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on December 11, 2010
If there's anything that Walden Media's CHRONICLES OF NARNIA movie franchise (based on C.S. Lewis' timeless novels) is known for lately, it could very well be that it ever continued at all. The first film, THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE, was a box office smash, but successor PRINCE CASPIAN didn't achieve the same success. But when Disney, who distributed and funded both films, decided not to participate in anymore NARNIA adventures, it seemed as though Lewis' tales were destined to remain forever frosted by the White Witch. But thankfully, Walden Media refused to let NARNIA die so easily, and so they've teamed up with 20th Century Fox to complete the third movie in the series, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. It could also very well be the last entry; critics have been lukewarm to negative on this film, and faced with so much competition this year from family films such as TRON LEGACY, HARRY POTTER, and even upcoming duds like YOGI BEAR and GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, this film could very well have a hard time finding its audience. Whether the franchise continues or not is ultimately irrelevant, however, because what ultimately counts is that THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is a wonderful way to spend another two hours in the world that Lewis conjured up so many years ago.

I knew it would happen. From the moment the opening titles came across the screen, I could feel the nostalgic magic so prevaliant in the first NARNIA movie seeping in, and it stayed that way for me the whole time. The major difference, of course, is the set-up of the story. Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skander Keyes), both approaching adulthood, are staying with their snarky, obnoxious cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter) when they notice a beautiful painting of a fantastical ship sailing on the ocean waters. And of course, the picture comes to life, resulting with the squabbling children washed on the deck of the ship in question, the Dawn Treader, where their old friend, Caspian (Ben Barnes), now a bonafide king, welcomes them. It turns out that Caspian is searching for the seven lords that were banished from Narnia during the reign of his evil uncle. Acompanied by the swashbuckling mouse warrior, Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg), the youngsters travel to various islands across the oceans in search of them. And will Aslan (voiced, once more, by Liam Neeson) be there to help them? You betcha.

In addition to being a seagoing adventure (inevitable since most of the action takes place on the titular vessel), this tale also deals with spiritual matters. Rather than matching wits against an evil menace as with the last two films (although the White Witch does make some brief cameo appearances), the major conflict deals with Lucy, Edmund, Caspian, and especially Eustace, all dealing with their own inner demons. Each island adventure places the quartet through a series of psychological trials that they must overcome. The lands they visit are a strange, yet fascinating lot. There's the Lost Islands, operated by greedy slavemasters who make fortunes out of auctioning kidnapped people to baddies. Another is seemingly deserted, trippy-looking place that looks as though it could come from ALICE IN WONDERLAND inhabited by invisible creatures as well as a magician (whose book can conjure up all kinds of spells, including one that grants pure beauty). Still others include a cave with a pond that turns everything into gold, a dragon's treasure horde, an abandoned temple that turns out to be under a spell, and, ultimately, a thick fog of darkness in which one's worst fears comes alive. It is within these places that each character undergoes some growth. One of my particular favorite scenes involves Lucy wishing she could be as beautiful as her older sister Susan (Anna Popplewell, in a brief cameo), until Aslan admonishes her for stealing the spell from the magician's book. This is very powerfully depicted through dramatic lighting and emotionally charged acting. At one point, Edmund and Caspian both become jealous of each other when they are tempted by greed, but it's ultimately Eustace who shows the most growth in the picture.

In the beginning of the film, Eustace is just about what you would expect from Lewis' text--he's snobbish, selfish, and condescending, delighting in bullying others while declaring himself superior. He hates his cousins and quickly makes an enemy out of Reepicheep, who, at one point, chastises him for grabbing his most precious attribute: "No one touches the tail!" And just when you've had enough of him, he is transformed into a fire-breathing dragon midway through the film. This is where Eustace's character development really begins, as Reepicheep takes him under his, well, paws, and inspires him to do the right thing. This abovementioned dynamic is the heart of the entire picture, and most of the credit goes to Will Poulter and Simon Pegg for their chemistry. Poulter does a bang-up job of making Eustace bratty and unlikeable, and his maturation is a joy to behold. This guy seriously needs an award for his performance. Pegg, although vocally different from predecessor Eddie Izzard, is a delight as the mouse warrior; his voice is a cross between John Cleese and Cary Elwes, which captures his attitude to a T and beyond. He has the best lines in the picture and obviously has fun with his role--although the real success to the character is the very convincing computer-animated effects that bring the mouse to life.

