Until I converted to Catholicism, I had never read any of the Chronicles of Narnia. Upon my confirmation, The Boy bought me a beautiful edition, and I quickly tore my way through all of the novels. I truly enjoyed (most) of them, and I clearly saw the Christian allusions and parallels. In fact, I strongly encourage any Christian parents to read these novels with your children. They offer great opportunities for discussion and religious exploration. All that aside, I was pretty excited when the movies started being produced and released. (To be honest, I get pretty excited any time kids' books get made into movies. I go and see pretty much every one! I guess that is the teacher in me.) I LOVED The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I thoroughly enjoyed Prince Caspian. When The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released, it was only a matter of time before I saw it.
The Boy and I went to see it on Thursday before New Year's, and we really enjoyed the movie (other than the fact that there were a million REALLY BAD children's movies previewed. A 3-D Justin Bieber movie? Really? Is that necessary?) The filmmakers definitely took some liberties with the story which is understandable given that the story is quite long and complex. Cousin Eustace had an incredibly whiny and very feminine voice, but the actor did a wonderful job portraying the annoying Pevensie cousin. Edmund and Lucy (the actors that play them) have certainly grown up, but they are still believable as young kids. And of course, Liam Neeson as Aslan is always wonderful. His voice is absolutely perfect for the role.
The movie was a bit more swashbuckling than I had hoped, and the special effects, while well done, were a little excessive. The series has definitely changed from the original Wardrobe. Don't get me wrong. The special effects weren't bad. They were just a tad heavy handed. But maybe that's just me being old school.
Two things that I REALLY loved about the movie:
First, Lucy's struggle with her self-identity and self-confidence is expertly done. Georgie Henley (Lucy) is completely authentic and believable as she portrays Lucy's struggle to become her own person instead of always comparing herself to her older sister. It's a wonderful message to share with teens and pre-teens: Self-acceptance. After all, if Lucy had been any one other than herself, she would have never found Aslan, and they would never have had their wonderful adventures together. The visual depiction of this scene isn't heavy-handed or preachy. It is a real girl struggling with her place in the world.
Second, the closing scenes where the children arrive in Aslan's country is wonderful. As in the books, Aslan never completely parallels himself with Christ, but the message is loud and clear. If child viewers aren't sure of what he speaking of at the end of the movie, it opens the doorway to some quality family discussion. The depiction as Aslan's country is shrouded and unclear. There is a huge wave that protects his country from view so the viewer is left to guess what it looks like. Only Reepicheep enters his country because he is ready to leave his heroic and adventurous world and enter a world of peace and comfort (see any parallels, my friends?) The filmmakers do a wonderful job of revealing just enough while keeping just enough secret.
Speaking of Reepicheep, this is my one major complaint in the film. In the first two movies, Reep is voiced by Eddie Izzard. He does the voice wonderfully and really captures the spirit of Reep. In Dawn Treader, Reep is voiced by Simon Pegg. Pegg does a fine job, but the change spoils the continuity and expectation. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind the change, but it is certainly not for the best.
Overall, Dawn Treader is a fantastic film. It's great for the kiddos as well as the adults, and the action moves quickly enough that even little viewers will remain engaged and interested.