December 13, 2010
Where's the Dawn in 'The Dawn Treader'?
New Narnia film overlooks one of the book's main themes, falls short on others
CT film critic Steven D. Greydanus, writing for The National Catholic Register, clearly articulates a number of the problems with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which opened to a weak $24.5 million over the weekend -- a much weaker opening than for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ($65.6 million) and for Prince Caspian ($55 million).
Analysts and studio heads will come up with all sorts of theories for the weak opening, but certainly one of the reasons is that the film got all sorts of things wrong, when compared to the book. Greydanus does a nice job in describing the challenges of converting a beloved book to the big screen, that it rarely can be a perfect adaptation, and that some changes are inevitable. That's well enough, but some of the changes are head-scratchers -- starting with the title itself.
The Dawn Treader is supposed to be sailing always east, toward the world's edge, the eternal dawn, toward Aslan's country. But the film completely overlooks that. Greydanus asked two key people about the that -- Walden Media president Micheal Flaherty and co-producer Douglas Gresham. Flaherty understood and acknowledged the validity of Greydanus's point; Gresham blew it off.
"Narnia has an interesting geography: The world is flat," Flaherty said. "And there is something beckoning about the utter east. That would have been a good shot. … That’s an interesting point.” But Gresham, C. S. Lewis's stepson who calls himself the "Narnia police" to make sure the films get the main things right, said, “I don’t think that’s the least bit important, to be honest. That they sail eastward, in Narnia? A flat world, theoretically? I don’t think it is, no.”
Read the rest of Steven's insights here. He voices all of my own concerns about the film, but much more articulately than I ever could.