Monday, December 13, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader (in theaters now)

Another great Narnia movie has finally arrived, but I do have some disclaimers. If you aren't familiar with the Narnia books, there will be some SPOILERS in this blog post.

I very much liked Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As a movie, it was fabulous - full of adventure, beautiful settings, fun characters (especially Eustace!).

If you've seen the movies but have not read the books, this is essentially the plot: King Caspian is at sea, looking for seven lords, loyal to his father, who disappeared when the kingdom went to Caspian's evil uncle. Lucy and Edmond return to Narnia, accidentally dragging along their very logic-minded and, therefore, completely disbelieving cousin Eustace into the world of talking animals and deep magic. The results are entertaining, to say the least.

As with all movie adaptations from books, there are differences. Here's what I think worked and what didn't. I am also comparing the new movie to the old BBC adaptation, which was much closer to the books. Though out-dated, especially special effect-wise, the BBC did an excellent job, and it's hard to erase their Narnia movies' former glory from my mind.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is less than two hours long. While I applaud the movie-makers' attempt to go against the current trend of longer and longer movie adaptations (in order to get as much of the book in as possible), this was a strange book to do this with. However, they condensed it well. I missed some of the parts they left out, particularly parts that had been in the BBC productions, but the new movie stands pretty well without them. I thought combining the isles of the gold water and dragons was genius. Both have to do with wealth and the temptation of it, so it was a good match.

What I didn't think worked so well was the adaptation of Coriakin's dufflepud isle. I liked the setting. I didn't like Coriakin or how his role, especially with Lucy, was changed. The isle has a lot to do with vanity in the book, but in the movie, Coriakin becomes a sort of guide to defeating evil, an evil which appears as a mist throughout the movie and which is an expansion of just one of the islands in the book. I didn't completely dislike the way the movie was tied together by the evil from Dark Island. I liked the idea. After all, the book is very much about temptations for all its characters. I just prefer the subtle way the book approaches the subject, and I thought the green mist throughout the movie, symbolic of Dark Island's expansive reach, was a little over-the-top. It actually made me cringe a little. For the movie as a stand-alone, perhaps it was fine. It just didn't mesh well with my idea of the book.

Another change from the book is that instead of just searching for seven lords, Caspian's crew is looking for their seven swords, which can be used to defeat the evil of Dark Island. Completely added. Not in the book at all. And I didn't mind it too much. But the reason it is there and the reason for all the changes in the movie is so that there can be a big battle scene at the end, something there is not in the book. The book is full of episodic adventures, the underlying themes being the glue that holds it together. I do understand why the producers wanted a big climax at the end, and I'm not completely against it. I'm simply processing what I've seen and missing certain elements from the BBC version, and in the end, I will go buy this movie when it's out on DVD because I love the characters.

Eustace is awesome, and that was important because he is the hero of the next book, and the Pevensie children aren't in the next one at all. If they are going to do another movie, they needed this Eustace, and their choice was brilliant.

I was happy to see that the producers did not erase all vestiges of Christianity from the movie. That would have very much been out of line with C. S. Lewis's vision. In fact, there are some rather overt references to religion (not necessarily Christianity, but certainly in line with it). At the end, as in the book, Aslan tells Lucy and Edmond that they must learn to know him by another name in their world. This is as close to saying "Aslan is Jesus!" that Lewis gets. It could be interpreted as any other religion, perhaps, but combined with the sacrifice of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the references to religion most closely match Christianity. And when Eustace cannot take off his (SPOILER ALERT!) dragon skin, and Aslan must do it for him, the idea closely matches the Christian view that we cannot earn our salvation or help ourselves. We need a savior.

Overall, I am pleased with the movie, and I highly recommend it, if you'll be going to the theater this Christmas season. Only three stars (still, not bad) for plot changes, but five stars for brilliant acting, beautiful setting, and thematic integrity.


  1. I like you review, and I agree with it entirely. I reviewed the film myself on my Narnia Examiner site. You can read it here:

    And, I might add, the film's climatic battle (the sea serpent attack) IS in the book, but it happened much earlier in the story. That's why it didn't bother me much.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Nate! I enjoyed your review. For any of my readers who are interested, Nathan's examiner site deals with all things Narnia-related, and his review offers a more in-depth plot synopsis and comparison.


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