It’s usually a bad sign that the story of a film actually being made is more interesting than the film itself.

The Narnia franchise was famously dropped by Disney after disappointing returns from the second film, and was eventually picked up by
20th Century Fox.

Despite being given a second (and likely last) chance at life, this third entry in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, proves to be a
disappointingly generic fantasy adventure.

The first two films in the series were fun, light genre entertainment.  They were good, but certainly not great in any way.

With a new director and only two of the Pevensie children returning in any significant way (The elder pair cannot return to Narnia per the
previous film), Dawn Treader feels very different than its predecessors.  Taking place almost entirely at sea, even Narnia is unrecognizable.

But these character and scenery changes aren’t the reason Dawn Treader falls short.  This plot is a mess.

Our characters go to and fro without much explanation or motivation as they (I think…) sail to the edge of Narnia and Aslan’s land.  Along
the way they must (I think…) gather seven swords for some reason or another so as to defeat a strange green mist that is responsible for
the kidnapping of unwitting travelers.

The story here is just far too standard, uninteresting, and underdeveloped and the baffling journey dooms this film from the very start.

I suppose it’s a testament to director Michael Apted that Dawn Treader is even watchable given the story, but despite everything, the film
isn’t a complete loss.

The screenplay does manage to get some things right.  The personal journeys of the characters manage to keep us involved even if I still
would have liked to see the insecurities of both Lucy and Edmund fleshed out.

Played respectively by Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes, the younger of the children have always been the better performers and
characters in the films, so the presence of Peter and Susan isn’t as terribly missed as one might expect.

Ben Barnes also returns as Caspian.  I only really mention him because it’s amusing that he sports an English accent this time.  He was
obviously rocking the Spanish flair last time around.  I’m not complaining, though, as I prefer his more natural Brit delivery.

Then there’s new cast member Will Poulter as the Pevensie’s despicably irritating cousin Eustace Scrubb.  Poulter gives a fantastic, nasally
performance and is actually the best developed character in the film.  His scenes with the lovably noble mouse-warrior Reepicheep (Voiced
by Simon Pegg this time around) are among the highlights of the film.

Apted also provides some good action sequences, particularly the final sea battle. The impact, though, is tempered by the film’s lack of a
central villain.

The first two films had a couple great villains in Tilda Swinton and Sergio Castellitto.

A billowing green mist can’t quite compete.

Dawn Treader has good art direction, visual effects and, best of all, a phenomenal score by David Arnold.  Arnold’s work is incredibly
effective and, much like he has done with the James Bond films, takes the established themes of the series (Harry Gregson-Williams
provided very good scores to both the original and Prince Caspian) and effortlessly makes them his own.

The technical achievements along with some decent character help the film limp along to its conclusion.  But it’s really in the final 10
minutes or so that Dawn Treader saves itself from mediocrity.  The final two sequences are very well done and give the film an emotional
impact that will probably lead many to remember the film as being better than it really is.

Unfortunately, taken as a whole, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a disappointing and underperforming entry in the series that can only
be recommended for the truly dedicated fans of Narnia.

* * ½
(out of four)
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA:
THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER
Directed by: Michael Apted

Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and
Michael Petroni

Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes,
Will Poulter, Gary Sweet, Terry Norris, Bruce Spence

Cinematography by: Dante Spinotti

Music by: David Arnold

Released: December 10, 2010; 112 Minutes