prospects." http://ca.news.yahoo...box-office.html


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#6 of 109 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 12 2010 - 02:43 PM

I'm of the opinion that the Silver Chair would be a better movie at $75 million, because it wouldn't be saddled with the expectations of a big budget epic. After the LWtW, it's my favorite of the Narnia books so I hope VotDT does well enough to merit the greenlight. As the first of the stories not to feature one of the Pensieve children, it'd give Fox Walden a real shot at rebranding the franchise.






#7 of 109 OFFLINE   Lord Dalek

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Posted December 12 2010 - 02:44 PM

If foreign box office totals are sooooo important, where's my Subtle Knife? Posted Image



#8 of 109 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted December 12 2010 - 02:50 PM

Depends on distribution deals. Walden/Fox distribute Narnia worldwide, therefore get the full worldwide profits. New Line only had returns on the US box office for Golden Compass because they sold international rights before the release - a mistake that cost the franchise any chance of continuing and effectively put the final nail in the coffin of New Line.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#9 of 109 OFFLINE   Jose Martinez

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Posted December 13 2010 - 10:57 AM

My short review: I really liked it.  Better than Prince Caspian, IMHO.  :-)


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#10 of 109 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted December 13 2010 - 04:00 PM

Brandon, yours was the review I was waiting for on Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I'm glad that you found it worthy.

#11 of 109 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted December 14 2010 - 02:00 PM



Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 

If foreign box office totals are sooooo important, where's my Subtle Knife? Posted Image



Totally!

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#12 of 109 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted December 14 2010 - 10:20 PM



Originally Posted by Will_B 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 

If foreign box office totals are sooooo important, where's my Subtle Knife? Posted Image



Totally!

+1


"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#13 of 109 OFFLINE   Arild

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Posted December 15 2010 - 09:35 AM



Originally Posted by Edwin-S 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_B 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 

If foreign box office totals are sooooo important, where's my Subtle Knife? Posted Image



Totally!

+1


-1


Brandon already explained how that was a different situations with different conditions.



#14 of 109 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted December 15 2010 - 10:19 AM



Originally Posted by Arild 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin-S 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Will_B 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Dalek 

If foreign box office totals are sooooo important, where's my Subtle Knife? Posted Image



Totally!

+1


-1


Brandon already explained how that was a different situations with different conditions.


I realize the circumstances that Brandon described. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't have liked the result to be different vis a vis the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. The first one wasn't as bad as it was made out to be and it certainly would have been nice to see the other two made, regardless of the circumstances that supposedly made it impossible.


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#15 of 109 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted December 21 2010 - 04:21 AM

I'd rather not have a sequel to the neutered version of The Golden Compass put out by New Line.

As for VotDT... I hope it can do well enough to keep the series going. Looking forward to seeing it this weekend.


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#16 of 109 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted December 22 2010 - 05:22 PM

Veering off topic, but it was hardly neutered. Lord Asrael still got imprisoned for daring to reveal knowledge the Magisterium did not approve of. That the film lacked the details of the power of the Magisterium was mostly due to not being able to put that kind of exposition into action (not a problem for books). Had it been a mini-series, then I suppose there could have been the dinner party at Coulter's mansion in which the guests could have nervously chattered about the thin line that one might find themselves on the wrong side of... or scenes of the college professors further explaining how they're not liked by the Magisterium... but dinner parties and other conversations work well in books but tend to be dull in film.


In brief, I think the film was no more neutered than any other film based on a book is neutered. Neutered of the amount of exposition that a book can get away with, but which a film can't.


Plus I think the film turned people on to the book series. I hadn't heard of the books until the film. Granted, I don't have kids.


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#17 of 109 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 24 2010 - 01:00 PM

The Golden Compass had many problems, but being neutered wasn't one of them. The anti-Catholic subtext was there if you were looking for it, but as in the book it wasn't shoved in your face. The biggest problem I had with the film was that it favored checking off events over crafting an emotionally involving journey for Lyra.


It's a shame, too, because the casting was terrific and the look of the film was dead on. Dakota Blue Richards made a very good (though not blond) Lyra, while Sam Elliott and Nicole Kidman were basically who I pictured for Lee Scoresby and Mrs. Coulter. I've often wondered what the Tom Stoppard screenplay would have been like with this cast and production design.


