C.S. Lewis‘ 7-book fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, is one of my favorite series. I love all the books, I’ve read and re-read them more times than I can count, more times than The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. I’ve seen the solid (despite the poor production value) BBC mini-series many times and owned them on VHS. So, in 2004, when they announced that a new series of the films was on the way, I could not have been more enthused. The first one to be produced was The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was delightful, fulfilling all my nostalgic wishes. The children were the right ages, the visual effects were up to scratch, and I was thrilled! The next film, Prince Caspian, came a few years later and was still good, despite the liberties taken with the plot.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a great addition to the franchise. There were a few times during the film I said, “What are they doing to my book!?” Then, I had to breathe and remind myself of the Harry Potter Law:
“Don’t see films as adaptations, just as inspirations. Otherwise you will always be disappointed.”
After that, I was good. They take tremendous liberties, weaving into the story a vague overarching nemesis called “The Mist,” which is spreading evil throughout Narnia and abducting random people. This then necessitates a quest for the swords of the seven lords of Narnia who were banished by King Miraz. When all the swords are brought to Ramandu’s Island at Aslan‘s table, the evil will go away. Just FYI, this is not in the book!
The book is about the new King Caspian‘s quest to find his father’s closest friends, about a new king coming into his own, and a search for God. They added a conspiracy theory that is not well explained. They rearranged the order of the islands the Dawn Treader visits in service of this, and added a little girl to bond with Lucy. Why all the change? These books could be adapted without so many alterations.
You see now why I have to remind myself not to compare. I’ll drive myself crazy otherwise.
My few complaints aside, once I talked myself through it, it was a solid movie. Georgie Henley acted the heck out of it, as did Skandar Heynes. They’ve really matured into solid actors in these few movies. Just as with the end of Prince Caspian, when Susan and Peter were told they would not return to Narnia, Lucy and Edmund had a similar heartbreaking moment–something I’m very happy that the filmmakers captured from both of the books. I realized that Lucy really is the spirit of those three books, exuding wonder, bringing the audience along with her.
Eustace Scrubb was done so well. He was just a snotty, stuck-up sod who went through a great transformation. I wondered at first if he could be a leading character for The Silver Chair, because he was almost too stuck-up and childish. However, he really shone by the end, and I hope The Silver Chair is made.
They retained the Christian aspects of the film, with the baptism/renewal imagery acutely displayed, and the moment where Aslan tells the Pevensies that he brought them to Narnia so that they could get to know him as Aslan, and then return to their world to know him under another name. It was refreshing to see this, as Lewis was so clear and purposeful about the subtext of his novels, something often overlooked by mainstream films. It was not preachy or overblown, but just touching and clear.
I enjoyed the film, despite the changes, and I would love to see The Silver Chair, as well as The Last Battle and The Magician’s Nephew, made.
3.5 out of 5 stars