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Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (2010) Print E-mail
Monday, 11 April 2011
ImageGrowing up, the CS Lewis Narnia novels were among my favorites.  I was quite pleased with the first and second Narnia films, the first more than the second.  However, when it comes to the third, the film has lost its since of adventure and fantasy.  But the bigger problem with “Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” is the additions made to the film versus the book.

With the “Harry Potter” series it is all about what to leave out of the film versus the book.  With this third Narnia film it is the opposite.  The writers have added many elements to try and make the film for adventurous, but they weren’t needed.

At the end of the second film we learn that Susan And Peter have grown up and learned all they can from the land and won’t be returning again.  They make brief appearances in this third installment but that is it.  Instead, the third film is about the final two Pevensie children, Lucy And Edmund make their final journey to the land of Narnia.  The film opens with the two children leaving with a cousin in wartime England.  Susan and Peter have apparently gone with the parents to America.

Lucy and Edmund’s cousin is insufferable.  However, he is to join them on their journey to Narnia.  The three are swallowed up by the flooding of a painting hanging in the bedroom.  They are quickly rescued by the crew of the Dawn Treader, led by their friend King Caspian.  Cousin Eustace somehow continues his disbelief in Narnia despite having just been sucked into a painting and witnessing a talking mouse and a minotaur.  We soon learn that Caspian is headed East, looking for seven lords who banished by his evil uncle.

The film can’t answer the one question, why have Lucy and Edmund been summoned to Narnia this time?  This may arise due to the fact that the writers have added foreign elements.  The quest becomes about finding seven swords to break an evil spell, which has manifested as a green mist and a serpent, none of which are in the book.  This added elements are there to try and add adventure and story, but instead is takes away from the wonder of the high seas.  The crew do visit several islands and battle slave traders. Somehow the story loses its way and comes across as more of a series of vignettes.  Self-discovery and growing up are themes, which are too apparent one moment and lost the next.  Lucy deals with vanity, always comparing herself to her older sister Susan, though in actuality Lucy is much more beautiful than Susan in my opinion, so the vanity thing doesn’t work for me.  Edmund is a stubborn child and deals with desire for power and jealousy.  In fact, come the end of the film he still doesn’t seem to have removed those things from his life, so it is hard to say that Edmund has learned all he can from Narnia.

“Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” lacks a cohesive sense of self-discovery and adventure while maintaining true to the book.  The sense of wonderment that we experienced in the first two films seems to be missing from this third installment.

On Blu-ray, “Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Theatrical the film was presented in cinemascope.  However, rest assured that the film was originally shot and framed in 1.78:1.  All the image information is present in the 1.78:1 framed screen.  What has been hurt here is that unlike the first two films, the third was shot using a digital camera.  For me, this takes away from the sense of fantasy adventure.  35mm helped provide us with a more believable fantasy world in the first two films.  The third film is much too in your face realistic.  For what I have learned, the third film had a lower budget, simply to conclude the series for fans.  However, in doing so the digital camera takes away from the wonderment that made fans of the first two films.  Colors are generally good.  They are vibrant, a bit too vibrant at times.  However, at other moments the colors are washed out, which again is more of a realistic nature when dealing with the high reflectivity of the open seas, but not so good for a fantasy film.  The black levels do their job nicely but are as nicely resolved as they could be.  Shadow delineation in the dark sequences is quite good.  Textures are decent despite the lack of film grain.  The technical encode here nears perfection, however the original source material and choice of a digital camera present some consistency issues.  Particularly, the contrast is most troublesome.  Still, “Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” yields are great image, just no indicative of the nature of the genre.

Sound quality is much more in league with the film’s genre but still a great disappointment from a technical standpoint and let me explain why.  First, “Prince Caspian” was given a 7.1 upmix when released by Disney.  The release of “Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” in theaters came with a nice 7.1 Dolby mix.  However, Fox has decided to present the Blu-ray version of the film in 5.1.  This is an automatic full point deduction in my book.  There are a very limited number of true 7.1 audio Blu-rays, so to take a movie that was originally 7.1 and release it in 5.1 is almost reason enough to refuse rating the sound altogether.  So, what happens when the audio goes from 7.1 to 5.1.  Well, I will tell you.  In this case, the audio lacks precision compared to the original source material.  Pans and directionality in the rear channels lose their mark.  The channels were simply matrixed down to 5.1.  This also causes some comb filtering effects, but those are minimal.  The audio track here delivers awe-inspiring power, but lacks refined details.  The dialogue is crystal clear and nicely prioritized.  The ambience is not as precise as it could be.  Far too often the audio sounded compressed, much like music losing its details due to sausage-like compression for loudness levels.  Same thing here, the audio is very punchy, but lacks true dynamics.  Most viewers will find the audio track perfectly fine and that it provides a nice sense of adventure.  My rating is as a result of years as an audio professional and is more based on what the audio could have been were it left alone and refined just a bit.

The film comes in a fancy package that will leave consumers frustrated.  I’m not sure who approved this packaging, but the one thing that consumers don’t want in packaging is for the disc to repeatedly slide against laminated paper cardboard.  That is why cases were invented, to keep the disc anchored without letting the underside get all scratched up.  On top of that it also allows for discs to be handled without fingerprints.  That is not the case here.  The disc is slipped into a cardboard sleeve on the left side of a fold out book.  To get the disc out you must actually pinch it with your fingers, resulting in wonderful fingerprints on the disc.  Just be advised, if you really care about your collection, you are going to want to place it in its own Blu-ray case.  Enough on the packaging.

In terms of special features, the package comes with a decent amount, but hardly in depth enough.  The organization of the features is a bit of a hunt, but easy enough.  Still, you must go through various submenus to get to specific featurettes.  The features start with a submenu that displays a ship and five islands, each contains a group of bonus materials.

Lone Islands contains a few deleted scenes, “Minotaur Discovery,” “The Epic Continues” and “Explore Narrowhaven.”

Goldwater Island contains “Explore Goldwater,” “Dragon Discovery” and a Trailer.

Magician’s Island contains another “Explore The Island,” “Dufflepod Discovery” and access to the commentary by the director and the producer.

The Dark Island contains “White Witch Discovery,” “Serpent Discovery,” “Portal To Narnia: A Painting Comes To Life,” “Good Vs. Evil: Battle On The Sea” and another explore the island piece.

Ramandu’s Island contains the final explore piece, “Reepicheep Discovery,” “Liliandil Discovery,” “Aslan Discovery,” “Visual FX Progression” and “Search For The Seven Swords,” which is a matching game.

The final piece is the Dawn Treader.  There you will find: “The Secret Islands: Untold Adventures Of The Dawn Treader,” “King Caspian’s Guide To The Dawn Treader,” “In Character With Liam Neeson,” “In Character With Georgie Henley And Will Poulter,” “Direct Effect: Michael Epted” and “Making Of A Scene.”

The package also includes a book of collectible postcards, a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy.

“The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” lacks truly directionality.  It is more of an island hopping game.  While the film loses sight of the ultimate themes, it still nicely wraps up the series.  The audio quality loses marks for lack of staying true to the original source material and the video quality suffers from the use of a digital camera and lower budget.  Still, both will sure to please most viewers.  Worth at least a rent.

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