Sat
Dec 11 2010 7:28am

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Or, Why Alex Wouldn’t Mind Being A Dragon Once In A While

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader had a steep hill to climb. The first two offerings were exceedingly shrug-inducing and came served with an extra heaping helping of CHRISTIAN OVERTONES. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe practically reeked of Christmas spirit and the kids playing the Pevensies were terribly bland. With Prince Caspian came a less familiar story to most people and yet even more straying from the C.S. Lewis canon. Disney took a look at the rampant problems with their first outing and decided the best way to make money was to appease to both über-Christians and teenage boys. Aslan kept showing up spouting half-Bible verses and the rest of the screen time was devoted to either training for battle or the battles themselves.

Though Caspian only brought in just over half of Wardrobe’s box office Disney, Walden Media, and director Andrew Adamson set out to make Dawn Treader anyway. But even after replacing Adamson with Michael Apted, creative differences and a feud between Disney and Walden over the budget finally pushed the Mouse House to bow out, only to be replaced by Fox.  The script went through a rewrite rush job and one year later I found myself sitting in a darkened theater surrounded by the world’s most obnoxious 10 year old boys and wearing those 3D glasses that make you look like an old woman coming from an opthamology appointment. I wanted to like this movie. I came in with hopes in check but I wanted it to be good. Dawn Treader was one of my favorite of the Narnia books (The Horse and His Boy will always have my heart) I wanted it to be better than its predecessor, and it was. Yet it also wasn’t.

The movie starts at the Scrubb house. Lucy and Edmund have been dumped off with Uncle Harold and Aunt Alberta and their whiny little brat of a son Eustace while their parents and elder siblings are in America doing something or other that is either so dangerous or so boring that the little ‘uns couldn’t come with. Who knows. It was only the first of many things that were brought up and unceremoniously dumped, never to be explained or spoken of again.

The kiddies are squabbling when suddenly they are swept back into Narnia. The gang’s all back: Prince Caspian is now a king a year on the throne (and has mysteriously lost his accent) and Reepicheep is still being a brave little chatterbox (only this time he’s voiced by Simon Pegg instead of Eddie Izzard). From there on out it doesn't really matter if you’ve read the books or not. The movie sticks vaguely to Lewis’ storyline but only when it seems like the writers remembered they were supposed to.

Yes, the book is certainly a challenge to adapt. It is largely episodic in nature and it's rather hard to build an emotional punch in a 2 hour movie without growing stakes or a looming threat, so I can accept veering off canon. I just wish they had been a little more inventive about it. An evil mist is inexplicably eating people—or is it? dun-dun-duuuuuh!—and the White Queen apparently has nothing better to do with her afterlife than haunt Edmund. But it’s all so familiar, the mysterious Big Bad appears out of nowhere and can only be defeated by working together. There’s nothing original here, and not enough of the book to keep the story fresh.

Overall, though, it was a fun, light adventure movie for kids. It didn’t aspire to be anything greater and, given the previews (Hell is the new Yogi Bear movie), it could’ve fallen much lower. But it seems that Fox, like Disney, still hasn’t figured out how to tell a C.S. Lewis story without either hitting audience over the head with the Bible or pandering to the rest of us who just want a good story, so, instead, they just do both at different times. The plot is cloaked in a video game-esque quest and when preaching time comes round the whole film screeches to a yawning halt. Dawn Treader is most definitely better than Wardrobe and Caspian, and that’s saying both a lot and very little.

One final note, don’t see it in 3D. Save your money. The film was shot for a regular release and wasn’t until post that they decided to puff it out to 3D. As a result there’s nothing particularly three dimensional about it. Nothing flies at the screen, you can’t really tell that there’s any shading or dimension to the images, and proportions tend to go all squidgy at inopportune moments.

One more final note that contains a few spoilers. Canon-adherents are probably not going to be pleased with what doesn’t happen with Lilliandil. Also, King Caspian tells Edmund and Lucy that his Narnian army has conquered not only the giants in the Wild Lands of the North but the southern armies of Calormene. It’s the first time those countries have been mentioned in the films, but Jill Pole also got a shout out at the very end, reinforcing the theory that if there is a fourth movie it’ll probably be The Silver Chair, which means all the Eustace you could ever want and then some. They could stick with publishing order and do The Horse and His Boy fifth, The Magician’s Nephew sixth, and The Last Battle seventh, but that’s all just pie in the sky at this stage.


Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by profession, Rob Gordon and Randal by paycheck, novelist by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare...

36 comments
Forrest X Leeson
1. Forrest X Leeson
"Yes, the book is certainly a challenge to adapt."

Scenario: two lords went to the Dark Island, one escaped, Caspian on rescue mission.
john mullen
2. johntheirishmongol
Went to it yesterday. I thought it was considerably better than Caspian. Since I am not really religious, maybe I missed the religious part that annoyed you, but I didn't feel beat over the head with it.

Truthfully, a lot of fantasy stories are like road movies. You journey, learn stuff, make friends, and come to a conclusion. The question is, do you do it well. This was pretty good.
Forrest X Leeson
3. margaery
I don't think I'll see this one. I thought LWW was okay, I hated Caspian, and if it's like you say, it's not worth it. I don't mind the preaching because I am a Christian, and you have to admit that Lewis DID write the book that way. There are a lot of ways that they could have made a real plot out of the book, and if they didn't, that's too bad. Dawn Treader is my favorite (along with The Horse and His Boy) and I don't want to see it wrecked.
Scott Harris
4. vitruvian
It really sounds like this one has more changes to introduce an outright villain and quest to stop her than were introduced in the first two. Honestly, people keep talking about added Christian overtones in those, but I don't recall anything that wasn't in the books, except maybe for extra time spent on Peter having a crisis of confidence. I mean, all the stuff in Wardrobe about Father Christmas and Aslan offering himself up and being resurrected is true to the book, as is all the stuff about only Lucy seeing Aslan at first in Caspian, so what's added?
Christopher Cabanillas
5. restiffbard
I keep watching the Narnia series in the hopes that it will someday be good.
Rammy Meyerowitz
6. m5rammy
I must say, I Really Really liked the first one, and even applauded in the theater (very out of character). It totally transported me to Narnia.
And, except for Santa, I didn't feel any Christian overtones (and totally missed them way back when I read the books), but I didn't grow up in that culture, so maybe I'm not the one to judge it.

The second movie was (only) OK, so I'll probably see this 3rd one, but I'm not in a rush.

R
S Cooper
7. SPC
This is the one I've been counting down to since they first announced new Narnia movies . . . I don't think I could stay away. Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair were my favorites (and I must say I have a fond spot for Tom Baker as Puddleglum in the BBC adaptation - a Silver Chair movie would be verrrry interesting).
Forrest X Leeson
8. romsfuulynn
Caspian was trying to be more like the battle parts of the LOTR movies and was weaker. And too much of it was shot in the dark...

The Christian symbolism in Lion didn't bother me, because I read the books long before I got any of the symbolism and it still doesn't particularly stand out for me.

I loved this one - Eustace is very well done. There is one bit in the middle that drags (the magician) but in general it was lovely.

I'd agree that the 3-D isn't worth it. There are a few places where it shines but mostly not.
Forrest X Leeson
9. Stefan Jones
I am I the only person who remembers the '80s (?) vintage British live-action-TV-movie versions of the Narnia books? Low budget, but endearing. They used superimposed animation for the creatures; the technique got better with each installment. I'm pretty sure they did Dawn Treader.

It would be interesting to see these again, and see how they hold up.
Forrest X Leeson
10. ErinMarie
Wow, I had a completely different take on the first two movies. I grew up reading Narnia, and I felt that Lewis has created his world with such large brush strokes that the bits that went off canon still felt like they worked.
Unlike the LoTR movies which I despise with a passion precisely because they veer off canon so much. Which of course they had to, because Tolkien painted his 'verse in such detail that any real deviation felt like blasphemy.
As for the Christian thing, I didn't feel nearly as pummeled with it in the movies as I do in the books themselves; even as a 12 year old I thought the prosletyzing was a little heavy handed, but the movies haven't struck me that way.
Claire de Trafford
11. ClairedeT
I'm excited about this and will go see with my 5yr old, despite agreeing with many of the comments above. Any Narnia is better than none (@9 Stefan, I have the series on DVD). Won't bother with 3D tho even before reading this.

