"First I have to get bookcase out of the way..." she says to herself.
She remembers that Eugene moved one of the books before being able to enter the room. But which book was it?
"Dawn Treader, Magican's Nephew..."
She spots "The Last Battle". Bingo.
After removing it from the shelf, the bookcase opens up, and the unexpected happened...
Forgive me if any of you visited my blog today in search for the latest review of Adventures in Odyssey's "The Malted Milkball Falcon". Although this season is nearly at an end, it's time to take a short break, and focus on a series of books I love that have no doubt inspired the creations of the Imagination Station, McCusker's Passages series, or even in that little bit of dialogue in a "Bite of Applesauce": "The Chronicles of Narnia". Are those small connections to the world of Narnia enough to justify posting a review of "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" on an Adventures in Odyssey blog? Probably not. But I will anyway.
|The beautiful "Dawn Treader"|
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader very much. It is exceedingly moving at times and also at times very funny. It has kept all that was essential to Lewis’s original while still opening up the story to be adapted to a different medium. I am convinced that Lewis fans—young and old, new and longtime—are going to like it very much as well. As one of the countless readers who have been comforted, inspired, and challenged by Lewis over the years, I would like to offer my congratulations and my thanks."After I went to see the movie, I became interested in finding out what everyone has else had to say. I found that, after watching the film, negative reviews were never 100% wrong; each had a nugget of truth. However, I eventually discovered that many reviewers were either 1) generalizing the film too much, or had 2) entered the film with flawed expectations.
First, what do I mean by generalizing too much? Well, some have commented on how the film was poorly edited, featured lame action sequences, or had poor performances. The thing is, in my personal opinion, the film had all of those but not necessarily throughout the "the entire film". Since the movie is somewhat episodic, there were some scenes which would make me think "Wow, that was nicely done" while others "Wow, that was terrible". I wondered whether the film had been using a different director every 20 minutes. While the adventure at the Lone Islands features poorly edited action sequences, the final battle against the serpent is beautiful crafted; while the performances and dialogue at Deathwater Island are cringe-worthy, quite the opposite could be said of the performances at the end of the film; while the "green mist" effects look cheesy and fake, Reepicheep looks very life-like and natural; and while the on-screen relationship between Caspian and Edmund felt loosely tacked onto the script, the relationship between Eustace and Reepicheep is very well developed. Essentially, for each time I disliked something about this film, there was a different moment I found absolutely perfect. Did anyone else feel this way?
|Eustace and Reepicheep are the film's best characters|
Enough about the critics though. Did this film succeed in being the "magical, whimsical...etc...etc."? Well, yes and no. For one thing, I'm surprised how these filmmakers managed to make so many changes to the original story and yet still managed to capture the spirit of its novel more than the first two did. One of the ways this was achieved was by distancing itself from the darker epic-sounding soundtrack composed by Harry Gregson Williams. The score of "The Dawn Treader", composed by David Arnold, is light, magical, and haunting--for the book was often all of these things.
It was as if the creators of "Dawn Treader" were approaching the film-making process totally differently from "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian". The first two films built onto the main story by making it feel bigger, louder, and more extravagant; both novels, however, when reading them, don't exactly call for huge epic battles or have much of a sense of urgency. In fact, there are plenty of times when the books take their sweet time describing the majesty of Aslan, animals having tea-parties, and Lucy and Susan in the fellowship of Bacchus; however, these lovely moments were largely ignored in the films.
In comparison, it felt like the makers of "Dawn Treader" decided to come up with their own storyline (something to do with the "green smoke of temptation"); they were less interested in merely expanding and building onto the original story, but instead tried to fit Lewis' book into their own concoction. And because of this, it seemed like they were all the more required or forced to at least try to capture the feeling of the novel within their own changes. In other words, the old films built away from the original stories, while "Dawn Treader" built towards its original source material.
