My family and I have been looking forward to the latest Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for months. We read the book last week, and then watched the movie on Saturday.
For those who haven’t read the Dawn Treader, here’s the story. Lucy and her brother Edmund are forced to stay with their aunt, uncle, and dreadful cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb, a name he “almost deserved,” while the rest of their family travels to America. As Lucy gazes at a “Narnian” painting of a ship at sea that hangs in Aunt Alberta’s guest room, the three children are pulled in and find themselves in a Narnian ocean. They are promptly rescued by the crew of the Dawn Treader, which happens to be the ship of King Caspian himself. The rest of the story tells of their adventures at sea as the crew searches for the seven missing lords of Narnia.
The movie follows the book fairly well. The changes are mostly not for the better, but a few help the movie along. Following are some examples of each. Beware: possible spoilers lie ahead.
In the book, the mission of the Dawn Treader is to find the seven lords and seek adventure. In the movie, the crew has the same purpose, but the focus is on defeating an evil green mist that originates from Dark Island. Dark Island is in the book, but not the evil green mist. The mist is always lurking about, especially while people are sleeping or looking in the other direction. And it’s evil indeed. Not only can it tempt Lucy to vanity and Edmund to greed, but it swallows entire boatloads of people. Even the white witch herself appears in the green mist, making her a rather green, but still temptingly beautiful, white witch.
In this film, Lucy is overly concerned with her looks and longs to be like her older and more beautiful sister Susan, while Edmund is tempted again by the green white witch. And it is he, rather than Caspian, who is drawn by the water that turns lords into gold. This, though minor, is a change that is quite disappointing to me. The Edmund of the book had not forgotten his lesson and was too wise for such a temptation.
Our favorite mouse Reepicheep is still great. He’s more patient with the Eustace of the movie, perhaps because this Eustace doesn’t swing him about by the tail.
A few of the changes make for a more exciting film. Lucy, while reading the magician’s book, calls down snow which covers the room. And Eustace remains a dragon for most of the trip, which makes him quite useful. In fact, it is Eustace the dragon who defeats the sea serpent. This scene, where a really terrifying monster of a serpent attacks the Dawn Treader until it gets roasted by a fire breathing Eustace, is probably too much for young children.
The Christian imagery, though toned down, is still present. The children don’t find Aslan in the form of a lamb offering them roasted fish on the beach as they do in the book, but he is still there, humble and fierce, telling them that he will always be with them. Reep’s voyage into Aslan’s country, from where he will never return, but where the children will someday go, causes a lump in my throat. I’m reminded of the end of the Pilgrim’s Progress, and I find it the perfect ending of a very enjoyable voyage.