For the record my top 2 are Magician's Nephew which I would really like to see as a movie and think would work brilliantly as a standalone, and Horse and His Boy which - hum - not sure would work out but you never know.
Dovile Petrasiunaite
12. dova113
I watched the movie two days ago, in 3D. If you can get a 3D ticket at a discount, or if the price is similar to the usual sowing, then go for it, but otherwise it's nothing impressive, mainly all you see is the ship at sea, plus a few islands.

As for the movie, it was OK, not great, but OK. They followed the book close enough for me (I'm not a big sticker to canon), but that's probably the reason why the movie wasn't as good as the previous two. For me, the movies are better than the books. I'm not a big fan of the Narnia books (too much thin veiled proselytizing for my taste), except The Horse and His Boy which I loved. I agree with #10 ErinMarie, there's less Christian thing in the movies, and I've read the books for the first time as an adult, so that might be why I prefer them to the books.

BTW, I liked Caspian, at least the first part about him and his parents, before he meets the kids, and goes on to battle. It was really different from the book, and I liked it.
Forrest X Leeson
13. Angiportus
First one--good. Second--good, except for the part with that woman screaming her head off at the beginning; that was just over the top. And as a trebuchet builder, I found the catapults in the battle scene totally ludicrous. But the scenery was great.
This one, well, who knows? I'll give it a try.
I discovered the books at 12 and the religious stuff went right over my head. But the rest was enjoyable, except that "Last Battle" was creepy and confusing.
Forrest X Leeson
14. JayDog
Why is SciFi or Fanatsy can be atheist or anamist and nobody bats an eye but something with a christian bent comes out and everyone is in a tizzy? If I can enjoy anamist fantasy, I can enjoy christian Lewis.
Forrest X Leeson
16. Christopher Byler
Why is SciFi or Fanatsy can be atheist or anamist and nobody bats an eye but something with a christian bent comes out and everyone is in a tizzy?

Maybe because nobody's ever been persecuted by the Animist Inquisition? Christians have a long history of getting along *very* badly with anyone other than other Christians, up to and including attempted genocide. It tends to make everyone else a bit nervous of them, even though any *particular* Christian may not support that kind of thing. (Christian persecution of non-Christians hasn't *stopped*, exactly, but it has at least slowed down or taken less violent forms in countries that nominally give equal rights to religious minorities. The War On Winter Holidays Not Named Christmas is more or less typical of the modern style -- non-Christians can live here, as long as they aren't uppity enough to think themselves and their ways the equal of real people. It's better than a pogrom, no doubt about it, but it's not exactly friendly.)

However, I never really felt the Narnia books were Christian; Lewis intended them to be, but IMO he accidentally invented a new religion that is different from Christianity (although it has some resemblances). The idea that "hey, this Aslan guy is pretty cool" therefore doesn't necessarily translate into following Christianity in our world, let alone adopting some of the more objectionable parts of the Bible, or the history of our-world Christianity.

Nobody is persecuted by the Aslanist Inquisition, either, and I don't think Aslan would stand for it if they were. But clearly Christ didn't lift a finger to stop the Spanish Inquisition -- and now we're back to that old problem of evil, which hardly exists in the Narnia books because Aslan *does* step in and do something about it.

Also, Narnia is Manichaean in a way that orthodox Christianity isn't -- Jadis isn't part of Aslan's creation, she's brought in from outside. Aslan struggles against evil, he doesn't simultaneously let it in the back door. There's no book of Job, or calling on Abraham to sacrifice his son, or any of the other morally horrible acts of God in the Bible.

And Aslan doesn't really care about labels -- that whole theme of _The Last Battle_ about how the morality of the deed matters more than whose name you do it in is wildly heretical for a Christian, IIRC.

IOW, Aslan is just plain *morally better* than the God of Christianity -- and once you see that, how can you be a Christian? By improving on Christianity, Lewis (inadvertently) showed that it was susceptible to improvement, i.e. flawed.
Alex Brown
17. AlexBrown
This is going to be a long comments response, but I tried to respond to just about everyone:

Stefan, SPC: Watched them when I was a wee punk and never forgot them. They were muchly awesome. They and those old Alice movies hold a special place in my cold, jaded heart.

jontheirishmongol, vitruvian, m5rammy: Maybe I'm just overly sensitive to religious undercurrents in things. I understand that the books were written with Christian symbolism heavily intended, but, then again, so was LOTR and I didn't feel like I was back in Sabbath school in those movies. The preaching in the books felt more, I dunno, organic since it was intended to be that way. The studios have made an obvious attempt at either shunning or hugging the Christian Right and I suppose knowing that background information has tainted the way I watch the movies. I muchly despise pandering to any organization, Christians or otherwise.

margaery, restiffbard, Angiportus: It's not that bad and I feel sad if that's how it came off in my review. I really did like it, and loved it in comparison to the first two, which I found too meh to have any hard opinion on. This one is great fun if you're on the kid side, and the deviations from the book are cliched but there's a reason those tropes are used so often: they work.

