The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Michael Apted
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 113 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: April 8, 2011
Review Date: April 8, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!