That's one of the many memorable aspects of VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, which isn't to say that it is without its faults. The film is directed by Michael Apted (the previous ones by Andrew Adamson), and he moves the tale along at a rapid pace, making it the breeziest (and shortest) of the NARNIA films. However, I do have some qualms about both his direction and the adaptation; one of them is the scene where Eustace shows himself as a dragon for the first time. Rather than having him see his reflection in the water, Apted decides instead to show Eustace's charred clothes, and then have his dragon form fly out of nowhere. This disappointed me somewhat, as I felt that Lewis' original description of this moment was more powerful. Furthermore, the encounter with Lilandi (Laura Brent), Caspian's future queen, is dealt with rather quickly. An extra five minutes to show Caspian's affection for the girl wouldn't have hurt. Finally, although the film is faithful to the novel for the most part, there is at least one addition that felt very pointless--a girl named Gael (Arabella Morton) who stows away with her father in search of her missing parents. The new character doesn't have a particularly compelling personality and feels so irrelevant that one wonders why the screenwriters included her at all.

But those are, truthfully, the only quibbles I have with THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Other controversial changes are nowhere nearly as bothersome. At first I wasn't so sure about the newly invented subplots concerning the search for the missing swords of the seven lords or a menacing green mist that appears every time a character is tempted, but in the end, I ultimately approved them wholeheartedly. This especially works in favor of the climactic fight against one of the ugliest sea serpents ever committed to film (particularly when it literally tears apart into the likeness of a centipede), which is occasionally interspersed with ghostly images of Tilda Swinton's White Witch tempting Edmund to join her. Although longer than in the book, this sequence is nonetheless very thrilling and arguably a more epic scene than in the original. (It should be known, though, that this scene may be too scary for the young.)

Every other aspect of the picture is exactly what one would ask for from a NARNIA adventure. The cinematography and visual effects are both breathtaking and gorgeous to look at (there were a couple of places where some CG was obvious, but not enough to detract--the film was made on a smaller budget than predecessor CASPIAN), and David Arnold's score is amazingly epic, occasionally using some of original composer Harry Gregson-Williams' original tunes at various points in the movie. Finally, the performances are top-notch. Henley's Lucy has always been the most appealing attribute about the whole story, and she is no different here. Every minute she is on screen is a pure delight, and her expressions and emotions are perfectly conveyed. Keyes, who had a much smaller part in the previous movie, gets to do a lot more in this third chapter; granted there are some moments where one feels that his character briefly reverts to his old self, but Keyes handles that very effectively. Barnes mysteriously loses the Spanish accent he was criticized for in the last film, yet it is hardly noticeable, as his performance is much more confident this time around. The chemistry between all three is fantastic and, after Eustace and Reepicheep, provide the film with a warm, emotional ebb that works effectively in the final parting scenes at the end of the film.

Overall, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, although not quite as magical as the first movie, is still a very entertaining, joyous escapist fantasy which provides a lot of fun for every second of its 115 minute running time. There are some differences from the book that purists may quibble with, and a couple of scenes that could stand to be either better or at least more fleshed out, but nonetheless it is a pleasure to join the Pevensies on one final adventure in the world of talking animals, monsters, prophecies and enchantment. Whether the series continues or not, this is a fitting end and a delight from start to finish. Now if only the film could be about 30 minutes longer....
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on November 17, 2011
POST-PRODUCTION 3D (converted from 2D to 3D)

My ratings are based mainly on the QUALITY OF THE 3D, not the video content.

There are about 51 out of screen effects that extend about 10% of the way, from the screen to the viewer and another 14 ranging from 15% to 25%. Most of the 25% effects are very quick though.

