Monday, December 27, 2010

A Brief Commentary: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Let me be frank (unless Frank, of course, objects): I don't like the new film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

What's Hollywood's problem? A classic tale, beloved by myriad readers, must be so re-written that it becomes not only barely recognizable but so watered-down and shallow that its great themes are pallid versions of themselves, if indeed they still exist?

Of what are the Hollywood types afraid? The faith that inspired the stories? Or do they think they're actually improving a classic series? Poor benighted fools. Arrogant fools.

I enjoyed the new The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as the new Prince Caspian, despite unnecessary changes that weakened the story, but The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Ack. There are no words.

The search for seven swords? Huh? Were the makers envisioning a mash-up with some other fantasy tale?

As for the dragon, his transformation back to regular boy is only given a passing swipe by Aslan's claws -- not even that, really, since the lion never touches the dragon. Not exactly how the story goes, as I recall.

And what about the sacrifice required of the crew -- and gladly made by Reepicheep -- in the story that C.S. Lewis actually wrote? At the end of the adventure, when the lamb becomes a lion, well, those God-fearing filmmakers (and I mean God-fearing in the sense that they have a decided nervousness toward, phobia about, or negative view of God) omitted such an obvious Christian element.

In this current film adaptation -- more like decapitation -- the depth and vision of the story is lost. However, the young actor portraying Eustace Scrubb is spot-on: perfectly annoying, and with excellent comic delivery.

A closer adaptation of all three stories can be found in the BBC television serialization from the late 1980s. No, the special effects aren't slick, and some are -- literally -- cartoons. However, the creatures are creatively done, with either green screen or imaginative costuming and makeup. (Not only is Reepicheep one of my favorite characters, but the costume is perfect.) And, viewing this series, fans of the books are not so prone to throwing things at the screen.


Avid said...

I actually have to disagree. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" ranks top of my list, but I found "Dawn Treader" above "Prince Caspian."

The problem I had with Prince Caspian was the "plot," or lack thereof. Yes, there was one, but it was more suited for a short film.

Dawn Treader isn't without flaws, of course--namely the green mist and the seven swords. But the book doesn't have the greatest storyline for film adaption, and I can see why they did what they did. And the ending with Reepicheep's parting and Edmund and Lucy's farewell was beautiful. The expression they shared with Eustace after leaving Narnia was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in a movie, so telling without words.

But everyone to his own, of course.

Keanan Brand said...

The earlier BBC version sort of combined Prince Caspian with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They were separate episodes in the television presentation, with Caspian only coming in at around an hour, if I recall, but the stories flowed from one into the other, and could have been one movie. (Don't know why the filmmakers didn't just do that with these new films? They wouldn't have had to come up with so much material to fill out the plot.)

There's more visually in these newer attempts, but the substance of the original stories is better preserved in the older versions.

Avid said...

Yeah, I actually grew up on the BBC series. Being a bit younger back then, I never really found the costumes "cheesy" or the animated demonic spirits of the White Witch "cheap"-looking. The films(/VHS's) were well-loved by my siblings and I, hence why "The Silver Chair" had a humorously-distinct warble to the opening BBC Narnia theme music (which I adored and still do, by the way). I even fully agree that the BBC series is much, much "closer" to the books than are the new Disney/Fox versions; however, "successful" modern film adaptations are those that grab the essence of the story. And I believe the modern adaptions do just that.

(By the way, in case you were wondering, I found your blog as part of the CSFF "Dragons of the Valley" book tour.)