Much can be said in praise of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Among those praises is the acting. We saw most of these characters in the prior Narnia films, but never so grown up in their acting skills. In a way I think the franchise would have been better with all of them at the age they were in 2010, when this movie was filmed.
I don’t know if the messages of Narnia can be properly conveyed by kids who haven’t lived much. Maybe I have to go back and see the old one again? Whatever I may find in reviewing prior films, the actors in Voyage of the Dawn Treader are grown up to perfectly play the kids of Narnia.
The director Michael Apted is one to be respected. His back catalog includes Nell with Jodie Foster, a James Bond film (The World is Not Enough), and a slew of other films through the years that most any fan of film culture has heard of. All his efforts come together and make this movie a professional, emotive film for our times.
There are three screenplay authors: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni. The first two worked together on the previous Narnia films while Petroni was brought in just for this one. This may be what adds a new dimension to this film for me. Of course, with three writers adapting a novel into a screenplay, it’s impossible for a humble viewer to say who brought what.
Stellar acting is delivered by Georgie Henley, who plays the once-small Lucy Pevensie. I can’t say enough good things about her. She is growing into an accomplished actress and yet she maintains an unassuming air rarely seen in big-time actors. There is a scene before she goes into Narnia when she is in her school uniform talking with her siblings in which I could tell by her experienced voice and movement that she had grown into a more soulful, mature actor.
Another actor grown into his own skin is Skandar Keynes, who plays Edmund Pevensie. His interactions with the white witch in this film are much more believable than the previous ones. This is crucial to the impact of this film inasmuch as “dealings with the devil” are important to all the works of C.S. Lewis.
Ben Barnes, who plays Caspian, also acts very maturely and adds a lot to the film. When I look at photos of him off camera I am struck by how much older and mature he looks in the movie than how he appears in real life. I think all the characters really grew up to act in this film and it provides a positive impact.
Last but not least, Will Poulter plays Eustace Clarence Scrubb. This character by far gives the film more depth than previous Narnia ones. While we may not find him a loveable figure, we see ourselves in Eustace. Whoever has been self-conscious or fearful can find relatable material in his character. He does an excellent job conveying an “unlikeable” character. The payoff? In the end we learn it’s OK to be imperfect. Aren’t we all? Furthermore, the imperfect can inherit the promised land.
It is clear to me that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be remembered more than the prior films in this franchise. This is due in large part to the actors having grown into their own skin and their craft.