Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

December 27, 2010

Narnia Purist

This is going to be a rant about the new "Voyage of the Dawn Treader Movie", and I'm sad to say that.  I was looking forward to blogging about the movie, gushing over it, giving it a glowing review.  How true to the book it was, just like "The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian" were (hereinafter "LWW" and "PC", respectively).  I cannot say that about this movie.

I am a Narnia Nerd.  If you need a question answered about Narnia, I'm your girl.  I was hooked on the Narnia books from the first page of "Magician's Nephew", which was the first one I read, in 8th grade.  Dawn Treader was my absolute fave book of the 7.  There was a time when I had it memorized from reading it so often.  I longed for a movie to be made and when I found out one was being filmed, I was ecstatic.  I have been waiting for this day for THIRTY TWO YEARS.  I never go to the movies unless it's something I must see, like Harry Potter or LWW.  I missed out on PC because it was in and out of the theatres very quickly, but I do have the DVD and it was great.  So I decided I was going to treat myself to Dawn Treader during my holiday vacation.  I went to the 1:00 p.m. matinee on a Wednesday afternoon and it was pretty empty.  It was the 3D version of the movie and I did think that those effects were cool.  Much better than the red & blue glasses we used to get "back in the day".  

I waited somewhat impatiently through scads of previews for really crappy looking movies with really crappy acting and/or animation.  I suppose their target demographic audience was 11-18 year olds, which would explain the vacuous, sophomoric stories full of bathroom humour.  

Dawn Treader started out like I'd imagined it.  The boy who played Eustace, Will Poulter, absolutely nailed the character and I thought his performance was great, esp. the way his character interacted with Reepicheep, and how he changed into a better person.  Actually, my problems with Dawn Treader don't relate to the performances at all, except that Caspian's Spanish accent from the last film disappeared into the actor's normal British one.  It was well acted, and let's face it, Ben Barnes who plays King Caspian is really, really, REALLY cute.  I'm also old enough to be his mom, much to my chagrin.....But I digress....

So the movie starts out pretty much the same as the book.  The 3 kids go through the painting and end up in the Great Eastern Ocean next to the ship.  They are brought on board and thus far, I was pleased to see how true it was to the book.  Unfortunately, that's where the two plots diverged.  I now understand how angry Stephen King was when he saw Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of "The Shining".  It's not like the book either.  Jack Torrance was a good guy who slowly went mad.  In the movie, Jack's already unhinged from the first scene.

So in the book, Caspian is sailing east to try and find the fate of the seven lords, and friends of his father, who were sent east by Caspian's evil uncle, King Miraz.  Along the way, they pick up Lucy, Edmund & their insufferably boring, snotty and prim cousin, Eustace.  The first stop for the Dawn Treader is the Lone Islands.  Some of them disembark on Felimath, because it's a nice, lonely island.  It is there that they are captured by slave traders.  But Caspian is purchased by a man who owns a small farm on Avra, b/c Caspian reminds him of his old friend.  Turns out it's the first of the 7 men, Lord Bern.  Together they conspire to march into the main town, Narrowhaven, put an end to the slave trade, get the kids and crew back, and unseat the Governor of the Islands.  Lord Bern is made Duke of the Lone Islands, a huge, happy feast is held in the travelers' honour, the Dawn Treader is repaired, watered and victualed, and sent on it's way.  

In the movie, however, Caspian is looking for the 7 swords that belonged to the 7 Lords.  When they arrive at the Lone Islands, they disembark at a deserted Narrowhaven, and then captured by the slave traders.  There is this weird smoky green mist in the water, and the Narnians witness the slavers sending Lone Islanders into this green mist in row boats.  The mist swallows them up and thus, they are sacrificed to this green mist.  A husband and his young daughter are screaming for his wife/her mom, who is sent away on the boat.  

Caspian & Edmund are tossed into the dungeon, where they discover a very old, hairy, mad Lord Bern who has been there for ages.  Meanwhile Lucy and Eustace are sold to the slavers.  Of course there's a huge battle and Caspian, Edmund, Lucy, et al, win.  Lord Bern presents Caspian with his sword, that's been hidden away in a cave.  The man, Rhince, who saw his wife sent into the mist begs Caspian to let him come with him and crew on the ship, so he can find his wife.  Once the ship is out to sea again, they discover that the man's daughter has stowed away on board as well.  

