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Blu-ray Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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When The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was released, I was mightily impressed and it was safe to say that the spirit of C.S. Lewis’ powerful fantasy series was faithfully. The movie was a success and since then it has become a star in the lineup of Disney live-action. The sequel, Prince Caspian, wasn’t quite as successful as a film, but it wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It was just a bit too linear and didn’t bear the same magical sensation. How does the third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, stack up?

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released to theaters in the latter part of 2010 and has been released on home video April 8, 2011. There are three versions of the film available: A single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD, and a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This review is for the three-disc Blu-ray edition. The film is also distributed by 20th Century Fox this time around.

As the third release in the franchise, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has established reputation to live up to. Fans will appreciate that all the actors return, from Ben Barnes as Caspian and Liam Neeson as Aslan, to Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley as Edmund and Lucy Pevensie. We also catch the occasional glimpse of the older Pevensie siblings in parts of the film as well. It’s nice to see the producers sticking with the established cast from film to film, despite the aging of the young actors. Then again that fits in with the theme of Narnia being a journey about growing up.

As the movie picks up, Edmund and Lucy find themselves staying with their petulant cousin, Eustice Scrubb (Will Poulter), while their elder siblings are abroad in America. The film doesn’t take long to set up the Narnian antics as Edmund, Lucy, and Eustice are soon submerged in a bedroom full of water when an oil painting starts spilling out sea water. They’ve been transported to Narnia in an instant and wind up aboard the Dawn Treader, Caspian’s ship, which just happened to be nearby for a watery rescue. In no short time we are reintroduced to the aforementioned prince, the sword-slinging rodent Reepicheep, and all manner of minotaur and the like. Naturally Eustice, who doesn’t believe in Narnia, finds his surroundings a hard pill to swallow.

The nature of their arrival in Narnia involves the disappearance of Narnians, who are getting swallowed up in a green mist. The source of this mist is an island of darkness where nightmares come true and brave men whimper like children, and of course nobody returns from the island to talk about it. Thus the Dawn Treader sets out to put an end to the evil and save the captured souls.

Along the way all manner of fantasy elements are introduced. This installment sees quite a lot of magic unfolding as our heroes find invisible creatures known as Dufflepuds and meet a magician named Coriakin, who gives them a purpose. Lucy falls prey to envy in the journey, as she wants to be beautiful like her sister Susan (Anna Popplewell). Ultimately, while the movie maintains plenty of fantasy elements, the underlying theme is one of maturing. Only by defeating the demons inside you, will you truly find happiness.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a charmer of a film that nearly rekindles the feeling of watching the first film again. The plot is solid, the acting is great, and magic of the first film is in full swing here. Dawn Treader isn’t as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it has more heart and worth than Prince Caspian. Fans of the franchise will definitely want to pick this film up!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is presented on Blu-ray with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (it’s worth noting that the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 was omitted for presentational reasons). The transfer comes with a full 1080p high definition with AVC encoding. From top to bottom Dawn Treader is a fantastic-looking film with some wonderful set-pieces. The aesthetic merits of the movie stand on their own, but where the Blu-ray really shines is the copious amounts of detail that come through in every scene. Fur, skin tones, and even the clapping waves below the Dawn Treader all come through with some incredible clarity.

For audio, Voyage of the Dawn Treader hits Blu-ray with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound here is of quality and it is a wonderful companion piece to the video. The soundstage is dynamic, there’s great range in the channels, and LFE never skips a beat. Everything from effects to dialogue and even the sweeping soundtrack comes through as well as one would expect.

The packaging for this release is rather hit or miss. What “hits” is the artwork and the gorgeous foldout displaying case for the film. What “misses” is the fact that the discs are all stored in cardboard sleeves, which is simply a no-no in terms of disc safety and convenience. Aside from that fact this is a solidly constructed packaging job by Fox.

Bonus features on this release are plentiful, though the design of the menu leaves something to be desired. The features are spread out on an interactive map and you have to click on each section to drill down to the details. It’s time consuming and definitely something that would keep the younger audience members entertained, but older viewers looking for a simple menu to navigate will be left wanting.

Included throughout the extras map are mini featurettes about the creatures in Narnia and some of the locations in the film. You’ll also find trailers, deleted scenes, and a game for the kids. More extensive features include some special effects examination of scenes such as the journey to Narnia through the painting, an audio commentary with director Michael Apted and producer Mark Johnson, and discussions with cast members such as Neeson, Henley, and Poulter. There’s also a “tour” of the Dawn Treader and look at the battle with a beast at some point in the film. All in all the features are nice additions to the film and really sell this release; the best of which being the audio commentary.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a success. The film is a blast from top to bottom and it’s a swashbuckling adventure that doesn’t require much investment from audience members. It’s the kind of film where a family of all ages can sit down and get something out of it, and those are a rarity these days. If you enjoyed the other films in the series you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

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