Monday, December 13, 2010

What I Liked and Didn't Like About "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (the film)

I had been waiting for Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader to come out, oh, since Prince Caspian was in theaters. This was my MUST SEE movie of 2010, and it didn't even come until the end of the year. I saw it on opening night (not the midnight showing--I'm too old for that nonsense) after rereading the book. It's my favorite book from the Narnia series.

I knew when I reread the book that I was setting myself up for some disappointment. I mean, I knew they were going to change stuff. They ALWAYS change stuff. I just happen to find it interesting to see how people translate books onto the big screen. Sometimes they do an excellent job (think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and sometimes they really screw it up and I get angry and want to start petitioning filmmakers for a do-over (think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

Don't read any more if you haven't seen VotDT, because there will be some spoilers.

I was very impressed with the special effects (even in 3-D, which was, as I suspected, completely unnecessary). The Dragon and the sea serpent were UH-MAY-ZING. The music was also excellent, as was the majority of the acting. I'm a big fan of Skandar (is that NOT the coolest name ever?) and Georgie--and the guy who played Eustace was hilarious (I'm sure I'll learn that kid's name by the time Silver Chair comes to theaters). Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, on to the story...

I'm really glad they got in all the major plot points. They were ordered differently than they were in the book and some were handled differently, but they were all there. I'm also glad they included the most important line from the book--Aslan telling Lucy and Edmund that he had brought them to Narnia so that they would know who he was in their world and learn to know him by his name there (coughJESUScough). Most important part. I got really nervous when I thought the filmmakers had left that out, but they came through. Liam Neeson is pretty much the most amazing Aslan voice ever, btw.

Speaking of, there wasn't enough Aslan to suit me, but IMO there can NEVER be enough Aslan.

I was also disappointed that the Dufflepuds scene was so short, but then one can never have too many Dufflepuds. Well, okay, I suppose "DUFFLEPUDS: THE MOTION PICTURE" would be a little bit ridiculous.

Now, some people confuse me for one of those people who gets angry over every minor detail that was changed in movies that were adapted from books. Not so. What I think is important is that the movie version adequately captures the spirit and essence of the book in a way that is clearly communicated. The problem I had with Prisoner of Azkaban is that there were themes that were heavily emphasized in the movie that were not really in the book (time), and I was left with the impression that if someone had not read the book, they wouldn't know what was happening. That's crappy filmmaking, IMO.

The biggest problem I have with the film version of VotDT is that the filmmakers seemed to completely miss the point of the story. They added in a new element that basically drove the plot because apparently they seemed to think the story needed something that C. S. Lewis didn't provide. FAIL. If you haven't read the book, you might be surprised to learn that the seven swords were not in the book at all, nor was there this underlying evil that Lucy and Edmund had been summoned to go concur. They had been called to Narnia to have an adventure. That was the plot of the book. That was the story line. That was all that was needed.

And personally, I think that the story would have worked quite well on screen without their additions. The filmmakers seemed to think that they needed to add some kind of element that would make things more exciting or give purpose to the story. No. The purpose of the story was that there was something worth seeking beyond the known seas around Narnia. Yes, there were the seven lords that Caspian wanted to find, but he was not seeking them for any reason other to be seeking them. Caspian and Reepicheep and several of the others were ultimately seeking adventure, the End of the World, perhaps even Aslan's country--that was the point of the story--not some "green mist of evil" that had to be destroyed. I think the filmmakers really missed the point, and that makes me sad.

It makes me sad to think that filmmakers assume people don't want to see movies that are just about adventure and excitement and the mystery of the unknown. It makes me sad to think that they might actually be right.

But quite honestly, the whole "green mist of evil" thing was just stupid. It took me awhile to realize what it reminded me of, but once I realized it, I was amused. The "green mist of evil" was ripped off from another movie. Do you want to know which movie it was? Anastasia. Yep, the kid's cartoon from the late 1990s. I half expected Rasputin to come out with Bartok and burst out into an evil song and dance number.

