Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Overdue Dawn Treader Review

There once was a boy named Eustace Scrubb and he almost deserved it, after all he didn''t read the right books.  And there once was a director named Michael Apted and who didn''t read enough of the right books (and from recent news reports, neither has Liam Neeson, a.k.a. Aslan's voice in the movies).  This could be the kind of post that goes through and petulantly nit-picks everything the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader missed and/or added to Lewis' book that is so beloved by many, including this current critic.  I shall save such an endeavor for a sequel: Dawn Treader Review: The Nerdy Edition.  Much could be said for much was lost in the details.  As I have mentioned with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it's the substance of the books that is in the details.  Theology is in the details.  And in this case it's the Christology or should we say - Aslanology that's in the details.  So here's some of the details I thought the new Dawn Treader movie got right, even if they did embellish a little or add here and there.  Sometimes creativity can be a license for good not ill (how do ya like that Beastie-blast from the 90's?).  Here they are in no particular order, well, except for the last point; the closing line was the piece de resistance.
  • Eustace Scrubb was brilliantly cast.  His mannerisms, his snooty, bratty arrogance and idiocy were done quite well.  Not sure how much the child actor read the book to become familiar with the character, but he pulled it off smashingly.
  • The opening scene in the Edmund's room at the Scrubb's home.  The painting moved.  The ship really did look Narnian and the water came rushing in the room only to find the children no longer in a cramped bedroom but in Narnia.  I thought this scene wonderfully captured the magic of being brought into Narnia.
  • The Dawn Treader...what a noble Narnian ship it was.  The careful attention to detail, the real boat they built to create the set - it was money well spent (unlike the $ I spent to see it in 3D - not a fan of that at all; 3D is for suckers).  Both the ship and her crew seemed to fit the part well.  Here you can tell they payed fairly close attention to the details of the book - dragon head and tail, the gilded  and green sides, her sail, even down to the Aslan icons on board. 
  • You must allow one nerdy moment though.  Eustaces' baptism was well done -albeit differently than in the book, however it was a nice parallel.  In the book it was done near/in a pool of water in the dark of night.  Eustace was unendingly overwhelmed at his dragon nature that had consumed him.  He was clawing at it and scratching.  The movie showed that briefly, but it was much more intense in the book.  He could not shed his dragon skin.  Aslan had to do that for him.  And it felt like claws - again, the movie portrayed this - but Aslan did not touch Eustace in the movie, only in the book to you get such rich intimate (let the reader understand) God-with-you details.  Now the fiery baptism in the movie was cool though too since it had some Biblical backing to it.  I'd love to know how they decided to go that route in the movie and what the conversation was that took place.  At any rate it was good they had it despite placing too much emphasis on accentuating the positive of Eustace's dragon nature.
  • Reepicheep; the song he sang: He was singing it in the beginning of the movie on the bow of the Dawn Treader.  He's the Elijah of Narnia, leaving not his cloak but his sword behind as he enters Aslan's country through the chariot of shell and water.  He's the first one to mention Aslan's country in the utter east and he's the first to taste the sweet water that signals the utter east.  Reepicheep is one of the most endearing characters in the books and I'm thankful the movies captured that well.
Where sky and water meet
Where the waves grow sweet
Doubt not, Reepicheep
To find all you seek
There is the utter East.
  • The lillies.  Easter.  Aslan.  Nothing more needs to be said.  Even the water was calm.  That a Revelation type scene complete with the wave.
  • Jill Pole is mentioned at the end...anyone heard any rumors about the Silver Chair?  They sure left it open at the end.
  • But they saved the best for last.  The quotation at the end by Aslan.  "You'll find me in your world but I go by another name...I have brought you here that knowing me here for a little while, you may know me better in your world." (pardon the paraphrase).  The correct quotation in the movie covers a multitude of Hollywood sins.  If there was one thing I was hoping they hadn't messed with it was this.  And they got the line right.  That;s the whole point of the Narnia books, pointing to Jesus.  Lewis used these books, the fantasy genre and all his creative genius to sneak past those watchful dragons.

If you think I missed anything I'd be curious to hear what you thought of the movie and where it was faithful or untrue to the book.  As I said earlier, perhaps I'll post something of a geek-squad review with more critical elements, but that's all I've got to say about that...for now.

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