Latest Narnia Film: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is possibly my favorite of the Narnia books.

At least, it is the one I've reread the most often.

Consequently, I was rather nervous about seeing the movie. This is a book that screams MINISERIES! Trying to turn a mini-series into a feature film is fraught with problems.

With Dawn Treader, the best solution, of course, is to make Eustace's story the main story--rather as Edmund's story became the main story in LW&W. However, the Chronicles is an ongoing franchise. Getting rid of Susan and Peter was risky enough (and kudos to the writers for bringing them back for cameo parts). Forcing the audience's attention away from characters they've already invested in--Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian--is asking too much. Like with Prince Caspian (which I quite enjoyed), the story script has to be jiggled to move the invested-in-characters to the front of the action. With Dawn Treader, this involves a lot of jiggling.

So I went with a great deal of trepidation.

To some extent, my trepidation was merited. The film is not as strongly crafted as the BBC series (although the overall look of the film is much better). On the other hand, watching the film is a lesson in script-writing. How do you intertwine a set of disparate adventures keeping the same characters in the forefront while adding in the much more interesting arc of a totally new character?

Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) is the result, and it isn't half-bad. The context/ambiance for every island has been almost entirely stripped away, including some of my favorite scenes and lines; the visits to the islands have been re-ordered; and the quest that now propels the action forward is pretty weak. However, the story does move in one direction, Eustace's story isn't completely sacrificed (and even made me cry at one point), and some truly stunning images/problems from the book have been preserved. The addition of two unnecessary characters is confusing but understandable.

Now--about the White Witch. I actually don't have a problem with her showing up over and over and over again. For one thing, well, geez, if Tilda Swinton will keep saying, "Yes," you'd better use her. Second, these first three films have been, to an enormous extent, Edmund's. Yeah, they have. Go back and watch them all, starting with LW&W. The first movie's problem revolves around Edmund; the second movie's problem revolves around Peter and Caspian with Edmund playing the pivotal role of "guy who sets everyone straight at the end"; in this third film, the problem is shared by Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace with Edmund taking point. Edmund's bĂȘte noir is the White Witch. Hence, it makes perfect sense for her to show up over and over and over again.

Will she show up in the next movie? She should. At this point, they might as well keep her until The Last Battle. (Will they do The Last Battle? The BBC chickened out. I wouldn't blame the current producers if they did as well. On the other hand, why kill the franchise preciptiously?)

Of course, The Silver Chair doesn't appear to be in production yet. I hope this is simply a sign that the company is taking a breather. The Silver Chair is a made-for-order feature film/quest story. And they should bring back Will Poulter as Scrubb. He does a great job in Dawn Treader. Hopefully, our beloved Pevensies will make cameo appearances, but Scrubb plus Jill should be able to carry the film. Oh, and the White Witch, of course. (On the other hand, the choice for Puddleglum could make or break the film.)

To sum up, since the beginning of this franchise I've known that there was no way the producers/writers could make me completely happy. Pleasantly enough, unlike Spiderman 3, Law & Order:SVU, and Dexter Season 4, the third film hadn't killed the dream. I may not agree with all the producers/writers' choices, but I still feel like they care. I say, "Take the money and make another, better film!"


Joe said...

The nature of Voyage makes it difficult to make a movie without making it really boring, which is the problem with the BBC version (which gets VERY boring at the last third.)

I thought the movie well done, but not great.

One thing about these movies so far is that the casting has been simply fabulous. Not only do they get the look right, but the kids are actually good actors!

(There was one problem: Georgia Henley as Lucy is adorably cute. Anna Popplewell as Susan is meh which made the jealousy scenes not work as well as they could have.)

With casting in mind, Silver Chair has a real challenge. Jill Poll is my favorite Narnia character. She has to be another Lucy, but can't be Lucy.

More importantly, Puddleglum must be both cast correctly and handled with care. They should go back in time and get Tom Baker. Geoffrey Palmer would have been great when younger. Alun Armstrong would be good, though maybe also too old. Any other ideas?

Kate Woodbury said...

Johnny Depp has been suggested (in some random chat room I ran across).

My thoughts: well--maybe. As Captain Sparrow, he would sort of work. As the creepy Willy Wonka--yikes!!

And even Captain Sparrow is too hyper (I think Johnny Depp has the skill; I just don't know if the directors have the skill to call on his skills and not just type-cast him). David Tennant is also too hyper.

I think the actor needs to be exceedingly dry and exceedingly mellow with a good range. I thought of Geoffrey Palmer too but, like you say, the age is off.

Sheldon--Sheldon (Jim Parsons) could do it! Oh, I feel brilliant.

Though he's a little untried at drama.

I'm completely stumped on Jill. All the young British stars I know, like Emma Watson, are slightly too old. I'll have to watch something with Will Poulter and see which young actresses, if any, he's acted opposite to.

Joe said...

Hugh Laurie!

Quite seriously.

Kate Woodbury said...

And Stephen Fry could play one of the giants!

Hugh Laurie definitely has the skill, demeanor, etc. In the same age bracket, what about Rowan Atkinson!?

Joe said...

I wrote Rowan at first, but decided that he's a little too comical. Even if he could act the part, his reputation precedes him.