Friday, December 10, 2010

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

From the moment the first scene started, I was in awe. The movie drew me in like few movies have, and I was rather surprised when I realized we were already getting close to the end. I did not realize that much time had passed since it began. The mark of a truly great movie.

Back up a bit.

In the past few months, I have gone through a range of emotions anticipating The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I watched excitedly as and other sites posted pictures from the filming, and I couldn't get enough of it. However, then the ads started coming out, prominently featuring the White Witch, Peter and Susan. They are hardly mentioned in the book, so why would they be major characters in the movie? I got further worried when I started to hear about a "green mist" and a quest to find lost swords, that is nowhere to be found in the book. It concerned me that Ramandu's daughter introduced herself in the trailer as their "guide," which is not her role in the book. When it comes to adapting books to movies, I am a bit of a purist, and it seriously bothers me when studios make major changes or cuts. (Don't get me started on the butchered adaptations of Eragon and the old animated Lord of the Rings.) I was also concerned about the precedent that Disney/Walden set with making major changes to Prince Caspian that were truly painful to watch (and were very likely the reason it didn't do as well in the box office). For a long time now, I have wanted to see all seven Chronicles of Narnia adapted for the big screen, and the last thing I want is for the franchise to end early because it is not adapted well.

I am happy to report that, though they did make changes to the plot, they made it work well, and I am OK with them. I don't want to spoil too much, but they did indeed add a green mist and a quest to find the swords of the seven lost lords. Both of these add a common thread throughout the episodic nature of the story. The order of the islands is shuffled from the book, and they combine two islands into one. The changes are very much in line with Lewis' views and the spirit of the story. As for the concerns with Peter, Susan and the White Witch, they make it work. Peter and Susan do not go to Narnia, as the marketing made it appear, and you only see them very briefly (Susan more than Peter). The White Witch appears briefly as a sort of memory, only to Edmund.

Each character must learn to fight their temptations. Whereas the battles in the first two movies were with swords, the ones in this movie were more internal battles with each person's inner demons. Lucy does battle with her feeling of inferiority to her older siblings, especially Susan. Edmund battles a similar inferiority complex, in which he tries to enlist in the British army at the beginning, and later wants to take some of Caspian's authority (but not in an annoying way like Peter in Prince Caspian). Eustace, on the other hand, must learn to battle his superiority complex. Will Poulter does an amazing job of portraying an arrogant brat, who finds out that he has a lot to learn from the most unlikely of characters: a mouse.

That is not to say there are no sword battles. There is a brief battle in the Lone Islands, and the battle with the Sea Serpent is quite spectacular, much more dramatic than in the book.

For me, the brilliance of this movie shines through in several ways...

The effects. The mist is visually amazing. The White Witch, Caspian's father and a couple other characters appear in a misty form, embodying the dreams of various characters. Dragon-Eustace and Reepicheep were amazing, and I especially enjoyed the expressions on both of them. The credits alone are worth the price of admission (especially in 3D).

The lessons. They kept the lessons C.S. Lewis put in his book. (One of the disappointments for me in Prince Caspian was how many lessons they left out.) They expanded on the theme of resisting temptation, as well as covering restoration brilliantly. They toned down Eustace's undragoning a bit, but they were very clear that only Aslan could undragon him. Aslan's charge to the children to get to know him in our world with his other name was there, verbatim from the book.

The acting. Everyone nailed their part.

There were some possible references to other movies. I especially noticed a line that seemed to be straight out of Star Wars, and an element that very much reminded me of a scene in Harry Potter (although it could also have been inspired by a scene in The Silver Chair). I enjoyed the subtle (and not-so-subtle) foreshadowing to The Silver Chair, which were added.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give The Voyage of the Dawn Treader a solid 99. I had to deduct a point because of the plot changes. :-)

(Note: I'm pretty sure those are stars in the picture, not snowflakes. Stars are much more important to the story than snow, which only appears once and very briefly.)


  1. Oh yeah, and Reepicheep and Eustace spar, as do Caspian and Edmund. Sparring isn't quite the same as a battle, though.

  2. I'd have put in more character development, Dragon Island material, e.g. Also, section from the last chapter when Caspian struggles more decidedly on whether to return to Narnia. I like Reep's remarks, "You shall not go on..." because of his responsibilities as king, but it was a satisfactory version.

    I'd have left out more of the dragon battle especially the grotesque latter part.

    And I had forgotten why the 3 lords were at the table in the first place, that always seemed obscure to me, but there it was in the film.