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.