JayDog, beket: I grew up überChristian so I don't have a problem with it, and I don't have a problem with it being in movies. I just want them to find a better way of doing it that doesn't feel like one half Pirates of the Caribbean and one half Passion of the Christ. In this movie, the 2 times Aslan showed up I felt like I was back in church and being scolded for stealing an extra Wheat Thin during communion.
Forrest X Leeson
18. Stefan Jones
I'm going to give a shout out here for an adaption of another old British childrens' fantasy: The Box of Delights. I mention it here because I believe that some of the folks who produced the Narnia TV series I mention above were involved.

It aired on the BBC about 30 years back. It is odd and wonderful and features Patrick Troughton as a thousands year old Punch & Judy man and wizard.
Alex Brown
19. AlexBrown
Stefan @18: Haven't heard of it until now but sadly it isn't available on DVD for region 1. Did track down the children's book, though...might have to buy it :)
Joe Romano
20. Drunes
Stefan: I remember the 80s live-action-TV-movie, too, but just barely. I was in my 20s then and had never read the Narnia books. My initial reaction was "what in the world is this?" For some reason it didn't catch my interest and I only saw bits and pieces of it. I think because it seemed too much like a childrens program. That's a silly statement, I know, because it was a childrens program. In retrospect, I wish I had watched the whole thing.
Forrest X Leeson
21. Stefan Jones
@Milo #19: FWIW, The Box of Delights is a sequel to charming but more-juvenile The Midnight Folk. Can't hurt to get both!
Forrest X Leeson
22. Maac
I am not a Christian, but even I can recognize that Christianity does not have a monopoly on imperialism and forced conversion — if we want to talk animism-influenced shtick of that nature, let me throw out a few names: “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.” “Genghis Khan.” If the writer of the tales was a devout Buddhist or Muslim, I would not be so keen to remove the religious beliefs that motivated them out of their text; I do not see the virtue in doing that to CS Lewis. When Christianity in a work bugs me, I avoid the work, but it is disingenuous to pretend it isn’t there: Narnia is definitely what Lewis believes the religion to be. Christianity is a broad umbrella — half the denominations are heretical to the other half anyhow, so there’s no way to generalize.



Not to demonise anyone in particular. Casting the first stone and all that.



(And Aslan stole the line about other people operating in other gods’ names still serving him direct from Jesus Christ, actually: “Other sheep have I which are not of this fold,” and so on, and so on...)



THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. ALSO, IT IS A RANT. Not prompted by anyone here. More from affection for the source material and encountering gloating elsewhere that this film will end the franchise.



I cannot even describe my emotions at the thought that this “Dawn Treader” installment is in any way superior to the first two films by Adamson, despite their flaws and their playing with the original text. How on earth? Oh, I am literally UPSET.



How on earth is it “better” for the film to reduce entire Lucy’s character growth, completely, to insecurity that she is not as shaggable as her sister? The lesson she learns is the same old tired “be yourself” and “look deep down inside” that every other Hollywood children’s film trots out like clockwork now? The only scene in the original story that would have passed the Bechdel test, when Lucy eavesdrops on her friends and is hurt by it, and is then admonished by Aslan (to look past other people’s bad behavior to what lies beneath and what they might be struggling with) cut entirely in favor of her turning herself into Susan, who is only written as marginally cuter (as opposed to the fairly understandable temptation presented in the book, to be the most beautiful woman *in the world*, and which Lucy is strong enough to resist on her own)? The only thing that women worry about is being hot enough to impress men? As opposed to the lesson that she learns, one of the largest, most major themes of the entire Narnia franchise -- “You never learn what would have happened”? Adamson remembered that bit, he put it in there rather memorably, actually. Aslan existed to teach lessons about what you were doing wrong and how to improve, not to give feel-good pep talks about how awesome you are deep down if you just “believe.” Apted actually *does the opposite, * contradicting the recurring theme that underlies the entire Chronicles -- he has Aslan outright tell her what would have happened if she had acted differently!! WHAT. JUST, WHAT.



