I rather enjoyed the first two Narnia films. They weren’t fantastic fantasy, but they were highly enjoyable. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is classic fantasy that worked really well on screen, and Prince Caspian had a lot of good action. It’s quite clear that something just did not click with Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third movie based on the Narnia series of books.
The plot has Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) Pevensie returning to Narnia, along with their annoying cousin Eustace (Will Poulter). They encounter Caspian (Ben Barnes) and Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) again on the titular ship. It’s discovered that there’s an evil mist being evil, and so they set off to collect 7 magic swords and stop the source of the mist at Dark Island. I am not even joking, it’s called Dark Island. I might as well put this out here now: I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe once when I was really young, and that’s all I know about the Narnia book-verse. So while stuff like this might be taken right from the book, I am taking it as it shows up on the screen. My point is that, even if C.S. Lewis himself named the place Dark Island, I think changing the name would’ve been entirely justified.
The movie’s plot in general is a silly collection of morals and pointless wandering around. They beat you over the head with every point. Lucy wishes she was beautiful, at which point she becomes her sister in a world where Lucy didn’t exist, so the Pevensies never went to Narnia. Fine, we get it. Then Aslan has to come in and reexplain the moral. Then later on, Lucy has to repeat the moral to another girl, who’s there for no apparent reason other than so that she can be told the moral. The overall plot also just doesn’t feel as epic. There were very clear goals and very clear villains in the first two movies. Here, your villain is mist. There isn’t somebody controlling the mist, it’s just…evil mist. And the plot in general is just going to an island, getting into some magical wackiness, finding a sword, and then moving on to the next island. Eustace whines into his journal on the ship inbetween, and you wait for him to get to that inevitable “Oh, Narnia really is magical!” moment. There’s a line between making a character unlikeable and making a character that’s a terrible person but still has likeable qualities. Eustace is just straight out unlikeable, a caricature of the standard annoying cousin.
The special effects are also a strange mixed bag here. Reepicheep looks great, and Aslan’s few appearances are beautiful looking. But a dragon that has a major role in the movie looks wrong. His eyes don’t look right, his scales don’t fit in. I can’t quite place it, but he doesn’t look good. The only time he fits in is when he’s with other CGI characters, and he would’ve fit in perfectly in a computer-animated movie, but not next to live-action actors. And the evil mist is an absolutely terrible effect. I think it’s been well proven that, if your villain is any sort of sentient fog, mist, etc., it’s going to look awful. Coloring it green certainly didn’t help, making it look too thick and quite clearly CGI.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader isn’t quite a bad movie. It still has some passable moments of character and acting, which border on good until they get swept up in a plot that simultaneously has too much going on and not enough happening. At the end of it, I didn’t want to stay in this magical world. I just wanted to get out.