The quality of the in-screen 3D is excellent for a post-production (FAKE 3D) film. This movie was never intended to be in 3D evident by the camera angles and scene framing but the conversion only had one easily noticeable flaw and the cardboard cut-out syndrome seemed somewhat less evident than in other converted films. I'm not a fan of 2D to 3D conversions but you could do much worse.

*** Everything considered I'm stretching ***
*** this one to a 4 star/very good ***

MY 3D RATING = VERY GOOD (poor, fair, good, very good, excellent)

Note: As far as the percentages go, everyone's eyes are different. What I see at 25% you may see at 15% or 35%. To fully realize how far something is out of the screen for you, pause on an effect and direct a partner with an extended finger to the tip of what you are seeing. You may be surprised.

Click on `See all my reviews' for the lowdown on other 3Ds
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on January 3, 2011
For those seeking a good fantasy/adventure film, this is definitely worth it - the acting, casting, special effects, visuals, etc. are all great; the basic plot of a voyage to uncharted isles in a magical land is just ripe for entertaining movie-making - I'd probably give it at least 4 stars if I wasn't so attatched to CS Lewis's book. But, to me, the book this is based upon is such a great adventure story, and a classic favorite of my (and many other people's) youth, it seems a sin to make a movie adaptation and not try to stick with Lewis's original. They got the main plot sequences in, but they rushed through them in order to add a completely unneccesary plot of their own: that Caspian and friends have to collect 7 swords and arrange them on a table to stop some magic mists that are threatening Narnia. Now, for a series with a Christian subtext, it seems particularly stupid to have this meaningless mumbo-jumbo added when there are plenty of meaningful themes there that this will only detract from.
So overall, an entertaining fantasy film, but a disappointment to those who like Narnia as C.S. Lewis wrote it.
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2011
Right off the top, if you're looking for a literal book-to-movie adaptation, you're going to be very disappointed. Aslan may as well be a tiger. There are countless modifications that did not completely align with the book and numerous subtleties noticeable to anyone familiar with the story.

For the most part, however, TVOTDT stayed true to form, following Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) - along with their easy to hate cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) - through the fabric of a family painting and into the vast tapestry of the Narnian world created by C.S. Lewis and onto the Dawn Treader (the ship in the painting). Aboard the ship the join forces with recently crowned - a year in Earthly time, and three in Narnia - King Caspian (Ben Barnes) who, along with his crew of sentient beasts and willing sailors, seeks out seven Telmarine lords and swords. Almost immediately after they board the Dawn Treader, and unequivocally after they disembark for their first island excursion, the movie begins to take liberties with the original tale. Speaking of tales...Eustace did NOT spar with Reepicheep; he swung the mouse around by the tail. This sort of misguided subtraction by addition is why many fans of the original storyline could be displeased by this movie. Nonetheless, it's still a fantasy-adventure tale in which the characters grow and learn from their tribulations.

Acting-wise, everything was professionally done. Actors and voice actors alike were entertaining (Simon Pegg was particularly good as the voice of heroic Reepicheep), but Will Poulter absolutely stole the show as the obnoxious cousin. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to punch an animated character before. Maybe Scrappy Doo. Anyway, Poulter is either as pompous and irritating as Eustace in real life, or idiot savant, Rainman brilliant.

CGI is naturally prominent in a movie about talking animals, dragons, and magic. None blew me away like in Avatar or Tron, but considering the target audience the realism presented was, in my opinion, nearly perfect. Scary, but not quite nightmare-worthy. The characters that were supposed to be terrifying (i.e. sea serpent) were shrouded in shadows and those who had redeeming qualities were shown in triumph and sunlight, and ways that capture the audience's attention.

Considering its engaging story and alignment with Christian allegories, this is a very good movie, an easy recommendation for families, and a worthy addition to the Chronicles of Narnia canon, despite not completely faithful to the book.

For thoroughness, a few of the differences...

The addition of the green mist and the sword collection was neither necessary nor a substantive improvement. The extra subplot about a father, and his stowaway child, who joins to save a wife captured by the mist was completely pointless and distractive.

