Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (February 4, 2020)

Release date: February 4, 2020

Author: Morgan L. Busse

Plot summary: Lady Selene Ravenwood has come into her full power as a dreamwalker just as the war with the Dominia Empire begins. Working with the other Great Houses, Selene and Damien use their gifts to secure the borders and save those devastated by the war. But conflict, betrayal, and hatred begin to spread between the Great Houses, destroying their unity as the empire burns a path across their lands. At the same time, Damien Maris starts to lose his ability to raise the waters, leaving the lands vulnerable to the empire’s attacks. The only one who can unite the houses and restore her husband’s power is Selene Ravenwood. But it will require that she open her heart to those who have hurt her and let go of her past, despite the one who hunts her and will do anything to stop her power. Will Selene survive? Or is she destined to fall like the dream-walkers before her?

Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Image result for Flight of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga Book #2)

Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Morgan L. Busse is back with the much awaited sequel to Mark of the Raven, and we are happy to say that this novel is even better. This second installment in Busse’s The Ravenwood Saga is better than the first because Busse takes the time to develop her characters further without sacrificing the strength of her storyline. Selene, whom we last saw on the run with Lord Damien, is still trying to escape the darkness of her family’s past. Her hasty marriage to Damien is very discomforting in many ways, and recurring nightmares of past dreamscapes make sleep nearly impossible. Damien believes that marrying Selene was a good decision, but struggles to reach her emotionally because of the many walls she has put up over the years. After arriving at her new home with Damien, Selene feels more out of place than ever. However, she is touched by Damien’s memories of his family, and intrigued by his relationship with the Light. Will she discover what it is to be a part of a real family? To answer this, read the book!:) Busse’s latest novel holds the attention from cover to cover because of the careful attention given to continuity and plot details. The storyline is well-crafted and contains only a few minor errors. Furthermore, her world-building skills are above average and her characters drive the plot. Additionally, her exceptional portrayal of the spiritual world adds much to the novel. The only error to note here is that sometimes it is hard to keep track of Busse’s many minor characters. However, as they will likely be further developed in the next novel, this error is minor. Therefore, Busse earns an above average score in this section.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Busse’s character development skills have grown, a fact that is evidenced through her use of this second novel to deepen the characters. She could have filled this sequel with lots of action scenes and little substance, but she didn’t – earning a well done from us at BOR. Selene is the best character for several reasons. These include her realistic spiritual journey and her relatable emotions. She is also very unique for a female protagonist because she has a clearly defined personality. Damien is a great character because his realistic emotional reactions to past and current events break all typical molds for male leads. Additionally, Selene and Damien have one of the most well developed fictional relationships I have seen in some time. Furthermore, Amara and her mother are greatly improved in this novel, and the other minor characters also play important roles. The only error to note here is that there are a few too many scenes that describe the character’s physical appearance as seen by their spouse. However, as Selene and Damien are married, this is not bad – mainly unnecessary. Because there is only one error, Busse earns an almost perfect score in character development – the strongest area of her novel.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Busse earns a full point in creativity for crafting an above average fantasy world, and half an x-factor point in originality for crafting unique characters who defy Christian gender stereotypes for men and women. Because of this, we here at BOR believe that the Ravenwood Saga would make a great Christian TV series. The first novel has enough content to fill the first season, the second novel could be the second season, and so on. The screenwriter would have to make very few changes because they could use key chapters to build episodes. We hope that someday soon Christian filmmakers will recognize the movie/series potential in Christian novels. Great job Ms. Busse! Your latest novel was a breath of fresh air!

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Mark of the Raven (The Ravenwood Saga Book #1) by [Busse, Morgan L.]

