The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Run Time 115 minutes.
OK for children

Director Michael Apted on the set of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” with Georgie Hensley.

Dawn Treader is the name of the ship that King Caspian (Ben Barnes) is sailing on a voyage holding the fate of Narnia in its hands.

Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henly) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) return to the fantasy land of Narnia, accompanied by their obnoxious cousin Eustace (Clarence Scrubb). They are swept up in a painting of a ship on the high seas and find themselves in the ocean, rescued by Caspian on The Dawn Treader where they get caught up in the quest to save Narnia. What follows is an adventure-laden tale loaded with admirable special effects.

Disney made the first two films in this series. The first, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), was wildly successful, grossing over $745 million. The second, Prince Caspian (2008), earned less than half that and apparently barely broke even. So Disney walked and Fox picked it up. The idea was to return to the concept of the first film and to also cut costs. Prince Caspian was darker and involved advancing armies. It cost around $240 million. Dawn Treader, on the other hand, cost around $155 million, even though it was shot in 3D.

So, did it work? It might. I liked Prince Caspian a lot more than I did Dawn Treader, but I’m not part of the target audience. Families are. One thing that made Prince Caspian more enjoyable for me was that it was shot with a lot of greenery in lush forests while Dawn Treader isn’t nearly as colorful.

While they are all fantasies (let’s face it, three teenagers are transported to a faraway world that doesn’t exist on earth) this one is intended to be lighter and to emphasize the fantasy and adventure.

In fact, after Prince Caspian was in the can, director Andrew Adamson said that Dawn Treader was to be the story of Reepicheep, a 22-inch tall rat introduced in Caspian voiced by Eddie Izzard in Caspian and Simon Pegg in Dawn Treader. Alas, when Fox took over, Adamson was replaced as director by Michael Apted, and Reepicheep’s role diminished substantially. Now he is mainly a foil for cousin Eustace, a distinctly minor role.

The 3D, while very well done, was pretty much wasted on me. After a few minutes you forget it’s in 3D. At least this was shot in real 3D instead of being shot in 2D and converted. Those films are basically unwatchable. 3D might be around for awhile, but my opinion is that it’s a waste of money. I’d rather see a film in 2D and forget the glasses because the extra dimension just doesn’t add enough.

I enjoyed this, but thought that it dragged somewhat, even though it’s 20 minutes shorter than Prince Caspian.

Hemingway’s Garden of Eden

Run Time 98 minutes.
Not for children.

Mena Suvari in “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden.”

This slow film is from an Ernest Hemingway book published posthumously in 1986, 25 years after Hemingway’s suicide. Publisher Scribner’s version contained only 70,000 words, effectively eviscerating what Hemingway wrote, which contained 200,000 words. Hemingway, who started working on the book in 1946 and continued up to his death, was exploring androgynous characters and the reversal of sex roles.

The story is about a young expatriate American writer in Paris, David (Jack Huston), who marries Catherine (Mena Suvari), a mysterious heiress, after a whirlwind courtship and gets a lot more than he anticipated. They embark on a honeymoon throughout the south of France circa 1926-27 in a classic Bugatti Type 35 Roadster she bought for him.

She gets him to color his hair the same color as hers and wants to act as the man in their sexual relations. She then picks up an equally opaque young lesbian, Marita (Caterina Murino), and manipulates a ménage à trios with lots of nude lovemaking scenes. Alienating Catherine, David discards the novel he was writing about them and embarks on an autobiographical novel about his father and himself on safari to which the movie cuts from time to time.

While Scribner cut one long subplot from Hemingway’s manuscript, the novel David is writing remains. Hemingway intended the story of the elephant sought in David’s fictional safari as a metaphor for the loss of innocence in David’s youth and the quick degeneration of his once blissful marriage.

It has been speculated that the story is autobiographical, based on Hemingway’s second marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer, as the description of Catherine roughly corresponds to Pauline. If it is intended to be autobiographical, David’s Hemingway is a wuss that’s totally contrary to Ernest’s macho image. One Hemingway expert claims that the changes made by Scribner resulted in a work that did not reflect what Hemingway was trying to say.

Whether it does or not, this still could have been an entertaining film with better actors. Lots of books have been substantially altered for cinema, like From Here to Eternity (1953), without suffering. While this is an interesting story, told sort of like a thriller with a complex, inscrutable femme fatale, it needed a more accomplished actress to play that role. The way Suvari delivers many of her lines is excruciating, if not laughable, despite her beauty. To the film’s discredit, she’s not the only actor in the film who comes across as not ready for prime time. Frankly these performances make the film border on camp. Had the entire cast given performances of the quality of Murino and Matthew Modine, as David’s father on safari, this could have been a much better film.

On the positive side, director John Irvin evocatively captures the look, feel, wardrobe, and ambience of France in the ‘20s. There’s an entertaining film lurking here somewhere.

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