No, instead you have the "green mist of evil" which (at least to Edmund) took the form of the "White Witch." Personally, I was really put off by this. For one thing, I was never really happy with Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the White Witch (I can't get past the fact that the lady has NO FREAKIN' EYELASHES), and I really hate seeing her have a cameo in all the movies she's not a part of. She died--let her stay dead. On a more serious note, I also want her to stay dead. Aslan killed her. It was finished. All that she represented was defeated. I didn't like that the filmmakers keep bringing her back as if Aslan isn't strong enough to have defeated her once and for all.

But I was fortunate enough to be watching this film with a friend who had not read the book. She saw this part differently and gave me her perspective, which I had already been thinking about myself, and kinda sorta agree with to an extent. Edmund--at least in the films--keeps meeting the White Witch again. In the film of VotDT, he was still struggling with temptation regarding her. Okay, I can get that. I can relate to that. Even if sin has been conquered once and for all, I still struggle with temptation and sin. I'm going to struggle with temptation and sin until I die or this world ends. So I can kinda understand where they might have been going with that.

Now, Lucy's little temptation scenes bothered me a little more. It was good theology, but it was simple theology. I can totally get that we are all valuable--we aren't meant to be like anyone else (except Christ), and God didn't create us to be like anyone else. He made one me. He made one you. So yeah, there was nothing untruthful about what Aslan said to Lucy in the mirror (aside from the fact that this scene was NOT in the book). He wanted her to value herself. Okay. Sure. It's just that right now there's this theme I see in Christian circles about feeling good about yourself and feeling beautiful, blah blah blah. Johnny Diaz theology is awesome for awkward teenage girls. It's just a little milky for me. And Lucy in the book wanted to be beautiful and get attention like Susan (she didn't want to BE Susan, fyi), but she didn't sit and dwell on it for very long. Aslan drove that vanity from her head with one roar and she was tempted by something else. Anyway, I would have preferred Aslan's lines to be closer to what was in the book, but as I already said, they got the most important line.

I'm just really annoyed they left out another important group of lines:

Aslan: "Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again."
Lucy: "Please, Aslan, what do you call soon?"
Aslan: "I call all times soon."


Now, I was pleased with the way they made Eustace the Dragon look/act/etc. That was awesome. I was a little confused with what they did with him because it was VERY different from the book. With that being said, given all the rest of the changes they made to the story, I actually LIKE what they did with the Dragon. I liked that they kept him in the film longer as a Dragon and I liked that they had Eustace be the one to put the sword on the table and save everyone (though the glowing blue swords seemed to be a ripoff from the Hobbit...oh well, Tolkien and Lewis will probably have a good laugh about that if there are Inklings meetings in heaven--and I'm kinda hoping there will be and that I'll get to sit in on them). I liked that the epic battle with the sea serpent took place on the dark island (even though it took place much earlier in the book). Given all the other changes they had made to the story, the rest of it just made sense. I would have preferred they had left the story alone as much as possible, but given the changes they'd made, they actually managed to create a decent storyline with Eustace as a Dragon who gained redemption by placing the final sword. Also, I'm VERY happy they worked hard to foster an onscreen friendship between Eustace and Reepicheep. Reepicheep is awesome.

What does kind of bother me is how they handled Eustace's transformation from Dragon back into a human. Now, I do like that Aslan just scratched the sand and those scratches were what cut into Eustace. BUT, here's what bothered me. How he just burst into light and fire during his transformation reminded me of another film...another kid's movie...another cartoon from the 90's. Beauty and the Beast. Tale as old as time, baby.


All in all, I'm displeased that the filmmakers seemed to miss the point of the story, but they did some interesting things with the changes that I did like. I will want to see this movie again, mainly because I'm not sure how much I liked it--but I think I did. I shed some tears (oh, Reepicheep). It left me wanting a sequel (I WANT PUDDLEGLUM!!!). I am a little afraid with what they'll do with "Silver Chair," but we'll see.


  1. YAY! I was excited to see this blog post. :) You put your thoughts very well to "paper". Now I gotta go read the book, too.