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Morgan L. Busse has crafted an exciting and engaging storyline in this new novel that is character-driven and has much potential to be a fantasy TV series. Mark of the Raventells the intersecting stories of Selene and Damien. Selene is the heir to House Ravenwood, a fact that comes with more bad than good. Selene has inherited her mother’s ability to dream walk – to take the form of a raven (hence their family title) and enter the dreams of others at night, discover their fears, and manipulate these fears for their advantage. At first Selene is open to this ability because she feels it is her duty as the heir to uphold her family’s traditions. However, her willingness fades when she learns the ultimate goal of many dream walking missions is to kill the subject. Torn between duty and disgust at the darker side of her gift, Selene feels helpless to change her fate. Damien has experienced multiple tragedies in his young life. The death of his father and younger brother shook him internally, and he has never been the same since. Damien’s family has been gifted with the ability to control water – to create water walls that protect their village from invading naval forces. When Damien is called upon to use his gift for the first time on a mass scale, he is thrilled with the victory caused by his gift…until he sees the people he has unintentionally killed by protecting his village. When a meeting of the Great Houses draws Damien and Selene onto the same ground, Selene is intrigued by Damien’s devotion to the Light, as it is so different from her family’s commitment to the Dark Lady. Will Selene be forced to kill to uphold her family heritage? Will Damien trust that the Light will help him make wise choices when using his gift? To answer these questions, read the book!:) Busse’s obvious strength is her storylines, a fact that is reflected in this novel. I could find little wrong with this plot, and aside from a few editing errors and a hint of choppiness here and there, this is a nearly perfect storyline that puts many fantasy novels to shame.

Character Development (3 points)

In comparison, the characters in this novel are as strong as the plot. Selene is a multi-dimensional character who is well-developed and realistic. Her spiritual journey is relatable and downright poignant. In fact, Busse’s creatively subtle insertion of the Gospel message into this novel is the hallmark of the story. Damien is an equally good character, which is surprising when one considers his abrupt insertion into the plot. My only complaint regarding the characters are that he and Selene needed to be written in first person. The secondary characters are well-thought-out and intriguing, and are left unfinished for future novels in the series. Yet, a little more effort was needed here. Thankfully, the good outweighs the minor bad here.:)

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Lastly, Busse is also strong in the area of creativity and originality. She earns a full point in creativity for crafting a fantasy world and above average characters. Mark of the Raven, and hopefully the future novels in the saga, will make an excellent TV series. The plot is quite good as is; no alteration is needed by a screenwriter. They should instead spend their time on building on the character foundation Busse has laid, and honing the dialogue to attract both young, semi-young, and older audiences. To conclude, good job Ms. Busse. It is nice to see that there are still fantasy authors out there who care about quality Christian content! I look forward to reading and reviewing your next Ravenwood novel.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

The Darkwater Saga by Patrick W. Carr

Image result for the darkwater saga patrick carrImage result for the darkwater saga patrick carrImage result for the darkwater saga patrick carr

Author’s Note: We were provided with free copies of these novels in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

Patrick Carr has done it again in this new, brilliantly crafted series titled the Darkwater Saga. Carr took the excellent character development and exceptional storyline quality from his previous series and applied it to a more everyday story about a man who is called by his Creator to a purpose he would not have chosen. In the first novel, as always, Carr lays the groundwork for what eventually becomes an invigorating story that holds the attention on every page. For the purpose of this review, I will only include content from the first novel, so as to conceal the secrets found in the mysterious forests of these novels. In the Shock of Night, Carr introduces the reader to a man named Willet Dura. Willet leads a mostly content life, he has a secure position as the king’s reeve, a prestigious engagement to a woman he loves…and a daily life with just enough action to keep things interesting. His sarcastic attitude towards the lords and ladies of the castle has landed him in more than a few scrapes, however, he seems to enjoy danger. The king has recently elevated him to the title of Lord so that he might marry Gael, his fiance. In the midst of all this, Willet’s seemingly commonplace life is about to be shaken at its very core. On a day like any other, Willet is on kingdom business when he discovers a murder trail. This trail leads him to the fatally wounded body of a former guard, which in turn leads him to the bedside of a dying churchman who was also part of the murder. Willet sees common traits in the two men’s wounds and begins to wonder. He is not left to wonder long, for attackers are in hot pursuit. Just when the attackers are almost upon them, the dying man grabs Willet’s head and screams a word that will change his life forever. Willet soon finds himself in the service of the Vigil, a group of gifted individuals who seek to vanquish the evil in their world. (spoiler) He will find the Vigil to be a hard and somewhat prideful master, and survival…almost impossible. To find out what happens to Willet, his fiance, and everyone else, read the books!:) Carr stands out as a master in the fantasy genre for many reasons. However, this is mostly due to the fact that his raw talent in The Staff and Sword series has matured with time instead of growing stagnant.

