>Dawn Treader navigates new waters without sinking

>The latest movie in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series faithfully represents some important aspects from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in a film full of visual delight and exciting action. But uncompromising Narnia fans should be aware that the Dawn Treader takes some unexpected plot tacks by sailing into entirely new waters.

The movie’s special effects are excellent, with realistically undulating waves and a believably hideous sea serpent. Viewers can choose between 3D and 2D versions, but I don’t think the extra expense for 3D is necessarily worth it. I noticed 3D effects more during the previews than during the movie.

Modern movie viewers would probably not see enough excitement in Caspian’s desire to find seven lost lords, so movie makers interjected a quest for the swords of the lords, which all must be laid on Aslan’s table in order to destroy an evil green mist.

The interjection of the sword quest is a definite departure from the straight course of the book, but it can be viewed as demonstrating some biblical truths. The green mist affects people’s minds and actions, influencing them to choose sinful behaviors. Characters must exhibit great strength of will to resist its temptations. The swords are wonderful weapons that can be used wisely or foolishly. Although the swords are valuable and useful, characters must lay them self-sacrificially on Aslan’s table. I see biblical parallels on multiple levels, which enables me to accept the quest with little dissent.

If viewers can live with these plot injections, the other plot discrepancies seem minor. Most changes obviously have been made to condense the story and make it more exciting.

I’ve come to expect that my favorite novels will not translate accurately from my imagination to the big screen. And I’ve finally figured out what makes the difference between changes I don’t mind and those I mind very much.

I understand that action is the cinema king. The maxim for writing novels is, “show, don’t tell,” but the canon for making movies is, “show, and sell.” The visually exciting movie sells more tickets and garners more profits.

Since I understand that basic Hollywood principle, I don’t mind seeing a plot manipulated to maximize action. So what if some events are condensed or changed to create more suspense? I don’t mind as long as the events reflect the truth conveyed in the novel.

What I do mind is when movie makers mess with truth and character. I minded very much the introduction of conflict between Peter and Caspian and the introduction of a romance between Caspian and Susan in Prince Caspian, because these things twisted the character of the characters, which in turn twisted the truth. And another important writing maxim (even, and perhaps especially, for fiction) is, “Write what’s true.”

The Dawn Treader movie depicts many truths from the book. Lucy longs to be as beautiful as her older sister, Susan, and the movie aptly conveys her struggle and the ensuing realization of her self worth. Some characters introduced into the narrative earn a place by helping demonstrate this. Although Eustace’s life as a dragon differs between book and movie, it remains a character altering experience with Aslan removing the “old man” or dragon as the case may be. Reepicheeps’ friendship with Eustace the dragon as well as Reep’s personal quest to find Aslan’s land are retained in the movie.

The best part of the film is its excellent conclusion, which lifts accurate dialogue directly from the book in, what was to me, a surprising move from modern movie makers.

As always, my advice is to read the book first. And don’t let the plot changes keep you from enjoying this delightful movie.

© Glenda Mathes

This movie review appeared on pages 47 & 50 in the January 12, 2011 issue of Christian Renewal.

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