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Friday, January 07, 2011

The Redemption of Eustace: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader film

I have managed to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader while it is still in theaters in our locality. I'm glad I did. There were a lot of differences with the book, but the critical point is given by my title, namely that Eustace, a thoroughly nasty boy, repents and is redeemed, in a way consistent with fantastic literature -- he becomes a dragon, then is "un-dragoned." The book and film also agree in having Aslan, the Lion, a Christ-figure, tell Lucy and Edmund that they must learn to know him by another name in their (our) world. I read a couple of reviews of the movie in the mainstream media, and neither of them were put off by these features.

So what about the differences with the book? As in the previous movie, Prince Caspian, there is a lot more graphic violence, and the score is loud. Apparently that's what sells, or what the movie company thinks will sell. There was some violence in the book, but there were also long periods of relative calm, which, among other things, allowed for character development.

Both the movie and the book describe how Lucy, Edmund and Eustace, their obnoxious cousin, are pulled into Narnia through a painting that comes to life, as it were. They tell that Caspian, King of Narnia, is on a voyage in the Dawn Treader, a small sailing ship, to try to find out what happened to seven of Caspian's father's noble friends. They are also exploring the sea to the east of Narnia, which is unknown territory. During this voyage, all of the five main characters, save Reepicheep, the talking mouse, are tempted in various ways. Eustace is transformed into a dragon, and while in that state, tries to be helpful to his shipmates. He also comes to admire and appreciate Reepicheep, which is a great change for Eustace. They both tell that the ship reaches an island where there is a table set with wondrous food, and which island is inhabited by human-appearing stars. (The father star does not appear in the movie.) They further tell that the Dawn Treader eventually comes as close as it can to the edge of the flat Narnian earth, which is near the way to Aslan's country, and that Reepicheep enters that country, Caspian begins the voyage back to Narnia, reluctantly, and Lucy, Edmund and Eustace go back to England, with Lucy and Edmund being told, by Aslan, that they will not be able to return to Narnia.

There are some other similarities between the book and the film, such as an adventure with water that changes anything put in it into gold, but many differences. One such difference is that, in the movie, Caspian must deliver the seven swords of the seven nobles to Aslan's table to defeat the center of evil influence in the islands and sea in this area. The most important difference is that, in the book, there is no such center of evil influence. Each person is, as James put it, drawn away by their own lusts. (There was some of that in the movie, such as Lucy's temptation to say a spell that would make her beautiful above all others, but not as much.)

A number of years ago, I posted a series on temptations in the Narnia books. The post on Dawn Treader is here, and, I believe, covers the various ways in which characters were tempted reasonably well. (One such is in my comment at the end of the post.)

Three final positives about this film. First, Georgie Henley was, again, a splendid Lucy. She showed adoration, character, bravery, envy, and other emotions very well indeed. Second, some of the effects in the movie were very good. The ship was well done. So was the dragon, and Reepicheep, the two-foot tall talking mouse. Third, original illustrations from the book, by Pauline Baynes, were used in the graphics shown during the final credits.

Here's the movie's home page. This is a review by Steven Graydanus, a Christian author, in the National Catholic Register. This is the Christianity Today review. Here's a review by Rebecca Luella Miller, a Christian who runs an blog which is essential reading for people interested in fantasy from a Christian world-view. All three reviews are insightful, and find the movie to be both good and bad, and "less Christian" than it might have been. This is the Wikipedia article on the book. This is the Wikipedia article on the film. Here's my post on the first film of the Narnia series, and here's my post on the second.

Thanks for reading. Read Lewis. See the movie.


Bonnie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Martin! And including links to those other reviews. Very interesting. Especially Gresham's comments--I'd been wondering what he was thinking, being that he's one of the film's producers.

Not sure I agree with Greydanus that the books' Christian dialogue is less altered than in the other two films. I am glad that Aslan's words at the end were included, as well as Eustace's that he couldn't "un-dragon" himself. But the context didn't support them properly. And the characters' "growth" in the film seemed more humanistic than God-focused.

However, I completely agree with him on the matter of Lewis' "mythic hooks", and am floored that the significance of the Dawn Treader--the title of both the book and film, for heaven's sake--is blown off so by Gresham, and that the director hadn't really seemed to have thought of it! Amazing! How can you read the book and miss that, or not think it's important?!

Anyway. Thanks again!

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Bonnie.

It sounds like the movie would have been better if Gresham hadn't been involved.

I wonder if The Silver Chair will get made, and, if it does, how they will put warfare in it.