Character Development (4 points)

Carr has improved this new series by switching from third person to first with his characters. This switch to first person is a revolutionary concept in the fantasy genre. Through the use of first person, Willet is crafted into a complex, relatable character who the readers can root for and get to know. The secondary characters are also well-crafted. Bolt (Willet’s bodyguard), for example, is a character whose personality takes several positive, yet unexpected turns throughout the series. This makes him one of the best secondary characters in a fantasy novel that I have ever seen. Furthermore, Willet’s love interest is well-developed and breaks all female character molds in the fantasy genre. Therefore, for these and other reasons, Carr earns a perfect score in character development for this series. His fiction truly is character-driven.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Once again, Carr earns a point in creativity, and a rarely bestowed full x-factor point in originality for being the best in his genre. The first point is awarded for crafting another fantasy world that is dissimilar to the last, and for sewing up all the details well. The x-factor point is awarded for crafting another story worthy of the big screen that could revolutionize the fantasy genre in film. We have thus far been very impressed with what Carr has to offer and await his next story with great anticipation and delight. Finally, thank you Mr. Carr, for sharing your books with us, and for taking the time to write fiction that truly makes a difference.

Wish List Rating: 10 out of 10 points

The Debacle (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Larry and Vaughn have been long time friends, but Vaughn has never felt like he was worth much of anything, especially after he gets laid off from his job.  Larry, on the other hand, is overconfident in himself and has many ideas of what he should be doing, such as rescuing damsels in distress.  However, neither of them could have expected to be transported back in time to a Western town in need of heroes.  If Larry and Vaughn can save the town, they will have completed their quest, but if they do not, they will be trapped in history forever.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, a lot of time and money was put into this production.  This is shown in the good video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  Though the soundtrack is a bit silly and is sometimes too loud, the sets, locations, and props are excellently constructed and utilized for this genre.  However, there are some awkward cuts and transitions that are likely included to make the movie ‘goofy.’  However, on the whole, this is an above average production that does not fit with the rest of the film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

From the beginning to the end, this appropriately-named film is trying way too hard to be funny with cringeworthy comedy moments and eye-rolling escapades.  Not only is the premise completely absurd, but it is full of cheesy Western elements and other asides that make no sense at all.  The Christian message is forced, cheesy, and empty.  This ridiculous story feels like it has been made for the sake of being made, since it has basically no purpose at all.  The characters are dumb due to the half-hearted dialogue, not to mention the fact that the villain concept is very stupid.  Essentially, there’s really nothing good to say about this plot except that it was good when it was over.

Acting Quality (1 points)

Besides the absurd self-casting and acting (Joshua Zirger from Fenced Off should have never been cast again), the cast members over-play and overdo everything.  Line delivery is drawn out, and emotions are laughable.  Though there are some okay moments, most sequences from this cast are annoying as they tend to make fools of themselves.  Unfortunately, there’s not much good to say about this film.

Conclusion

Basically, this movie is a debacle.  Whether or not they intended it to be so appropriately named is beside the point.  Making this sort of comedy that’s in your face and completely obvious is never a winning idea.  Also, the childish time travel notions and cliched Western tropes are very old and worn out.  The only advice that can be offered here is to try something totally different next time.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

The Christmas Dragon (Movie Review)

It’s magic!