-Edmund had no big problem with his king-kid-king timeline
-No mention of the Dufflepuds giant foot looking like a mushroom.
-The sea serpent didn't die; it got tricked
-Eustace attempts steals water, not an orange
-Where is the old dragon that croaks near the water?
-The end mentions nothing about light and water
-The end mentions nothing about a marriage
-There was no prisoner/slave saving; it was a purchase
-Multiple island substories are intertwined and/or out of order
-Lord Bern got married and settled down on Felimath; he didn't get imprisoned
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on April 19, 2011
I recently watched the movie version of Lewis's book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I left entertained but not satisfied; so I decided to read the book again, which is my favorite in the series. After finishing, I see three reasons that the movies fall short of the books.

First, there is a literary error. The moviemakers appear to understand the books as children's adventure stories with a spiritual twist. This causes them to make the films into family-friendly action-adventure flicks. One wonders how they will be able to handle the increasingly mature themes in the later books.
This leads them to put their cinematographic efforts into battles and miss the opportunity to rise up to the creative challenge of putting into pictures Lewis's vivid portrayals of spiritual truths and experiences.
The result is that the scenes with Aslan or those that broach the spiritual dimension seem anemic.
These errors affect negatively the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Three scenes or themes fail to live up to the book. Consequently, a potentially classic children's movie of spiritual import becomes just a forgettable, albeit enjoyable, action-adventure movie.

The first failure is Eustace's transformation from a dragon back into a boy. Now, the movie does capture the delightfully nasty Eustace quite well, but its portrayal of Aslan the lion pawing the ground to remove the dragon skin from Eustace is tepid. In the book the transformation is brutally vivid. Eustace the dragon actually removes three layers of skin before Aslan has to take over. When Aslan does, his claws tear so deeply that Eustace feels as if the lion has cut into his heart. The book paints a striking picture of our inability to remove sin and the need for Christ to remove it. Was it thought that the book is too graphic for a "family" movie?

The second failure is the dark island where everyone's dreams come true. The movie pulls out all stops to create an exciting fight against a sea serpent, but this is child's play in comparison to the horrific imaginative possibilities of Lewis's writing. In the book, while the crew in panic desperately tries to row out of the darkness after being warned that it is a place of nightmares, those nightmares begin to take form. They hear unnamed creatures crawling up the sides of the ship, see something on the mast and hear the sound of scissors opening and closing and are unable to find their way out of the darkness. In answer to Lucy's prayer Aslan comes as an albatross and leads them to the light. One experiences powerfully the relief of being delivered from a nightmare. Surely with our technology this is a scene that the movie could have captured for us. Were they too afraid of frightening children to use all the techniques of horror films to show us a nightmare?

However, the movie's greatest failure is not being able to portray the main element of the story--sailing to the world's end and Aslan's land. It starts badly. One can barely hear Reepicheep's recital of the dryad's words over his cradle about finding all he'd seek where sky and water meet. And nowhere in the film does one catch Reepicheep's passionate longing to sail east in the Dawn Treader, and, when she fails, to paddle east in his coracle, when it sinks to swim east with his four paws, and, when he can swim no longer and hasn't reached Aslan's land or plunged over a cataract at the world's end, to sink with his nose to the sunrise.

Lewis is a visual author and the last chapters of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are perhaps his best. It is a shame that the makers of the movie did not use all the marvelous cinematic techniques to allow us to see Lewis's magical mystical descriptions of the end of the voyage. What a joy it would have been to experience vicariously via film the crew's journey into the sun with shining faces, drinking liquid light while sailing through the whiteness of the Silver Sea of lilies shot with gold.

This is Lewis's fictional portrayal of "joy," that sweet longing for something that is always just out of our grasp in this world. This was the central experience used to bring him to God. For this reason The Voyage of the Dawn Treader takes the form of a quest, like the search for the Holy Grail. This is the great adventure.

