Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movie Review: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Today after church, Lynda suggested we drive past the Carmike 6 Cinema that we pass and see what time The Voyage of the Dawn Treader would be playing. Unfortunately, we were already past the drive to the shopping center when she suggested it. So I turned around in the Dairy Queen parking lot up the road, went back, and we learned it was to start at 12:15 PM. It was 12:20, which meant all we had missed was dancing hot dogs or previews of movies we will never watch. I paid for two senior tickets at matinee prices, and we arrived in the theatre before all the previews were done, but not too much before.

The Dawn Treader was good, much better than Prince Caspian (which we saw on TV only). We missed The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe both at the cinema and on TV. Of all the Narnia books, which I never read until adulthood, I liked The Dawn Treader best. It had the best imagery of them all, and seemed to have the least fill in stuff. The wall of water at the end of the book has often crossed my mind, as has the city of people underwater. I had forgotten all about poor Eustace Scrubbs—not the name, but his becoming a dragon. After seeing the movie, the cleansing of his dragon nature by Aslan came immediately to mind.

But back to the movie. Obviously it was not totally faithful to the book, but it did a good job of putting into pictures what C.S. Lewis must have been trying to paint with words. The details of the ship, and of ship life, and of sailing on open seas were quite good. The different islands they went to and the quest to find the seven missing lords. The island with the gold dump was quite well depicted. Oh, and the mansion that Lucy goes into and finding the book of spells to read from, that was great.

But I do have a little fault to find. It's been about ten years since I read VotDT, and obviously I don't remember it all that well (except the great imagery). But one difference in the message of the book doesn't seem to come through. Or rather, one message I get from the movie I don't remember in the book. And I may be reading too much into it. Narnia is overcome by evil, or at least the island realm of Narnia is. To break evil's hold, they must find the seven swords of the seven lost lords and lay them on Aslan's table. Only then will the spell of evil be broken.

To find the swords, they must go where the lords went, to this island and that one, and overcome evil along the way. Part of the journey of the three children of Adam and Eve is overcoming their own obsessions: beauty for Lucy, power for Edmund, and I guess greed (or maybe self-indulgence) for Eustace. This they do, and they fight evil, but none of that overcomes the evil. The evil is overcome by the magic of the swords, once they touch each other on the table. It seems to me that is the wrong message to send. Evil is not overcome by magic, but by the constant application of good.

As I say, maybe I'm trying too hard to figure out a message from the movie, rather than be entertained. The three children are faithful to the task laid before them, and only through their faithfulness can the magic be applied. Eustace goes through the biggest character arc, from a sniveling twit worthy of his name to a boy one might want to know and be with. The removal of his dragon nature in the movie was much less dramatic than in the book, and seems much less of a metaphor for Christian conversion. I seem to remember that the book included Aslan ripping at the dragon flesh with his claws, and the cleansing thereby was much more significant in the book than in the movie.

This review is late relative to the movie's appearance in theatres. At many places it's already been removed and replaced by various banal comedies that appear designed to entertain our sexual nature rather than our intellect. But, if you haven't seen it, and can find it, by all means go see it. Then read the book soon after. I may do so this week.

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