Plot Summary

After her parents are kidnapped, Ayden and her new orphan friends will have to retrieve the magical orb that keeps Father Christmas alive and will have to save the Christmas Dragon from being killed.  Will they be able to prevail against the evil creatures and people that are chasing then?  Will everyone be able to find out what the true meaning of Christmas is?

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

It’s very hard to make a fantasy movie on a low budget, so it should probably be avoided.  Nonetheless, while The Christmas Dragon has some good production elements, it also has some glaringly bad ones.  As usual, video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all what they should be.  Yet there are many obviously cheap special effects used throughout, including a lot of poorly animated overlays.  Unfortunately, the fantasy props used are among the worst; it also does not help that the sets and locations are fairly limited.  One consolation is that the editing in this film is fine, which keeps this production from being below average.  In the end, fantasy productions require a lot of funding, so a low budget will always be exposed by this type of film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

First off, it’s very hard to discern how The Christmas Dragon is really a Christmas film, but at least John Lyde and his team are trying to do something different.  However, it still seems like he and his team are better than this silliness.  With no clear Christian message or purpose to guide it, this storyline meanders along as a vague allegory that simply copies concepts (very poorly) from popular fantasy stories.  The characters are too one-dimensional and not dynamic at all.  They seem to be pawns in the plot, and their dialogue is stunted by action sequences.  Allegory and fantasy plots need a driving purpose that keep them from going off the rails, and some creativity is not discouraged either.  Unfortunately, this movie lacks these parameters.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Besides having the most terrible makeup jobs ever, these cast members are forced to don obviously homemade costuming (and sometimes stupid masks) that attempts and fails to make them look like mythical creatures.  Elsewhere, emotions are either too dramatic or too matter-of-fact.  There is too much yelling and forced drama, as well as poor action acting.  While some roles are poorly cast, there are some good moments here that keep this section from being any worse.  In the end, the potential here was not fully reached.

Conclusion

A word to the wise: do not make a fantasy movie with this sort of budget and don’t make one just to rip off other ideas and to smash Christmas into it for no good reason.  John Lyde and his team usually produce quality content, but this movie is an exception because they overextended themselves with a complex production.  Fantasy plots need to be well-planned from the beginning, and if they are, they can be very dynamic.  Perhaps John Lyde and his crew will continue to improve in the future.

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

 

Masterless (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As Kane Madison works as a successful architect and lives his seemingly perfect life with his wife, in the spiritual dimension, a battle rages for his soul.  Little does he know that while Satan and his demons want Kane to continue fighting on his own, another Master, Whom Kane does not know, wants Kane to surrender to His power so that Kane can win the battles at hand.  When tragedy suddenly strikes, where will Kane turn?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

This unique and creative film concept is difficult to pull off production-wise, but it is executed relatively well.  Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all up to industry standard.  The soundtrack is also excellently constructed.  Sets, locations, and props are diverse, realistic, and appropriate.  Outside of some minor editing concerns, the biggest production error to point out here is the odd use of sepia tones in the fantasy scape, but it’s not enough to keep this production from being nearly excellent.  This is a model production that should be replicated.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

A lot of spiritual\psychological plots are hard to pull off, but Masterless is based on a very creative idea that is relatively well-presented.  Though it is sometimes too simplistic, the spiritual warfare component makes this story what it is.  However, it could be improved through better explanation, because as it is, the fantasy scape is slightly isolating and vague.  Granted, this is a difficult feat to accomplish.  The characters in this story are mostly believable, but they could use some further deepening through more meaningful dialogue.  This would in turn make the plot more dynamic.  Moreover, the ending is certainly not predictable and is very thought-provoking.  The entire concept behind this film is very creative and deserves further exploration, perhaps in an improved follow-up.  In short, this is one of the better and more original plot ideas crafted in recent memory, so it’s a shame that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are in no ways below average.  They are actually quite good, even though they are a small cast.  At times they can be underwhelming and exhibit unnatural emotions, but with better coaching, the deeper potential could be brought out.  Even so, this is a respectable effort.