While rereading those wonderful pages, my heart was filled to overflowing, and, when Reepicheep disappeared over the great wave, I burst into tears and cried out as I thought of my sins, for I am a Calvinist, "I have wasted my inheritance for a mess of pottage." At the end of the book I was made ready to return to the real world after supping by the seashore with the Lamb, who is the Lion. It was not just an evening's entertainment. Please, read the book if you haven't.
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on February 4, 2011
As someone who was extremely disappointed by the Walden Media Disney version of "Prince Caspian", I almost skipped seeing "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." C.S. Lewis is not only one of my favorite writers, but has also been a spiritual guide, helping me to understand the nature of God and the spiritual reality that undergirds our present existence. I found the film Prince Caspian to be a pretty sad mess--the original story was significantly revised, the characters were unlikeable, the moral tone was blunted and the spiritual depth was lost.

But it is hard to keep me from any thing related to Narnia, so I did catch the Dawn Treader film before it ended its theater run. I was pleasantly surprised.

First, even though the film's plot is just as major a departure from the book as Caspian was, Dawn Treader manages to capture the spirit of Lewis's Narnia books. The film story is a bit forced, with the villainous green mist representing the presence of evil and a new quest involving seven swords. But even though this is somewhat silly, it does manage to convey the reality of evil and temptation, a major theme in Lewis' works. The device of the reappearance of the White Witch to tempt Edmund is effective and convincing, as she not only poses a terrifying image of darkness, but she reminds us of Edmund's greatest moral failure, his betrayal of his own siblings. Again, one might quibble with the film's plot device, but the director Michael Apted and his writers have remained true to Lewis in depicting a clearly spiritual struggle between good and evil.

The film also succeeded for me in its characters. Unlike in Caspian, the characters in Dawn Treader were presented in keeping with Lewis' own characterization. These were once again likable, while fallible, portraits. Caspian, Edmund, Lucy, the reformed Eustace and Reepicheep (a real highlight by the way) were heroic figures, striving toward virtue and the fulfillment of Aslan's purposes while they battled with inner and outer demons. Caspian and Edmund, for example, experience tension and conflict with each other in several scenes yet genuinely like one other and are finally completely reconciled. In the miserable Caspian film, by contrast, Caspian and Peter can scarcely abide each other's presence.

Newcomer Will Poulter does an excellent job portraying the prig Eustace. The course of his reformation is true to the book and a hopeful view of spiritual conversion and change. This was another key strength in the film.

Finally, the end of the film was a beautiful statement of Lewis' message in the original Dawn Treader. As the main characters took leave of one another and Aslan at the edge of Aslan's country, Lewis's central themes of the hope of eternity and the longing for a heavenly home were powerfully displayed. As I watched Lucy ask Aslan tearfully if she would ever see him again, with Aslan responding that she would know him by another name in her own world, I was truly moved.

"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is not a perfect film or a cinematic masterpiece in every sense of that term. But it, beyond my reasonable expectations, succeeds in several important ways. It captures the spiritual vision of C.S. Lewis in conveying his reasoned belief in the existence of an almighty and loving God who is guiding his creation towards a good end. Like Lewis' own books, the film gives the inquiring viewer glimpses of the beauty of heroic virtue, the rewards of overcoming temptation, the worth of adventure and dreams, and the supreme value of the greatest adventure of all--the pursuit of God. May we all, like the valiant Reepicheep, set aside things of lesser worth and temporal value, and seek after Aslan's country, our true home.
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on February 21, 2011
Of all the Narnia books "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is not an exciting Hollywood adventure. I have read the books many times since I was a child and I have listened to them on audio cd's. I love them and I love the movies.
I doubt people, these days, are going to sit through a movie based exactly on this book. The book is a series of small self contained adventures with no kind of antagonist present. Its a good read but not much of a Hollywood movie. So they changed it, just like the second movie. Big deal.
There were plenty of advance reviews warning people about this. I have never gone to a movie, based on a book I have read, and expected it to be the same. If it is, great. If not, no big deal, because I go without expectations. It's much more fun if you leave your expectations at home.
Besides, it's just a movie. If you can't deal with the fact that you are going to see someone's interpretation, other than your own, than don't go to movies based on books you have read. Or at least check the reviews before you go.
I sure hope some studio gives the "Silver Chair" and "The Last Battle" a go. I'm sure they would be fun to watch.
That's why I go to the movies.
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VINE VOICEon May 16, 2011
As a fantasy film for the family to watch "Voyager of the Dawn Treader" is an eye popping piece of fun that will give thrills to little ones without talking down to adults. As a faithful rendering of the 3rd of C.S. Lewis' books about the magical land of Narnia, the useless pratt of a director should be himself dropped into a dragon's lair at the first opportunity. The CD itself was disappopinting because you MUST sit through their commercials before you get to the feature. Why? I paid for the film, this is annoying.