(That and the distress-damsel, “I knew you’d come for me!” business of her being sold on the block --creepy -- as opposed to that happening to Caspian, who kind of gets to save himself by revealing his identity. Arrgh. Swinging a sword a few times does not make up for losing the complexities in her personality!)



Why are Edmund and Caspian’s Daddy issues (not every film ever has to be about this!!) taking time away from Eustace’s character arc — did they not each have an entire movie apiece to deal with this, and aren’t we needing to establish Eustace as a person capable of carrying the entire next story by himself? Why is Edmund aping Peter’s “I used to be important” deal from the previous film? Been there. Done that. Why is he trying to usurp Caspian’s place under the influence of some Generic-Fantasy Green Evil Mist, why is *his* entire growth arc being undermined here with this, and with him STILL being tempted by the White Witch? Wasn’t he the *only one* strong enough to resist her before?? Why is she being turned into the series’ Big Bad? Her quasi-sexual M.O. is so repetitive by now that she’s not even scary. And he’s suddenly tempted by gold? Where did that come from? Isn’t that Eustace’s job? How do we even NOTICE Eustace doing that, now that Edmund has already done it on screen — WITHOUT getting turned into a dragon for it? So how on earth am I meant to dislike Eustace more? That’s not just ignoring the books (which is not a problem that I generally have: movies are visual and have to tweak), that’s cluttering up your own adaptation! Edmund by this point was to have graduated to mentor figure, to a person who had truly “gotten all he could” out of Narnia and was ready to return to his own world as an adult — the person who says to Eustace: “You were just an ass. I was a traitor.”



Why is half Eustace’s characterization gone? He started out as a know-it-all and a show-off who still refused to use his (skewed and limited but still PRESENT) knowledge to help others, someone who was raised with too much mimesis and not enough wonder in his life and was therefore unable to suspend disbelief and be useful in Narnia. In this film, he’s just a whiny smart-mouth with a put-on accent. Who is *laughed at* by Narnians when he talks to a bird — like that’s not logical, after he sees them talking to a sentient mouse!? His “badness” is not explored anything like Edmund’s is in the first tale, which makes his “conversion” not much of a payoff at all — he’s always been annoying, not actively harmful, and so why should I take the effort to hate him or rejoice and be impressed by his change? His epiphany takes place in the form of an expressionless CGI dragon (and don’t tell me that mute CGI characters can’t emote, I’ve seen “How to Train Your Dragon,”) and his turning back scene with Aslan is truncated beyond belief so that it’s barely understandable what’s going on in it.



What’s with the MIST??? Is it not more subtle to have an evil that is unexpected, that stems from within and is therefore more difficult to combat, than the standard issue Green Fantasy Mist of evil that needs to be called “evil” forty times before the audience can grasp it? Did we need extra characters to provide plenty of bathos but no action; have we not taken enough time away from the setup of the next film and the current characters already?



I could have gotten behind the Seven Swords of MacGuffin had all this other stuff not been introduced to clutter up the narrative and render it incomprehensible. I don’t have a problem with change, but this is more than change, this is throwing everything in that looks or sounds remotely cool just to make it “exciting.”



I feel terrible for these actors, all of whom are quite good elsewhere -- particularly Poulter, who here seems to be reduced to one of his “School of Comedy” caricatures, except for at the bitter end when a bit of his true versatility shines through.



It took me a while to appreciate the first two films: Adamson might have rearranged plot things and taken liberties with people’s appearance (understandably, to me, and substantiated by the original text with the “Pirates and South Seas women” line from CS Lewis’s own hand -- I miss that multiculturalism, and the acknowledgement of talented actors from round the world) but Apted seems to have entirely missed the point.
Forrest X Leeson
23. Maac
Sorry -- editing disclaimers: the “this rant is not prompted by anyone here” line ought to have come FIRST. Cutting and pasting happened. You are all lovely and well-spoken regardless of whether or not I agree.
Forrest X Leeson
24. Brenda H.
@Maac

Sounds like the stuff you're ranting about could have come from me. I haven't seen it yet and am now dubious as to how much I'd enjoy it and how much time would be spent wanting to throw things at the screen. Thanks for the heads up, at least.