Conclusion

Masterless joins the growing list of Christian films that really deserves and needs a remake.  The idea behind this plot is enough to drive a trilogy concept, if executed properly.  There are so many directions that this story concept could take; it seems like the surface has only been scratched.  With slightly improved production and acting, along with better plot explanation and character deepening, this idea could be Hall of Fame worthy.  Thus, it will be interesting see what this creative team has planned next.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

The Taker’s Crown (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When the legendary King Wiglaf becomes stuck in a time period not his own, he is tasked with finding the Titan thief Tome and procuring the Taker’s Crown before Tome can get to it.  It’s said that whoever holds the Taker’s Crown has immense power, but in order to get to it, Wiglaf must find his old friend the Maverick.  Along the way, he is accosted by the two troubled children of Tome, one of whom he tries to befriend.  Will Wiglaf be able to find the Crown before it’s too late?

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a first-time production, The Taker’s Crown is an ambitious project that appears to have bitten off more than it can chew.  Video quality is fine, and the soundtrack is okay, yet the positives are limited to those two elements.  Camera work is much too shaky and there are a lot of weird camera angles.  Audio quality is inconsistent, with some overdubs and overdriven audio.  Sets and locations are fairly limited for the idea that is trying to be conveyed here, and props are downright laughable.  Finally, editing is quite bad as the film is very hard to understand and extremely difficult to follow.  Unfortunately, though a commendable effort was here, a successful follow-through was not.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

The Taker’s Crown is intended to be the first in a series, and it’s trying to portray a large-scale fantasy idea.  This basic idea is the only thing that keeps this story from being zero, because while it’s a good idea, the intended epic nature of it does not come across in any way.  It was touched on in the production critique, yet setting this fantasy\sci-fi idea in some random woods, a street corner, somebody’s house, a random field, and a playground does not convey what the writers want to convey.  Besides this, the characters are extremely thin and one-dimensional.  Who are these people and how do they fit into this vague fantasy universe?  What is this universe and how does it work?  Is it an alternate world, a parallel universe, or a time travel concept?  These unanswered questions don’t even touch the fact that the dialogue is ridiculous and the plot progression is forced and predictable.  This film was basically written for the prologue and the epilogue and kills time in between them.  Maybe there’s a great idea in store for this series, but it’s certainly not evident in this installment.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Casting a collection of Crystal Creek Media retreads is not exactly the way to create a winning acting formula.  Tim Kaiser, Jared Withrow, and Tiffany Burns need some serious pointers when it comes to emotions and line delivery.  Elsewhere, this cast is very lacking in direction, though it’s not like they had any lines to work with.  Overall, this movie is a mess and needs a total rework.

Conclusion

We will air on the side of believing that Whiteshore Films has better things in store for this series, even though this is not entirely evident right now.  Wherever this series is going, hopefully it can only get better.  As it is, this film is predominantly a wreck and doesn’t have much going for it.  If this idea is going to succeed in the future, the premise needs to be explained way better, the production needs to be improved, and the cast needs to be revamped.  Perhaps then it will be a worthwhile series.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Return [2015] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Leah of Nod is a thief and has never known anything else.  she spends her days stealing from unsuspecting villagers.  She is being controlled by the evil Dybbuk and doesn’t think she can get out.  But one day, a huntsman named Yadid comes to town and Leah meets him.  He is unlike any man she has ever met and he treats her different than Dybbuk treats her.  But when Leah is accused of wrongdoing and sentenced to death, who will stand up for her?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an obvious low budget, the production of The Return is quite cheap, although it seems like it’s the best the team could have done with what they had.  Camera work and video quality are almost passable, but the audio quality is quite bad.  The soundtrack is too loud at times and is too generic.  Though this allegory relies on the quality of its sets, props, and locations, these elements are very cheap and drag the movie down.  Finally, the editing is very unprofessional, with awkward cuts and transitions that make for a choppy presentation.  In the end, since this genre required a more substantial budget, it might have been a better idea to not try to force it to happen with limited resources.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Allegories are always interesting, and it’s refreshing to have a movie from a different genre, but The Return is somewhat simplistic and even childish at times.  The scope and premise are very limited and there are far too few characters.  The small number of characters only highlights the fact that the dialogue is extremely empty and cheesy.  There are too many allegorical concepts that are isolating and need better explanation.  These ideas also need further expansion and development in order to be more substantial.  They are not effective because they are too shallow, thus rendering the allegory almost pointless.  The ending is also confusing and isolating.  In the end, The Return is a nice idea but is greatly short-sighted and underdeveloped.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