In the film itself the younger Pevensy children, Lucy and Edmund and their sour cousin Eustace are dropped into the land of Narnia, or rather the sea near Narnia, a magical land where animals talk and trees walk, and discover three years have passed since their adventures in Prince Caspian. Caspian has established his power and has now set out to find seven nobles who had been loyal to his father and were therefore exiled by his usurping uncle. Along the way they learn that an evil is growing in the east and this can only be stopped if each of the magical swords carried by the lords can be placed on a certain table.

Particularly good in the movie are Georgie Henley in her third outing as Lucy wonderfully covering the awkwardness of changing from girl to woman and Simon Pegg as the voice of Reepicheep the mouse. More subdued than Lewis' overly proud cavalier he still steals any scene he's in.

On it's own and if you never read the book by Lewis this works. I'll put aside my prejudice and say, it works. BUT that is only if you never read the books. If you have it is right off the beam. We accept that a movie makes some concessions from a book but not a whole hog addition of plots! In the book it is enough that Caspian is looking for the lost lords and the adventures they have along the way lead to their development as people.

It is a perfectly good plot. One wonders why the producers failed to learn from their mistake with Prince Caspian. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe pretty faithfully followed Lewis' plot and was a big hit. `Caspian didn't and was a flop. Lewis knew how to tell a good story. That is why his books are popular 60+ years later. There was neither need nor reason to go off the mark and the result was yet another flop. The film worked for those who hadn't read the books but for those who did we were left wondering `why'd they do this?" the question has still not been answered.
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on April 16, 2011
I give 4 stars for the movie but this review isn't about the movie. This is about the packaging. At first I thought it was pretty cool. Blu-Ray and DVD combo with collector post cards. The problem was that the pockets that held the discs didn't hold them. The glue that was supposed to hold the pocket together actually held the discs in place. I had to clean off the blu ray and dvd disc before viewing them. While cleaning the DVD I realized that the glue wasn't coming off. After further inspection I realized it wasn't glue but scratches. I can only assume the scratches were from the packaging and the lack of a good sleeve to hold the disc. I have never bought a movie with the disc already being scratched. And it wasn't just a little. It was all over. The Blu Ray had glue all over it but it came off with good cleaner and there were no scratches.
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on May 17, 2012
Yes, this movie strays far from the book. Yes, the geography has been messed up. Yes, there is a villain that wasn't even in the book. With that being said, this movie, in my opinion, is the best on so far.
I got the chance to see this in theaters about a week after it came out with some of my best friends, and my family. From the moment the opening titles came across the screen, the magic was back from Narnia and I was captivated.
The acting, choreography, and costumes are better than the last film, in my opinion. The action was better handled, there was humor, sorrow, and poignant moments.
Personally, one of the reasons I loved this one so much is because while watching it, it felt like Narnia. It felt like I was living the magic in the book. It takes a lot for a movie to do that to me, and it had the adventure, whimsy, and beauty that made me love the series in the first place.
But really, what made the whole thing for me was the inclusion of my favorite line, "In your world, I have another name." Kudos to the writers and directors for leaving that in. In the ending of the movie I was a complete waterworks, and I was trying to stop crying in time to leave, but then the original illustrations came out on the screen, and I lost it again.
I bought this as soon as it came out on DVD, it arrived quickly, and every time I watch it, I fall in love with Narnia all over again. Anyone who is a true Narnia fan will be able to look past the changes and love this film simply for how they captured the escape from the "reality" of this world, and a glimpse at what is in store for those who follow Jesus.
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