    You rock some socks! ;)

  2. thanks for this! i loved the movie, but thats just because i like being able to point out things to people that im introducing Christ to. i showed them the first two movies right before this one came out so they were all really excited to see it and it was wonderful! and i know you said you didnt like the mirror scene too much, but as weird as this sounds, that part made me burst into tears. ive been struggling lately with that whole be someone else thing and even though it didnt follow the book, it was nice to see that even lucy struggled with the same stuff i do. weird. i know. sorry. anyways. awesome thoughts! thanks for sharing! :) i absolutely loved the part in the book where aslan took the scales off eustace :) it was amazing and gave me goosebumps. i wish it woulda been the same in the movie....the end

  3. I think you missed the big picture with the stripes in the sand. It represented healing and when Alan roaored it represented the word of power breaking the yoke of bondage off of the boy Eustace. Only by the stripes of Jesus are we healed and only his power can set us free from the bondgae of the enemy. When Isaw the scene my breath caught in my chest and the Holy Spirit told me that this is a reprentation of deliverance. Praise God the director has some insight into the spirit realm from the Holy Spirit perspective.

  4. Wow, so that's a fairly presumptuous comment. I'm not sure if you've read the book (from your comment, I"m judging that you haven't), but the scene in the book is much more powerful than the movie scene (and not at all similiar to Beauty and the Beast). In the book, ASLAN (not Alan...but I'll let that go as a typo), literally scratched deeply into Eustace's Dragon skin (not the sand, but his actual skin), tearing it away when Eustace did not have the ability to do it himself. Lewis described the pain, as well as the satisfaction of finally being rid of the Dragon skin. I DEFINITELY see what Lewis was doing with that (setting free from bondage of sin? Yes...and more. It showed that God can do what we cannot--save ourselves and change ourselves by our own power), and I personally think he did it a lot better than the director, whether the director had Spiritual insight or not. So did I miss the big picture? No.

    If you haven't read the book, read it. I cannot stress that enough. The movie wasn't bad, but it could have been so much better (if they hadn't missed the point of the story). The book?...near perfection, in my opinion.

  5. I dint like the spells in the movie and the one leg guys. It just looked like some harry potter movie. But i love the dragon part and aslan's last words. I was trying to relate aslan scratching the sand to Jesus writing on sand when pharisees caught a adulterous woman. Overall i would rate 8/10. Like ur views too.

  6. Ooh, I agree with quite a few things in this post - thanks for sharing with us :).
    So I won't go into detail with all of my own opinions, but there is one little thing I'd like to mention ^_^.
    For me, the green mist was TOTALLY unnecessary, too.. However, after some contemplation about how in the world the filmmakers decided to make that random plot such a huge part of the film, ~By Jove!~ I did find consolation in the idea that they just may have actually drawn it from somewhere else - a relevant place, too - in the series. It's somewhat plausible. ;D
    I'm guessing you're pretty familiar with Silver Chair as well :D [loveee Silver Chair - I so hope they choose to go with it for the next film]. Well, you know the green misty-smoky stuff that the Queen of the Underworld uses to try to enchant the children and Puddleglum? Maybe, just maybe, the filmmakers actually have done their research on the series, and were attempting to make an allusion/foreshadowing/connection to the form of evil in SC.
    Is this idea a stretch? Eh, maybe ;P But it pleases me enough.. I can at least tell myself that this is the source and the purpose of the mysterious green haze in Dawn Treader. :P
    hehe, anyway, thanks again for your insight. Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way about some of the the things you mentioned.
    Cheerio! :)

  7. Wow. That is something I had not considered. I've heard that they're doing "The Magician's Nephew" next, but maybe they're going to use that "green mist of evil" to tie all of it together through all of the movies somehow (maybe the green rings will be surrounded by green mist or something??). Yes, it might be a stretch, but it is nice and interesting to think about. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Hm, you could be onto something there! :)
    I, too, heard that they've decided to film Magician's Nephew next.. which disappoints me. Not because I prefer one book over the other-- actually, if I absolutely had to choose a favorite book in the series, it may actually be a tie between Magician's Nephew and Silver Chair-- but rather for film production reasons. That's all another story, though. :P
    haha, anyway, thanks again for the post. :)