Friday, December 2, 2011

3 short paragraphs: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


2010, Michael Apted -- Netflix

I know I read some Narnia back when I was a kid. This back in the days where we still said the Lord's Prayer after the National Anthem and pocket bibles were still distributed to all the kids in the school, so in that context where Christianity was somewhat thrust upon the us as youth, I doubt I realized the vague parable that the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe was playing at. I didn't really stick with Narnia once in my teens, or at least I don't recall the series at all very well, so I'm not really sure if the book version of Dawn Treader hammers the Christian analogy home as hard or as bluntly as the film does in it's waning moments, where Aslan the lion tells Lucy in her world "...I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

So, essentially the whole point of the Narnia series is to recruit kids into Christianity... Like any kind of advertising aimed squarely at kids, I don't like it, but even from a story standpoint, it's unnecessary, hokey and overwrought. Not that the film was terrific already, but it certainly didn't do it any favors. I do enjoy a voyage, a quest, the journey of a group who must accomplish a series of tasks in order to achieve their ultimate prize, and this hits all the cliches (hell it's a 50 year old story so it may have invented some). It feels too compressed though, obviously not having the time or budget to accomplish the novel in it's entirety, it feels like it squishes bits and pieces together, rather unnaturally.

The big-budget "Disney" (this one was distributed by Fox) Narnia film series, as a whole, has been kind of a bust, with Prince Caspian working the best (plus, Peter Dinklage) but still deeply flawed and financially succeeding the least. This, of the three is the weakest structurally, lacking a strong or even definitive lead will do that. Even as an ensemble it strains to work, the acting is not terrible but blandly adequate, as kids movies so often are. Narnia is a series that takes place across multiple eras with a disparate cast of characters, which makes it hard for an audience to connect with two hours at a time. I'm not certain the novels are unfilmable but perhaps they just shouldn't be filmed. Some stories are meant only to bet told in the medium they were created in.