It was at this point when I really had to fight a huge urge to walk out.  I was so angry.  It was so hard not to completely flip out at this gross misinterpretation of the book.  There were no child stowaways on the Dawn Treader, and certainly no girls other than Lucy!!!  Rhince was a sailor on the ship and he wasn't searching for his wife.  There was no evil green mist that needed to be sated with boatloads of humans!!!

I decided OK, I'm gonna try to stick it out and see where this is going and how badly they veered off the plot of the book.  It only went downhill from there.

The next island in the book is Dragon Island.  The Dawn Treader had been through a 2 week storm and was battered when it limped into the harbour.  Eustace steals away from the others in order to avoid doing any work on the ship.  He climbs into the mountains where he finds tons of treasure.  He's a greedy little boy and begins to stuff his pockets with coins and jewels.  He slips a gold cuff on his arm, curls up and goes to sleep.  When he wakes up, he is horrified and realizes that his greedy acts in this magical land have made him turn into a dragon.  He flies down to the beach where the Narnians are camping, and manages to convey to them that he's Eustace.  All during the trip, up to this point, he and Reepicheep the valiant mouse had been arguing and sparring.  After Eustace turns into the dragon, Reep spends time with him, and tries to keep him from despair.  Eustace the dragon tries to help the others by lighting fires for them, and felling a new mast for the ship.  Finally one night Aslan comes to him, and strips him of his dragonish skin.  Gives the boy a fresh start as a boy.  And from that point forward, Eustace does try to be a better person.  He was a dragon for 6 days.

Instead, in the movie, the second island was the Magician's Island, with the one footed "Dufflepuds" who were invisible until they sent Lucy inside to find the spell to make them visible again.  This island was my fave in the book, and it came much later in their adventures.  It was a sunny place, with cool green trees on the lanes, and the Magician's home wasn't sinister at all.  Lucy reads the book and tries out a spell to find out what other people think of her and she overhears a conversation b/t 2 of her friends, which hurts her feelings.  Aslan comes to her and rebukes her for eavesdropping.  Instead the movie used Magician Island to explain to the others that they had to follow a Blue Star (??) to get to Ramandu's Island, where all 7 swords of the 7 Lords would have to be laid at Aslan's Table, in order to banish the evil green mist from Dark Island, or else all was doomed b/c the island would get stronger.  Lucy is also obsessed with being beautiful, so she steals a page out of the Magician's Book and stuffs it into her clothes to use later, which she does and then has a bizarre 'vision' of what happens once she's become beautiful.    

WTF?????????????  That's not even remotely like the original story!  They did touch on the beauty spell in the book, but the longer she looked at the page, the larger Aslan's snarling face got, so she turned the page.

They then combined Goldwater/Deathwater Island with Dragon Island, where Eustace becomes the dragon, and stays a dragon, for a good long time.  It's ridiculous.  There was indeed a Dark Island in the book, but it was only another place that the voyagers visited. It was the place where your dreams came true.....the dreams you have at night, including all the scary ones.  They rescued one of the 7 Lords from Dark Island.  As they try to sail away, Lord Drinian and Caspian can't navigate out.  Lucy was up in the crow's nest and whispers to Aslan to please send help.  An albatross appears and guides the ship out of the darkness.  They continued on.

The last island in the book is Ramandu's Island, where they discover the last 3 of the 7 Lords, in an enchanted sleep at a banquet table full of food, Aslan's Table.  Ramandu is an old man, who used to be a star.  Like a star in the sky.  He retired to the island and explains that they are at the end of their journey.  The last of the 7 are there and in an enchanted sleep b/c they tried to attack each other, and no violence can be committed at Aslan's Table.  They invite the Narnians to eat, and explain that they are to go further to Aslan's Country and leave one behind in order to break the enchanted sleep.  As that is Reepicheep's dream, to see Aslan's Country, he is the one who will be left behind.  Ramandu's daughter is also a star, and at dawn, the 2 of them sing the sunrise up, and from the sun flow hundreds of white birds who eat the remains of the feast.  One bird drops a red hot fireberry from the sun into Ramandu's mouth.  It makes him younger each day until he can be reborn again as a star.  Ramandu's daughter and Caspian take a liking to each other and he promises to return.

In the movie, I can't recall seeing Ramandu, but his daughter showed up as the glowing blue star and points to Dark Island, which is apparently right off the coast, and tells Caspian that the last of the 7 swords must be retrieved and brought back to Aslan's Table.  There was a huge battle at Dark Island with a sea monster, and Eustace is still a dragon during this epic scene.  He ends up taking the last sword in the back, crashing onto Ramadu's Island, being changed back into a boy by Aslan, and placing the last sword at the Table which banishes the evil and Dark Island and the sacrificed boatloads of people reappear on the water.  Again, I say, WTF??????????????????????

