What follows is my initial review of Fox’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie. And I do emphasize Fox’s. I’m still a bit bitter over the changes in the film, and soon it will be time to “let go” and move on, but for this last moment, let me dwell in my “affronted fan” persona a bit longer.
In addition to this review, I highly recommend, and agree with, Will Vaus’s review and Carl McColman’s review at the Website of Unknowing. Both have written books on Narnia and Lewis, and I value their opinion.
Here’s my review:
I’m writing this “off the cuff,” having just come back from a viewing of the film at my local theater. I went with high expectations for the film. As the movie opened, I felt I had nothing to fear: it was interesting seeing Susan writing from America, but not off-putting, and Poulter seemed like he was going to do a grad job as Eustace. Their entry into Narnia was fantastic, as the trailer alluded to.
However, once the sequence of the Calormen slave trade came around, I knew Lewis’ story was in trouble of Hollywood tinkering. Instead of reclaiming the Lone Islands for Narnian rule, a bizarre storyline of sending people into a mist as sacrifice was brought up. This was the beginning of what I began to call the “beware of the fluffy smoky balls of temptation” scenes, where small puff balls of smoke trailed mysteriously around our characters leaving ominous, well, confusion mostly, in their wake. And the point was….?
Apparently to make the Dark Island the absolute centerpiece of this film. Did it work? Not really. One reviewer I read before seeing the film pointed out that since Dawn Treader is so “episodic,” it does not really translate well to film as is, so a cinematic storyline scope was given to the film to engage the audience’s attention for 2 hours. As my friend put it, also a true Narnian fan, this apparently led to the filmmakers to the decision of throwing all the elements of Voyage of the Dawn Treader into the air and seeing where they landed, and then drawing a line connecting them together.
Therefore, the sea serpent becomes guardian of Dark Island, and Coriakin tells of seven swords which must be collected, and Eustance fights the sea serpent- as a dragon, with Reepicheep as his coach. The film seemed rushed because they were trying to fit in all these new elements.
The actors did a great job with the script they had to work with. Georgie and Skander added depth to their characters, Poulter was spot on as Eustace, and Ben Barnes thankfully dropped the accent, though he still seemed a bit stiff in his role as Caspian.
One can only hope Aslan’s comment that Eustace’s help would be needed once again in Narnia will lead to the Silver Chair, but then again, do we really want to see how Hollywood will tinker with that one too?