While is some potential in this cast, they seem quite amateurish and need further coaching.  It seems like they mean well, but they are misguided.  There are too many awkward moments and emotions.  Line delivery random.  Overall, this cast definitely would have benefitted from substantial coaching.

Conclusion

The Return is a half-idea that needed a lot more deepening before it was allowed to go into production.  With a very limited budget and an incomplete concept, more time needed to be given to this project before it was forced into creation.  Allegorical films can be very powerful tools if used properly, but without careful planning, like in the case of The Return, it can become a big disappointment.  There is absolutely a place for this type of film in the Christian entertainment industry, but it must be done properly.  Perhaps in the future, this will happen.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

The Adventures of Chris Fable {The Wylds} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Chris Fable is a thief and feels like he can’t be anything else.  He lives in a junkyard and is enslaved by a con artist, but one day, he stumbles onto an opportunity to lead a new life.  Though he is reluctant at first, he decides to take a chance and try something new.  Thus, he and his friend embark on a journey that changes their life forever.  On their way to freedom, the companions encounter weird looking bugs, loud noises, shaking trees, a freaky CGI city, and a giant stomping robot.  The question is not will they make it, but will we ever make it to end of this movie?

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

Although this film has clear video quality, this good production element is drowned out by all the utterly terrible elements that accompany it.  Camera work is awful as the screen shakes all around like someone is literally running with a camcorder.  The soundtrack is ridiculously loud and annoying, making for a nearly unbearable experience.  Sets, locations, and props are extremely cheap and special effects are positively medieval, including horrid CGI.  There are also overpowering sound effects throughout.  Finally, editing is as bad as can be expected.  Essentially, this is one of the worst productions since Final: The Rapture and warrants negative points for the horrible experience the audience is forced to endure.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The Adventures of Chris Fable is very loosely based on the concept of Pilgrim’s Progress, mostly ripping off the quest idea and some of the character names.  Yet there is basically no plot as empty, cardboard-cutout, and stereotypical characters wander from one thing to the next.  While this type of fantasy story could have been interesting, the entire storyline was written for an idea that never materialized.  Many elements, especially dialogue, are very childish and empty.  Chris Fable gives the impression that this is a kids’ movie, but it never really commits to this concept.  This indecision only makes matters worse.  In short, this film has no idea what it’s trying to go for as it pursues an obscure idea of a remake that never really comes to fruition.  Somebody needed to step back during the storyboarding (if they had any) of this film and really think about what they were doing.

Acting Quality (0 points)

This is overall an extremely poor casting job.  These cast members are mostly very juvenile and childish with no coaching.  Others are very over the top and obnoxious.  Emotions are very difficult to connect with and line delivery is stunted and awkward.  Unfortunately, there is nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

With such a low, limited budget, what exactly was the justification for attempting to create a fantasy movie that requires so many special effects?  If you don’t have the budget to make it quality, don’t try to make it halfway.  Also, if you don’t have a real story to accompany your fantasy idea and are only trying to rip off an old idea, please do not do through with it.  The biggest problem with Christian films in different genres like this one is that they stand out and get attention due to their rarity.  People watching them who do not normally watch Christian films, and this is what they’re stuck with.  How embarrassing and disheartening it must be.  We implore future film makers to learn from the mistakes seen here and never repeat them.