As for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it suffered from many of the same problems. There's a lot of flash and noise, but very little character development. Lucy's body image issues are underdeveloped, while Eustace's moral transformation is rather sudden perfunctory. Edmund gets little to do other than look sullen. The use as Aslan as a genie that grants wishes was probably the most offensive transgression. Aslan is good, and Aslan will provide help when it's most needed, but he operates on his own schedule. The idea that Lucy crying out for help is immediately followed by Aslan reverting Eustace back to human form and whisking him back to the just the place where he's needed is a little too pat for my tastes. I much prefer the book's ending, where it is Reepicheep's willful sacrifice that saves the day rather than an action set piece. But while I think the context of the Aslan's country scenes were flubbed, the visuals were the best part of the whole movie. The boat ride through the lilies seemed ripped out of my imagination, and the visualization of the edge of the world as a tidal wave that never crests has to be my favorite single effect of 2010.



#18 of 109 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted December 25 2010 - 06:02 AM

Are we back to combined discussion and film review threads? So far I've basically read spoilers in three threads for three films that I have yet to see. Not all of us go to films on opening day or even a week later. I haven't been able to see any films because I have been out of town for week on a job.


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#19 of 109 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted December 26 2010 - 05:23 AM

Saw the film yesterday, in Real 3D.

I quite enjoyed it, though some of the departures from the source material left me puzzled. I understand the need to tie together the different adventures in the search for the Lords into one cohesive story, but some changes were wholly unnecessary:



*Reducing Bern's role to the point where he's there to hand over his sword and not much more, which greatly diminished the fun of the first adventure: Escaping the slave traders, fooling them into thinking the entire Narnian armada was upon them, and restoring Bern to the throne.


*The simplification of Eustace's dragon storyline. Most of it felt true enough to the source, but I missed seeing Octesian as the old dragon, and Eustace having a longer/deeper talk with Aslan.


*Lord Rhoop's request never to be asked about what he saw during his time in the Dark Island was wonderfully creepy in the book, allowing us to project our own deepest fears into it, whereas in the film the island is reduced the producing monsters for the crew to fight. I suppose the mainly internal terror the island produces in the book (similar to the dread the characters feel in the Paths of the Dead in LOTR) would be difficult to illustrate in a visual medium (again, witness the choices Jackson made in ROTK), but as cool as the Sea Serpent was, it was a little too mundane.)

Other changes were more welcome, such as

*Lucy and Edmund's temptations: In the book, Lucy's fear of not being liked by her best friend is very appropriate, but given that Georgie Henley's Lucy is older than her book counterpart, her self-image issues and feeling in the shadow of her older sister are more touching, and will hopefully resonate better with any teens watching the film (plus it made possible that awesome cameo by Will Moseley and Anna Popplewell). Similarly, having Edmund deal with residual desires/guilt over his betrayal in LWW effectively enrich his character without betraying Lewis' works. I have no problem with Tilda Swinton re-appearing in The Silver Chair, if it gets made. Lewis never specified just who the Lady of the Green Kirtle was, but that same ambiguity opens the door for strengthening her connection to Jadis.


*Having Caspian make the decision not to enter Aslan's country on his own, rather than as a command from Aslan, actually worked better than the original. Aslan appeared as a father ready to let his child make his own mistakes, and Caspian chose well. Should make the ending of The Silver Chair that much more poignant, I think.

Will Poulter IS Eustace Scrubb. Before seeing the film, I had my doubts they could find a child actor capable to project Eustace's good and bad qualities well enough to make a credible lead for The Silver Chair AND The Last Battle (I can dream!), but Poulter nailed it. Should The Silver Chair be made, we won't miss Edmund and Lucy too much.


The ending was pitch-perfect.

The 3D was, in my opinion, unnecessary. It wasn't used in an overly showy, look-at-me manner (like in Alice in Wonderland), but it just seemed... Badly put together. I kept peering over the edge of my specs, and frankly, I think I'll enjoy the film much more in 2D. I look forward to the BluRay release, and to the film doing decent enough business to keep the series going.

I give the film a B. Not quite up to the level of the previous two films, but a worthy entry nonetheless.


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#20 of 109 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 26 2010 - 02:45 PM

Originally Posted by Edwin-S 

Are we back to combined discussion and film review threads? So far I've basically read spoilers in three threads for three films that I have yet to see. Not all of us go to films on opening day or even a week later. I haven't been able to see any films because I have been out of town for week on a job.

This is tricky. With separate review and discussion threads it made things easy: Review threads should be spoiler tagged, discussion threads assume you've seen the film before venturing within. This thread is sort of both. I hope you didn't hit upon anything too crucial that you didn't want to know about.


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