For the record? The "I tell no one any story but his own" was one of my favourite parts, as well as Eustace's transformation and Reepicheep's and Eustace's unexpected friendship when he was a dragon. Siiiiiiigh...
Alex Brown
25. AlexBrown
Maac, Brenda @24: As for Eustace and Edmund, that is entirely understandable to me. Most of the audience isn't familiar with the changes Edmund goes through in the books, and he doesn't mature that much in the first two film, so it makes sense he'd continue on his greedy path. He's got a good heart but he has to learn his lessons in our world now. You can't divert from the main characters for whole swaths of time to focus on Eustace, a secondary character to Lucy, Edmund, and Caspian. Eustace will have more than enough screen time in The Silver Chair, but until then you have to build him as a viable character replacement.

Yes, I was bothered by the whole "I want to be pretty!" thing with Lucy. Given that she's been an adult once already you'd think she'd have gotten over the whole thing because she knows she'll grow into herself in a few more years. I suspect in the original script Lucy may have had a bigger crush on Caspian than what we see here and that a few straggling bits might be left over from a long gone subplot, but I didn't get nearly as offended by it.

I suppose you can look at it from a plot perspective (and, for the record, I am a staunch feminist and a writer and the Bechdel test irritates the hell outta me) and get bothered by it, or you can look at it from a story perspective and try to enjoy yourself. I've suffered my share of movies where I can't look past the egregious/offensive stereotypes (Eclipse anyone?), but these were light enough that they didn't infect my enjoyment of Dawn Treader. As for the earlier installments, well, at least Wardrobe had James McAvoy.
Risa Wolf
26. lupa
@16 Christopher - jumping up and down and applause and everything. I always quite enjoyed feeling like there was a better religion C. S. Lewis was inadvertently espousing.

@22 Maac - In general I vehemently agree with you. I actually dislike Dawn Treader most out of all the books because Lucy did so much less than she did in the previous 2 books, so reducing it even more will be disappointing. However, I did want to bring up one very wee point - Eustace does *not* carry The Silver Chair all by himself. Jill Pole actually does a great deal more than Eustace does. (With a lovely, intense nod to Puddleglum.) ((Can you tell I adore The Silver Chair? It is actually my favorite of the series.))

In general to all - I have not yet seen Dawn Treader, mostly because The Tempest had to be seen first. However, I'm glad I am warned... I'll wait a few weeks. ;)
Forrest X Leeson
27. debraji
1+ for what @22 Maac said. The changes--particularly the evil green mist--seem poorly thought out and ill-managed.

But my biggest problem with the movie was I didn't care about what was happening onscreen. I didn't care about the characters. They were dull, thin sketches, completely predictable, and if they'd been squashed by Dufflepuds it would have been an improvement.
Forrest X Leeson
28. Patrick Stahl
@16 and @ 26,

I have to disagree that Lewis inadvertently created a better religion. I think he would say that Aslan was an accurate portrayal of Jesus Christ. Accurate as in all of the positive traits that the characters (and readers) feel about Aslan would be true of Jesus.
James Hogan
29. Sonofthunder
Alright so I saw this last night...and while I enjoyed it as a movie in its own right, it still didn't do justice to the book. Ah well, I wasn't really expecting it to anyways. I still think only the first one really was reminiscient of the book, while these last two seemed to just take plot points from the books without really paying attention to the underlying themes and spirit of the books. And the characters are still not given their proper dues. Instead of portraying Edmund as a high king of Narnia...he's shown as a boy who's still trying to be a man(tempted by gold!). And while I thought Eustace was beautifully portrayed(best out of the lot, in my opinion), it made me very sad his dragon realization scene was not in the movie...and his de-dragonifying was so...unsatisfying, just shoved in there amidst the Awesome Battle Scene that Must be in Every Movie.

The ending of the movie was fantastic - glad they at least had Reepicheep's coracle! And the lily-sea! I still felt the end(sailing to the end of the world) was short-shrifted(because obviously fighting Very Evil Evil Evil Green Mist is more fun and important and needs much more time than anything else) instead of the wondrous and majestic journey it should have been...but I guess I can't be too greedy. I've sort of given up on Hollywood doing Narnia justice. It's sort of sad, but ah well. They're almost-decent movies, and that's about it.