 

Final Rating: -1 out of 10 points

 

Voyage of the Dawn Treader [2010] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Left in England while their parents and siblings settle in their new home in America, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are restless and not interested in continuing to be under the same roof as their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb.  But it seems as though Aslan has other plans when he unexpectedly calls them back to Narnia, along with Eustance, for a unique mission—accompany King Caspian and the crew of the Narnia ship Dawn Treader in a quest to see what is beyond the Lone Islands and to retrieve lost friends of Caspian’s father.  Edmund and Lucy are sure that their past Narnian experience will help them excel, but what they do not realize is that the mysterious enemy they face on the high seas is unlike any enemy they have ever faced before.  In order to win, they must protect their minds and come to grips with who they really are as people.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

This movie franchise’s breakup with Disney was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to it.  However, since they retained Walden Media for this installment, the production quality remains high and even improves.  The video and sound quality are excellent.  The camera work is masterful.  Difficult action scenes are filmed with skill.  The editing is flawless.  The special effects are very professional and do not show any hints of being cheap.  In short, there is nothing negative say about Dawn Treader’s production quality.

Plot and Storyline Quality (3 points)

The original plot of C. S. Lewis’ work of fiction was honestly not that great on its face, but this film adaptation dramatically improves upon the book without losing the original message.  In fact, a more powerful message is provided.  The same plot elements are used and are rearranged in a better order so that they each serve a better purpose.  Another improvement from the both the book and the first two Narnia movies is that the character development is bettered through more creative and interesting dialogue.  Too many fantasy stories treat the characters as pawns to move around with imaginary elements, but Dawn Treader defies this trend.  There are plenty of plot twists in this film, along with cool psychological elements.  The end is not exactly predictable, even if you have read the book.  It is rare that you find a book adaptation film that actually improves upon the novel, but Dawn Treader changes up this narrative.  In summary, we could not find anything negative here.

Acting Quality (3 points)

This is the best cast Narnia movie to date.  Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, and Ben Barnes reprise as their former roles and are each better than in their previous films.  Will Poulter is a masterful casting choice for Eustace; he becomes the very essence of the original character.  Once again, there are no errors to point out.

Conclusion

This movie receives half of an x-factor point for having a meaningful and little-mentioned underlying worldview.  Unfortunately, it cannot receive the full x-factor point because it is not explicitly Christian, even though there are plenty of redemptive elements.  However, this is the only negative thing that can be mentioned about Dawn Treader.  After a success and a misfire at the beginning of the new Narnia franchise, Douglas Gresham and company have finally arrived with their third installment.  It brings the whole package and stands as a unique sort of movie that has the ability to reach many different types of audiences.  Christian film-makers everywhere can learn a lesson from Dawn Treader about reaching multiple audiences at once, bridging new movie genres, and creating a high quality film that is worth elevating to Hall of Fame status.

 

Final Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

Prince Caspian [2008] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rejected by his uncle due to the birth of a new son, Prince Caspian is forced to flee for his life from his Telmarine countrymen, who are ruling Narnia and who have forced the true Narnians into hiding.  But Caspian finds himself taking refuge with these renegade creatures now that he has a common enemy with them.  In trouble, Caspian blows the legendary Susan’s horn and inadvertently calls the Pevensie siblings back to Narnia, although it has been hundreds of years since they left.  They immediately find themselves thrust into a conflict between the restless Narnians and the disillusioned Telmarines.  Although they believe they have the power they need to win, the High Kings and Queens of Narnia must remember the former days and call on Aslan for help in order to survive.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

