Making the Grades
Much has changed for the Pevensie siblings since they last visited Narnia. (Unlike the students at Hogwarts School of Magic in Harry Potter, it only takes these English youths three movies to grow up instead of eight.) Peter (William Moseley) and Susan (Anna Popplewell) have been shipped to America to live with their father. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) are still in war torn Europe, boarding with their aunt, uncle and a caustic-mouthed cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter). Tormented by their spiteful younger relative, the teens are also plagued with adolescent angst.
After being crowned High King of Narnia, Edmund struggles with the demotion to a common English schoolboy who has to carry groceries home from the market. Constantly taunted by his cousin, he wants to be recognized as the powerful royal he is. Meanwhile Lucy battles with her self-image. Jealous of her older sister’s beauty, she yearns for physical attractiveness rather than focusing on her own natural talents. Both long for better days.
Then one afternoon Lucy notices a ship has appeared in a painting hanging in an upstairs bedroom. While Edmund and Eustace exchange insults, she discovers water leaking out of the frame. Within minutes the room fills with seawater and the trio finds themselves swimming up through the warm, sun-kissed ocean to Narnia where they are hauled aboard the ship the Dawn Treader.
On board is King Caspian (Ben Barnes)—formerly known as Prince Caspian in the second installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. Initially the group is unsure why Lucy and Edmund have been summoned to the magical kingdom. Then they meet the magician Corakin (Bille Brown). He tells them of a growing evil and reveals the secret of the seven swords that will destroy it. Unfortunately to protect the weapons from falling into the wrong hands, Caspian’s father gave the blades to seven of his lords. To ensure peace in the territory, Caspian, Lucy and Edmund must find the hidden rapiers and lay them on the table of Aslan (voice by Liam Neeson).
Thrust into a quest that often involves weapons, hand-to-hand combat and perilous situations, the friends set sail with the ship’s captain (Gary Sweet) and crew. Along the way they encounter the usual type of mythical suspects—one legged dwarves, gigantic sea monsters, translucent mermaids and a mysterious green mist that creeps over the water, enveloping and vaporizing any unlucky sea goers it happens upon. But while it took Odysseus a decade to sail home in the epic poem The Odyssey, these young Narnians take only minutes to swoop in, scoop up a missing sword and hit the waves for their next exploit. Unfortunately, the speed with which they achieve their goals allows for very little character development, emotional performances or climatic tension. Even when tempted by their deepest, darkest desires, it doesn’t seem to require much effort to resist the lure of their siren songs.
Still this adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ story embraces many positive elements from the previous Narnia films. Elaborate, mythical settings serve as the backdrop for the adventure where talking animals (voices by Shane Rangi, Simon Pegg) and a fire breathing dragon play a part in the success of the dangerous journey. Overcoming temptations and quelling unworthy impulses, each of the characters learns to better understand their capabilities and individual missions in life.
And just as their seafaring trip to the edge of the known world helps chart new sailing courses, Lucy and Edmund’s willingness to push the limits of their own fears lets them discover their true regal qualities.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
How does learning to control appetites and emotions contribute to growing up? Like the sea serpent in this movie, how can our fears sometimes grow out of control?
How does Lucy and Edmund’s obsession with things they think they don’t have (i.e. power and physical beauty), hamper their own success? How does it keep them from developing their own talents?
Walden Media, the co-producer of the Narnia movies, has brought other family friendly titles to the big screen. Michael Flaherty, the company’s founder, explains the goals of the studio in a speech presented to students and aspiring filmmakers at a US university.
Even after finding himself in a strange land, Eustace continues to be obnoxious. How realistic is this portrayal? What other reactions might someone have when suddenly exposed to a new and frightening experience?