Dawn Treader is my favorite book out of Narnia...and I think I need to read it again now, to recapture the wonder in my mind.
Fred Himebaugh
30. Fredosphere
You know, some of us kinda like getting hit over the head with a Bible.
Forrest X Leeson
31. Maac
@Lupa: Touche. :-) :-) I do love “The Silver Chair” — particularly since so much of it was from Jill’s POV and because she was less earnest than Lucy but still adorable -- and I did think of Jill Pole as I was writing my rant, but I couldn't think how to incorporate that in terms of space. (You may have noticed I, um, kinda fail at "concise.") I should have been clearer — what I’m trying to get at is that as the only familiar face returning, since the invested characters of Lucy, Edmund, and Caspian as a young person are departing, Eustace’s character — that is to say, Will Poulter’s face/charisma/ability et cetera — is what’s going to have to make the film audience care, initially, at least until Jill Pole's character and actress become familiar to us. As presented, though, it is very hard to take him seriously. He’s not just minor, he’s almost downgraded to comic relief.

(They did give Jill a shout-out, by the way. Which also kinda bugged me as it sets her up as Eustace’s friend already, as opposed to showing their bonding via mutual school and Narnia experience, but that’s totally minor.)
Forrest X Leeson
32. Maac
RE: "Plot" vs "Story" per enjoyment....I was annoyed from a story and pacing perspective and unable to enjoy myself. Even if I had not been familiar with the plot at all (and I had not read “Dawn Treader” in years and intentionally did not refresh myself, in order to NOT make comparisons. I re-read after viewing the film) -- too many elements were elevated to importance and all elements went by too swiftly to process, too many characters’ inner journey was given screen time (Lucy’s, Eustace’s and Reepicheep’s would have been quite enough — as it was, Movie Reepicheep’s motivations were vague and Lucy’s were flattened), there were too many goals happening for any one goal to provide catharsis when it was met, and nobody had a coherent character. No, actually the two new minor characters that didn’t actually do anything but were very sweet had coherent characters, but this doesn’t help as they didn’t have to grow or affect the plot or be layered and interesting in any way — less like characters, more like human plot tokens, which could have still worked if the Mains had held up.

BTW, I don’t have a problem with the first two films. I was lukewarm for quite a while, but I chalk that up to my initial resistance to the new medium — Lewis’s books are very chatty and whimsical in a 1950’s-children’s-book way, and you can’t capture that close, homey feeling in a film without a voiceover, which, no, thank you. And I buy...most of Adamson’s behind-the-scenes explanations for what changes he did make. So I’m fairly OK with them now.

The thing is: Even as movie-viewers, we do know plenty about Edmund from those two films. His was the most significant and dramatic arc (Lucy is the character we identify with, but she’s a good girl and doesn’t have or need the same amount of growth by a long shot. She’s the Heart, the one who sees, the voice of reason). Ed matured in the movies just as surely as he did in the books, even if the books were able, as a written medium, to detail it more explicitly — the film relied on visual cues: looks exchanged between the family members, small actions, pointed words. It was quite blatant in the first film not only WHY he did wrong, but that he learned he had done wrong, repented and rejoined his "unfallen" siblings (his entire demeanor changes after the prison; the family embraces when reunited; he has a chat with Aslan that nobody even gets to hear, but posture says all; Lucy teases him about toast; he and Peter exchange humbled, down-cast glances; and he fights on the the correct side, and Peter goes to save him, cementing the reconciliation).

In the second film, Edmund is the only one able to resist the White Witch (in a scene that was a departure from the books but worked very well to show the position switch, with Edmund as the emotionally stronger-through-redemption one this time, and Peter as the tempted one). Furthermore, he is able to resist her (the REAL her, using her magical powers) alone, without anyone else's aid or magic, unlike his "Dawn Treader" incarnation, here, who requires a large glowing sword and Eustace's help to defeat his memory of her.

