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The voyage of the Dawn Treader

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  • Steve Hayes
    I went to see the film of The voyage of the Dawn Treader last night, and today finished reading the book for the fifth time, and noted some of the differences
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2010
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      I went to see the film of The voyage of the Dawn Treader last night, and
      today finished reading the book for the fifth time, and noted some of the
      differences between the film and the book.

      I hadn't seen the previous two Narnia films in the current series, perhaps
      for the same reason as I never saw (and don't want to see) the films of Lord
      of the Rings, because I don't want the film to interfere with the pictures in
      my head when I read the books. But The voyage of the Dawn Treader is
      different. It isn't set in Narnia itself, and is more like a series of short

      In the prepublicity leading up the the film release there was some talk of
      the film removing all the "Christian" elements of the book, and interviews
      with the producers in various publications, in which they said that they
      weren't Christian, and so hadn't handled it as a Christian story.

      Well, I don't think C.S. Lewis himself regarded it as a specifically
      Christian story, though it is, of course, informed by his Christian
      worldview. The most overtly Christian thing about it is at the end, where
      Aslan says that he is known in our world by another name, and the children
      returning to our world need to learn to know him by that name, and that was
      retained in the film. What disappeared in the film was a lot of the
      theological nuances, and as it was written as a children's story, they
      wouldn't be apparent to most children on a first reading either. Perhaps
      seeing the film might encourage childrent to read the book.

      One of the things that stood out for me was that Reepicheep came across as a
      much more sympathetic character in the film than in the book. The first
      couple of times I read it I found him rather tiresome, and sympathised with
      Caspian, when Reepicheep said to him, 'Your Majesty promised to be a good
      lord to the Talking Beasts of Narnia.'

      'Talking beasts, yes,' said Caspian. 'I said nothing about beasts that never
      stop talking.'

      And perhaps something of the film lingered when I reread the book, because I
      saw Reepicheep in a new light.

      The film handled Eustace Scrubb fairly well, and showed his change from an
      unpleasant character to a somewhat improved character fairly well, though
      some of this was lost because in the film most of the changes took place in
      his dragon form, and not his boy form. Edmund and Lucy, however, appeared
      much older in the film than they do in the book. Perhaps it was difficult to
      handle their appearing to be older while in Narnia and reverting to the
      chronology of this world on their return.

      One of the things I found interesting was the things that the film added to
      the book, and those that it removed, or emphasised less.

      One of the first additions was people from the Lone Islands disappearing into
      the mist, and a girl from the Lone Islands stowing away on the Dawn Treader
      and becoming a kind of companion to Lucy, though her role is not clear, and
      it is not helped by her somewhat wooden-faced performance.

      What gets lost in that part of the story, partly because of the changes and
      spurious additions, is the point that comes out strongly in Lewis's narrative
      -- that bureaucrats who pay more attention to statistics and economic trends
      than to people tend to lose sight of justice, and are unworthy of their
      office. I can't help wondering if this was perhaps a bow to political
      correctness on the part of the film's producers, in a time when governments
      keep telling us that cuts in spending have to be made because of the
      statistics, regardless of the effect that they might have on people.

      The order of events is also changed somewhat. In one sense this does not
      matter very much, since each episode on the voyage, each island or
      archipelago visited is independent of the others. But in the book there is a
      progression. At the first stop, at the Lone Islands, the voyagers are faced
      by mainly human evil - slave traders and a corrupt bureaucracy.

      In the book the next stop is at the dragon island, where Eustace is briefly
      transformed into a dragon, and there, of course, magic enters the picture,
      certainly in the actual transformation. But it is also human evil, in that it
      is linked to Eustace's dragonish thoughts. The actual transformation is
      handled quite well in the film. Where it is different, and not improved, is
      that while in the book Eustace is transformed back into a boy before they
      leave the island, in the film it is moved much later, and Eustace stays in
      dragon form for longer, I suspect because the film producers wanted him to
      fight the sea-serpent in his dragon form rather than his human form.

      The sea-serpent episode is also moved closer to the end of the film, and
      that, to me, is one of its greatest weaknesses. It tends to turn the film
      into a B-movie like Anaconda, and I got the impression that the producers
      simply could not resist the temptation to play with Anaconda-like special
      effects in 3D, with close-ups of the lunging head that kept snapping but
      never seemed to actually do any significant damage. In the book it is the boy
      Eustace, rather than the dragon, who attacks the sea-serpent, his first
      significant (though ineffectual) act of bravery in the story.

      The other significant addition in the film is the quest to collect the swords
      of the seven missing lords, and to bring them together on Aslan's table, and
      the change in Eustace is marked by him being the one to put the last sword
      there, which is supposed to make everything right.

      What is missing from the film is Ramandu.

      Ramandu's daughter makes an appearance, and she is a star, and goes back to
      being one, instead of marrying Caspian (though the film does show the
      attraction he feels towards her). But Ramandu, though mentioned, does not
      appear at all, and this is where some of the theological nuances get lost in
      the film.

      'In our world,' said Eustace, 'a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'
      'Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it
      is made of. And in this world you have already met a star; for I think you
      have been with Koriakin.'
      'Is he a retired star, too?' said Lucy.
      'Well, not quite the same,' said Ramandu. 'It was not quite as a rest
      that he was set to govern the Duffers. You might call it a punishment. He
      might have shone for thousands of years more in the southern winter sky if
      all had gone well.'
      'What did he do, Sir?' asked Caspian.
      'My son,' said Ramandu, 'it is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what
      faults a star can commit.'

      And so Lewis hints, briefly, at the possibility of the repentance of fallen
      angels. And while the Bible, and other books, like the Book of Enoch, speaks
      of the sons of gods marrying the daughters of men, Lewis has a son of Adam
      marrying a daughter of the gods. But the film skips this episode.

      I suppose one of my disappointments, with both the film and the books, is the
      sea-serpant episode. In the film the sea-serpent is reduced to a lunging,
      snapping, special-effects reptile, with no real significance for the story.
      But in the book, while the sea-serpent could have had some Rahab-like
      characteristics (cf Isaiah 55:9-11), Lewis makes it merely dim-witted.

      See also: http://su.pr/2qwWRH

      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Web: http://hayesfam.bravehost.com/litmain.htm
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