In keeping with the production quality of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian is well-produced and well-funded.  The camera work is great.  The sets are well-constructed and the costuming remains professional, which is key in fantasy movies.  Action scenes are filmed with skill.  The only small caveats to raise here are that there is some slightly obvious CGI and the editing is confusing at times.  Otherwise, there is nothing negative here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Unfortunately, the original plot of Caspian is not adapted as well as the first installment.  Though Douglas Gresham was still involved, Box Office Revolution feels that the core message of Narnia was lost in this movie.  Disney takes over Caspian and inserts empty action sequences, drab dialogue, and bland characters.  Granted, the original plot of the book was not much to work with, but Disney adds a darker tone to this film that was not intended.  All the characters seem perpetually angry about abstract things.  Some scenes leave the viewer hanging with no real explanation.  The end is pretty good, but it has a strange romantic subplot is suddenly forced upon the audience.  Needless to say, both avid Narnian fans and professional plot critics cannot find much to be pleased about here.

Acting Quality (2 points)

The professional acting style is mostly maintained from the first movie, but in the sophomore installment, it seems like the cast isn’t really trying.  At times, actors seem bored and passive.  But it is not all bad and there is certainly worse acting to be seen.  In short, the acting keeps up with the rest of the film—good, but not good enough.

Conclusion

Prince Caspian is a natural sequel to the infamous The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but its plot could have been improved.  Where there was potential for improvement, nothing materialized.  It probably should not be surprising that Douglas Gresham pulled the franchise from Disney after this movie—it needed to be done.  The bottom line is that the Chronicles of Narnia remain to be great books to adapt into films, if done properly.  Larger production companies have a tendency to coast after success, and this is not something Box Office Revolution respects.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe [2005] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Torn from their parents and hometown due to the rage of World War II, the Pevensie siblings must make their new home in the mansion of an eccentric elderly man and stay out of the way of his picky housekeeper.  Little did Lucy Pevensie know that choosing to hide in a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek would give her entrance to a mystical world called Narnia.  After meeting a new friend, Mr. Tumnus, Lucy soon discovers that all is not well in this land where winter is year-round.  After being mistreated by her brother Edmund, who also found his way into Narnia, the four siblings are forced to enter through the wardrobe, and are surprised to find that the creatures of Narnia have been awaiting their arrival, along with the coming of a legendary lion named Aslan.  Together, the siblings must band together and dig deep in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy and to save an entire land.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As is to be expected from the production crews involved, the production is professional and obviously well-funded.  The classic children’s series from C. S. Lewis was long awaiting a high quality rendition, and it was providence that his stepson Douglas Gresham was allowed to be an executive producer, so to preserve the original intent of Lewis’ work.  The camera work is great, as are the video and sound quality.  Fantasy productions are expensive and hard to do well due to difficult sets and costuming, but this one pulls it off well.  The only issue to raise in this film is some obvious green screens and CGI in some parts, but it is not glaringly obvious.  In short, this is finally a quality film based on the timeless work of Lewis.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The book’s plot is adapted very well, even enhancing the original plot without losing the allegorical message, which is surprising with Disney involved.  Douglas Gresham can be credited for this preservation.  The character development is decent and the dialogue is both realistic and character-building.  The twists involved are true to the book; no extreme creative license is taken here.  The one issue to raise here is that some parts of the plot tend to be overly dramatic, no doubt a Disney contribution.  But the bottom line is that this is a solid plot that does not compromise the novel’s purpose.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The funding paid off—the acting is overall professional and well coached.  Though it is largely a mainstream cast, they demonstrate great acting skills, taking on the book’s characters well.  One caveat to bring up is that a few lines fall flat in an attempt to be sensational.  But this is not really a big issue and is easily forgotten.

Conclusion

A lot of things could have gone wrong with this film: Disney could have run away and destroyed the plot, the acting could have been deemphasized in favor of action sequences, or it could have been another cheap puppet production like so many Narnia movies before it.  None of these scenarios occurred, and thus, this movie lands in the Box Office Revolution Hall of Fame.  It is not a perfect film, but it was a great start to the unique Narnia movie saga and must be recognized for its strengths.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points