This is also, surprisingly, the most explicitly Christian film of the three. No it isn't perfect. For a more detailed analysis, check out the short essay by Steven D. Greydanus. Personally, my only complaint was that there are a lot of somewhat of contemporary Disneyesque themes, promoting the "you are special" message of individualism and self-realization--the clichéd "Don't run from who you are" message every child is brainwashed with since birth nowadays. Regardless, the allusions to Christ should please many churchgoers and are blatantly obvious to anyone who isn't one. After watching the movie, I decided to listen to a weekly podcast dedicated to reviewing the latest movies. I don't feel comfortable enough giving the name of the website, since some of their podcasts use some pretty strong language. However, here is what one of its reviewers (presumably an unbeliever) had to say about the religious aspect of these films:
"...Here's some of my complaints that I've had. Now, one--I guess I can't complain too much, maybe in this movie it was obvious and maybe this was from the books. They pretty much--and I don't know--people, tell me if I'm wrong here, if I have here...I THINK that this is an allegory for Christianity, and I THINK Aslan is supposed to represent Jesus. [...] I'm not complaining about that. [...] I just don't know if it's from the books. Maybe complaint is the wrong word. Because. And I think, in this movie, I think this is the movie where Aslan comes down and says "Yeah. I'm Jesus".Here is another review taken from Movies.com
"I've been taken to task lately by cool people for liking Aslan so much. But I do. I like it when he shows up. I like it when the movie comes to a thudding halt as he Liam Neeson-voices his moralistic wisdom. I like that he's supposed to be Jesus. Because when else do you get the nice gentle Jesus in movies? He's either being brutalized by Mel Gibson or ironically [made fun of]." (Dave White).
|"Dawn Treader" made a lot of changes but |
the spiritual themes, and Aslan, are still around.
|No hope for "The Silver Chair"?|
|Lucy, played by Georgie Henley,|
opening the "Book of Incantations"
"Before this film, I think the cinematic Narnia series was a little like Lucy, looking enviously at big-sister Susan. Maybe it was trying too hard to be the next Lord of the Rings or aspire to Harry Potter-level success. It worked so hard to be literary and spectacular that, just maybe, it forgot what the Narnia books were at their core: children's stories. Meaningful stories, yes. Good stories, absolutely, filled with allegorical heft and layers of meaning … but at their core, they're meant to be fun."We want to dwell on the silliness of the Dufflepuds, we want to hear every single thought from Eustace when he transforms into a dragon, and we want to think how horrifying it would be to mistakenly come into contact with the pool at death water. Does the movie do this? Only sometimes. Alas, the filmmakers don't have enough faith in the novel's episodic moments to entertain and instead rush through them. They, sadly, misjudged this franchise's core audience.
It seems to me that if Peter Weir was able to turn his seafaring adventure "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" into an Academy Award Nominated Best Picture film by not worrying about "the right audience" then Apted should have been able to make "Dawn Treader" into a more critically acclaimed film. Anyone who has seen "Master and Commander" knows that the MacGufin (to catch up to and capture a French war vessel) wasn't what the audience was most invested in. Rather, we were sucked into the film by the unbelievably witty dialogue and great characters. In other words, we cared about the journey, no matter how trivial it was, because we cared so much about the lives of those aboard the ship. Why couldn't this movie been like that? Apted somewhat underestimates the power of Lewis' characters and stories. Apted believes that by adding a more concrete purpose, like the "green mist" plot, we'd be more invested in what was happening. But we aren't. We love this novel not for "the whole" but for "the sum of its parts". The movie could have been immensely more powerful if they had let us dwell a little longer on so-called "pointless" island visits. As it is, we are left wanting more each time.
The following is a quote from (ready for this?) Mark Zuckerberg when asked about the film "The Social Network":
"The thing that I find most thematically interesting that they go wrong is...the whole framing of the movie, the way that it starts is, I'm with this girl, who doesn't exist in real life, who dumps me [...] and basically they frame it as if the whole reason for making Facebook and building something was because I wanted to get girls, or wanted to get into some kind of social institution [...] but I think it's such a big disconnect [...] [filmmakers] just can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things"Maybe Zuckerberg's comments could apply to a film like "Dawn Treader". These screenwriters felt the need to flesh out each character's back-story, giving us a better idea of what was motivating them. I don't quite remember the novel putting such a ton of emphasis on the fact that Caspian's desire to be a brave leader was motivated by feeling like a second-rate King to his father, or that the reason why Edmund was so easily tempted at Deathwater island was because he felt like a second-rate individual in his own world, or that Lucy's envy for her sister's beauty at Coriarkin's island was because she had some self-esteem problems, or that their entire mission had to be motivated by destroying a greater evil in order to make the rescue of Miraz's seven lord worthwhile. In movies, can't things just happen because "we wanted to" or "we felt like it"? Why couldn't they rescue the seven lords simply because they were missing? Why couldn't they reach the world's end just to reach the world's end? Apparently, according to these writers, things can't just happen unless there is a clear underlying reason or motivation. To make use of Zuckerberg's line: the writers just can't wrap their heads around the idea that the crew of the dawn treader might be on this adventure for the sake of "adventure".
|I give "Dawn Treader" ★ ★ ★ ½|
Get the entire Narnia series dramatized on CD for $20 here. Be sure to check back in the days ahead for more updates.