The third in the "Narnia" franchise, "Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader" saw the series in a new home at 20th Century Fox after the second feature was not as successful as hoped at the box office. Despite a reduced budget (although still a hefty one), the third film benefits from the interesting choice of director Michael Apted, previously known for the "7 Up" documentary series and films ranging from "Enigma" to "The World Is Not Enough".
The third film sees Edward (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley) dismayed to find themselves staying with irritating and irritable relative Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter). Eustace is annoyed by the constant tales of Narnia and doesn't believe the other two, at least until water from a painting starts flooding the room and the three suddenly find themselves transported to Narnia, where they meet King Caspian (Ben Barnes), who isn't initially sure why they're there if there isn't any sort of apparent problem to solve in the land.
However, the group soon finds the purpose of their visit, as they must find the seven lords of Telmar, who have gone missing. There's a few other threads (such as dealing with slave traders), but the core of the film is the adventures of the trio as they go in search of the lords. The movie offers a fair amount of action, all of which is well-choreographed and rather entertaining. However, the real difference this time around - and what really takes this movie a step up beyond the prior two - are the performances. Not only do the leads from the prior movie that are carried over here offer richer, more compelling performances, but Apted gets a surprisingly good performance from newcomer Poulter.
The third film's story isn't quite as "epic" as the scope of the picture, but again, the significant improvement in performances does make up for some of the lesser elements of this third picture. Visually, the picture is also upgraded in some regards, with Michael Mann's terrific cinematographer Dante Spinotti providing striking visuals. The picture has moderately more subtlety than the prior pictures, and while it's not without flaws, the cooler tone of the movie and better balance between character/performance and spectacle is pretty refreshing. I'm not sure if there'll be another one of these pictures, as they continue to not quite find the audience they're looking for. However, if this is the last one, I'll say that I liked the direction the franchise was heading in here and Apted provides a nice wrap to the trilogy.
This set includes the Blu-Ray, DVD copy and a digital copy.
VIDEO: "Dawn Treader" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.78:1 (originally presented theatrically in 2.35:1). The presentation is terrific, showing off the film's visuals with delightfully precise clarity and detail. Sharpness remained smooth and consistent throughout the majority of the picture, with no softness, even in more dimly-lit sequences. A couple of light instances of edge enhancement were seen, but the picture otherwise looked pleasantly clean and detailed, with no smearing or other faults. Colors looked vibrant and warm, with spot-on saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 presentation is appropriately aggressive, with a number of instances of effective use of the rear speakers for effects and ambience. Effects were clean, bold and well-recorded, while dialogue seemed clear and never overwhelmed by action or other elements. Moderate bass was heard - and felt - at times, and overall this was a solid effort.
EXTRAS: Commentary from producer Mark Johnson and director Michael Apted is offered. Apted has offered solid commentary efforts previously, and this track is no different - the director and producer provide an insightful discussion of the massive effort to produce the picture, with chat about performances, filming on location, effects and a number of other topics. While a few minor gaps of silence appear, the track is otherwise first-rate.
Additionally, there is a set of four deleted scenes, with no commentary. The scenes are rather interesting, but were rightly left out of the picture. Many of the remaining features are smaller documentaries that could have been pulled together as one longer piece (or a "play all" option would have been nice.) These include the story-centric "King Caspianís Guide to the Dawn Treader", "The Secret Islands: Untold Adventures of the Dawn Treader", as well as a number of short story-related clips. More interesting are the behind-the-scenes docs, which include "Portal to Narnia: A Painting Comes to Life" (which takes a look at the creation of this major scene), "Good Vs. Evil: Battle on the Sea" and a look at the development of some of the visual effects. Finally, we also get a series of more promotional pieces, including "The Epic Continues" and featurettes from Fox Movie Channel, as well as the trailer. Finally, we also get BD-Live interactivity, an interactive game and the title is D-Box enabled.
Final Thoughts: If this is the last of the series, I'll say that director Apted provides a very nice wrap to the trilogy. Fox's Blu-Ray edition provides excellent audio/video quality, as well as a nice helping of supplements. Recommended.
The Film B