I re-read the book in about 3 hours after I got home.  I am just stunned at how different the movie was.  I guess because the voyage in the book didn't contain the epic battles that LWW and PC did, they had to create some kind of evil menace with whom they could battle, to inject some excitement into the plot.  Because the book really is the most pleasant of the series.  Except for the minor skirmish in Narrowhaven, their initial apprehension on Magician's Island before the Dufflepuds became visible and the nightmares at Dark Island, there are no battles, no conflicts, no need for sword fights and swinging on ropes and no real danger.  OK there was the sea serpent, but even that was changed in the movie to be WAY more destructive & terrifying than the one in the book, and it was also depicted as happening at Dark Island.

On one hand I'm sorry I saw it.  I'm so pissed that I wish I had the money to remake it to be true to the book.  That said, I am still hoping that the last 4 books are made into movies, just for the special effects.  I would like to see how Eustace evolves in The Silver Chair.  On the other hand, I am afraid they might ruin the stories that I hold sacred.

So as a Narnia purist, I cannot recommend seeing this movie.  If you've read the books, and you loved Dawn Treader, this movie will be a huge let down.  


  1. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Oh shoot! As a family we have read all the Narnia books and listened to all the radio play versions. We enjoyed them both immensely. There's nothing like sitting around the campfire at night, amongst the trees, hearing the water ebb, and listening to stories of Narnia.Fantastic.
    Our plan was to go see the movie tomorrow night. It sounds like they really messed this one up. Like you, this was also our favorite in the series. It sounds like a completely different story.
    Well, I think we'll still see it. My son is anxiously waiting to see. I'll just have to appreciate it as quality Mother/Son time and try not to let the movie ruin it for us.

  2. I never did read the books, but some of them were dramatised/serialised on the BBC some years back, and I enjoyed them.

    The ruination of a favourite book by those filming it really annoys me. No examples leap to mind, but I've certainly spent many angry hours shouting at screens that dare to show things wrong.

  3. I feel this way about so many cinematic adaptations. They can be (and often are) pale,shoddy visions of well-written and engaging books. "Queen of the Damned" was so FUBAR'd that I have NEVER watched it again. The book was so rich in detail,so interesting a read and they just....twisted it. I know it's not a classic like ANY Lewis work,but it still pissed me off.

  4. Anonymous2:58 PM

    Can't say I've read these books, but I will say that this is just another example of Hollywood bastardizing a film in the name of "poetic licensing" to get the people in the theatres. It's just plain wrong. If you're going to do a film adaptation of a book, then bloody well do it. Straying off the story is an insult to the author of the book...and the audience who have read the books. I'm so sorry you have been disappointed, but that's Hollywood for you. They don't call it "Tinsel Town" for nothing. I am a huge fan of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and was very happy with all of the films. I'm eagerly anticipating "The Hobbit" in the years to come.

  5. Anonymous6:44 AM

    I LOVED the Narnia books but have never bothered with the movies, probably because they'll never match the 'pictures' in my head.

    Drives me insane when Hollyweird decides it has to 'improve' on something. Take the movie 'Elizabeth; The Golden Age'. It's a matter of historical fact that, on the eve of the Spanish Armada, Queen Lizzie gave a rousing speech to the English troops. This apparently wasn't 'good' enough for the movie scriptwriters so they invented something for her to say and messed around with events. OK, it wasn't a documentary, but it infuriated me SO much, I watched the movie once, and never again....guess I'd better stay away from the visual Narnia stuff ;0)

  6. I love to read and have yet to start all the Narnia books. I'm presently finishing several book series but will definitely love to start Narnia. I've seen the movies but I'm sure the book is very much detailed. Thanks for the tips, I will surely ask you questions if ever.

  7. Anonymous5:07 PM

    JoJo you were so right on about the Dawn Treader.I got a little excited initially when Edmund and Lucy were introduced to the crew but my excitement was short lived.

    Eustace's character was true to form and well acted.Too bad we didn't get to see him actually turn into the dragon.

    I could see how people would have gotten caught up in the whole fantasy world thing but I think it lacked deep dialog or conversation. The story was completely off. Too bad.

  8. Sorry, I never was a Narnia fan - brought over to sci-fi at a tender young age!
    So I've read more about Narnia in yr post here than I ever knew... But I did take Z to see LWW, it was a decent family flick ;-)