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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.

Comments

For me, the movie was very well-done. You have to agree that the Dawn Treader is the most difficult Narnia book to adapt to film, largely to its episodic plot; so the filmakers had to make adjustments in the story to make it work in the film. Also, I counted 9 Christian themes in the film and that's what's most important. I liked the 1st one better because it is a more favorite book of mine. I hope they continue making the books into movies!

My family and I liked the movie, but it just didn't knock our socks off. The biggest thing missing in my mind was the lack of a musical theme, or much music at all.

Well, it didn't knock my socks off, but sequels rarely do. I think they made a pretty good film anyway. As for the East business, to be honest, although I'm sure Lewis had it in mind, I had completely forgotten about it, and if I had been in Gresham's shoes, I probably would have done the same. He's the Narnia Policeman, but he has to pick his battles. Someone on the other site mentioned that the BBC adaptions were better; but I'm with Gresham here too; Aslan looked ridiculous, which can't be tolerated.

Marianne - I agree - I bought both of the first two movies soundtracks -I'm not planning on this. Nothing in the music made me want to buy the soundtrack.

Honestly - I liked the movie - a lot. Its been years since I read the book but maybe because I love books and movies a lot I can more easily dismiss changes made - or I just don't assume it will be exactly like the book.... I don't know.

Let's remember these movies, as the books, are aimed at children. Let's enjoy them with the eyes of a child, instead of demanding our adult perfectionistic expectations.

I attribute much of the weak sales to the negative reviews (i.e. "lacks the awe and wonder of the book") using rigid, 'informed,' expectations. Can we again support and promote the good, and let these newer vehicles be imperfect (as we are)?

Despite the reviews, I saw the movie and reveled to be immersed in Narnia for a short time. I now have a new visual picture of how temptation creeps up and blinds me, as well as many reminders of the loving graciousness of our God.

Are we, as a Christian culture succumbing to the negative, hyper-critical idealism that surrounds us? Please..."unless you change and become like little children..."

The producers are to be commended or saving Narnia movies for us. That Disney was so shortsighted is a mystery, esp. since they abandonded VDT for inferior material to produce. I missed the Disney touch, and the thrilling music by Harry-Gregson-Williams, but Im grateful to even have the movie at all. I think they can stick to the books more and not try to update to the standards of modern movie-making- which means gut the deep meanings and turn it into a shoot 'em up. Please bring us silver chair, please keep budgets under contol so you don't feel the need to bail out on the series. Please bring us caspian and Lil and their romance before you age them- and please, a little more merch- a calendar would have been nice- along with bookmarks and buttons, at least.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. No, it's not as good as the book, but very, very few movies are. I thought it much better than Caspain. I am sad to see so many critics pan it or downgrade it. It's so much better than most of the movies out there, plus it has "the lion".

it couldn't possibly be just because its a bad movie. Why does every movie failure have to have a complex explanation?

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