Edmund is already mellower than Peter at the start of “Capsian” when Peter complains about being treated like a kid — Edmund says “Hello, we ARE kids” (a flipping of their first-film roles when Peter is trying to be the mature, deal-with-reality guy and Edmund is missing their dad and acting out in the way a child does) -- and he is able to almost poke fun at himself (and at King Miraz’s not understanding Narnian politics) by telling the Telmarine monarch: “No, I’m not a prince, I’m a king. Just a king, though. Peter’s the High King.” Pointedly, by “Caspian,” he is not jealous. And he’s the only older sibling who is willing to believe Lucy when she says she sees Aslan, mentioning that the last time he didn’t believe in Lucy, they all got in trouble, a total 180. His character growth — by leaps and bounds -- is quite plain, as well as artistically handled.

Eustace is a new character, yes, but that’s exactly why he was meant to have an entire film to set him up as a viable protagonist while still leaning on our familiarity with Lucy and Edmund (and Keynes and Henley) as support, as opposed to a humorous sidekick. He’s going to have to carry the next film , if there ever is a next film (I WANT a next film :-( ), and this film ought to have given him that segue. But instead they rehashed Caspian’s and Edmund’s already dealt-with problems, and de-matured those two characters to boot. This isn’t a modern literary novel where people’s problems with their parents and their childhood stresses never completely go away and are brought up again and again because “that’s life” and that’s realism -- this is an epic fantasy of the sort where the characters are larger-than-life and represent something other than themselves, and the world is a character too. (I felt like I got less feeling of the world from this film than from the previous two; something about it just felt claustrophobic -- and that on the high seas!) And let's be honest, what each child represents is a particular type of spiritual journey as per Lewis's beliefs and philosophies.

As well, dwelling on Edmund’s LW&W issues at this late date is raising the White Witch up to too much importance. She’s already coming back in flashback in “Magician’s Nephew.” She’s supposed to be defeated -- and by the God-character, even. It undermines Edmund's growth, Aslan's redemptive power, and the White Witch's own menace. (Is the Lady of the Green Kirtle just going to be a White Witch rehash again?) Edmund is meant to exit an archetype, a mentor; he doesn't really look that good at his departure here -- sweet, nice, a good guy, love him to death, but not so much with the epic strength and nobility. I am not convinced Movie Edmund could resist another temptation unaided, and post-"Caspian" I was.

Each book stands alone but is part of a larger epic arc — characters may have setbacks and make errors in an individual Chronicle, but you don’t take them back to their Book One issues in Book Three, especially when the character in question is about to permanently exit stage left. (When Lucy and Edmund return, a great deal of time will have passed in the audience’s world, the actors will be quite grown, and the characters themselves will be legal adults. Moreover, their characters are now static; they will not be doing any more growing onstage.) Rules are made to be bent and so on and so on but adhering to that particular fiction guideline would have strengthened this film, even if the visual medium did have to deviate from the plot here or there.

And the “No one gets to find out what might have been” contradiction was egregious. I don’t agree with a lot of C.S. Lewis’s opinions and writings and things, but to cast aside the point that he kept harping on as a Significant Echo in his own creation is more than a little harsh.

OKAY. Positivity: I loved the mermaids. And frankly, Reepicheep stealth-teaching and befriending Eustace was adorable. I am consistently amazed at how well they show the human actors interacting with CGI Aslan, hugging and touching and everything. And Ben Barnes still reminds me, happily, of every crush I had in high school (although keeping the "Telmarine" accent would have helped with that :-) ha ha).
Forrest X Leeson
33. B. Durbin
I honestly don't see them making A Horse and His Boy without drastically revamping the Calormenes lest they offend everybody in the known world... and since it's not much of an arc book, I think they're going to skip it.

Mind you, I quite like it, but I think Hollywood would take one look at the Calormenes as currently depicted and go "Um." (Remember what happened over one line in Aladdin? Just imagine what would happen with such an over-the-top caricature of Generic Arabia crossed with Darkest India As Seen By Imperialist Britain.)
Alex Brown
34. AlexBrown
B. @ 33: I know *sigh*. It makes my heart hurt, but I have a feeling that and the lack of franchiseability is going to prevent Horse from ever seeing the light of day. And they could totally tone down the ooky bits, but that would require creativity and that's not something studios often possess the talent for (unless you're someone like the now defunct Miramax).
Forrest X Leeson
35. carrie80
I also remember the 80s TV adaptations fondly. Apparently the figurehead of the Dawn Treader is now in a garden somewhere in Portishead.
Forrest X Leeson
37. 5amfrnchtoast
"In your world, I am known by another name."


.......Zeus?

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