Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader review

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Oh boy. All those months and years of waiting over at last. I woke up yesterday morning. . . after a minute or two of semi-consciousness I suddenly remembered with a thrill - "We're going to see the Dawn Treader today!!!"

This was the first time I'd been to the movies in a couple of years - we haven't had a working cinema in town for a looong time - and it was also the first time I'd seen a movie in 3D, all of which added of course to my excitement.

I'm assuming 90% of my readers are familiar with the plot (and if you're not, go and read the book), so I won't bother with a synopsis.

I put on my 3D glasses (for the very first time). I found them very uncomfortable - they kept rubbing against one of my ears. I sat in between my 9-year-old sister (the youngest of my siblings to be allowed to come) and my dad. The lights went out. . . a trailer for Megamind. . . then the film BEGAN. The five-year wait was over at last! (VODT is one my favourite books in the Narnia Chronicles, so I'd been looking forward to this since LWW came out back in 2005.)

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I so enjoyed the first few minutes. One thing that struck me right away was an undercurrent of poignancy and sadness that seemed to pervade the film. I suppose it was nostalgia, combined with the knowledge hovering in the back of my mind that this may well be the last Narnia film to make it to the screen. I've grown to know and love these characters through the earlier movies and the books, and if this is indeed to be the last film in the last film in the franchise, then this is farewell to all of these beloved characters and this magical world - on the big screen, at least. Hence the tinge of bittersweet-ness for me.

The second thing that struck me as I watched the first few minutes - Will Poulter as Eustace Clarence Scrubb = PERFECT. What a terrific little actor he is! Hm, I say "little"; in reality he is only about a year younger than me! Anyway, I knew he would be very very good. In all honesty, he outshone Georgie and Skandar in all his scenes with them. What more can I say - the role of Eustace is most certainly in safe hands if Fox does decide to go ahead and make The Silver Chair and The Last Battle.

Ben Barnes as Prince - I mean, King - Caspian! Wow! I was a bit disappointed with him, both in terms of acting ability and attractiveness in Prince Caspian. Dropping the fake tan, fake hair extensions and fake Spanish accent and growing some facial hair seems to to have done wonders - both in terms of acting ability and attractiveness. :P Ben wasn't given a whole lot to work with - I mean, the main focus of the film seemed to be on Eustace and perhaps Lucy, and only to a lesser extent on Caspian. But there were a couple of wonderful, really moving scenes involving Ben Barnes as Prince - I mean, King - Caspian. (Goodness, I'm beginning to sound like Flora Finching - "Dear Arthur - Doyce and Clennam much more proper".)

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I think we were all wondering what impact the changing of the reins from Andrew Adamson to Michael Apted (and from Disney to Fox) would have. Well - VODT certainly has a very different feel to it than the other two movies. Much as I enjoyed them both, LWW and PC felt a little like Lord of the Rings-wannabes. They were big, showy, mega-budget fantasy films (PC was one of the most expensive movies ever made). They both - particularly PC, perhaps - seemed to scream "Look at me, I'm a Big-Budget Fantasy Epic!" VODT - with a much lower budget, and a new team behind it - is more modest in this regard. It's less concerned about being a Big Fantasy Film, and more concerned about just getting on with telling the story. It's definitely more character-driven.

Some of us were worried about whether the special effects in VODT would suffer from the drastically reduced budget. We shouldn't have worried. Yes, there's less of a show of effects than there was in PC, but there weren't any jarringly bad effects, either, and the sea serpent and the Dark Island were truly scary and impressive.

Then there was the big question hanging heavily on the minds of all Narnia fans - how faithful will it be to the book? I deliberately stayed away from many of the articles, interviews, and video clips (except the trailer) in the lead up to VODT. With the first two Narnia movies, I devoured every news snippet and juicy tidbit I could find related to each movie. . . but of course this partly spoiled the actual movie-going experience for me when it came time to actually see the film. So, this time I restrained myself, and as a result I was rather hazy on what changes or additions from the book had been made before I saw the movie. I knew there had been some changes made, and I'd read something about a "green mist" in a couple of the reviews I'd read, but other than that, I had no clear idea of what I headed for.

Well - I won't spoil things too much for anyone who hasn't seen the film - but there were some MAJOR CHANGES! I had thought all along that they would have to change and condense the plot a little, otherwise the movie would seem too episodic - they visit one island, do such and such, then it's off to another island, then another. . . but I wasn't prepared for the somewhat radical changes made here! Then again, perhaps they're no more drastic than the changes made for PC. I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm so strongly attached to the VODT book - more so than I am with either LWW or PC. It captured my imagination more than almost any other book in the series, and I've probably re-read more than any of the others.

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More than the plot changes, I think what threw me off was the film's visualisation of the book. Like I said, I have read and re-read VODT more times than I can remember, and I had a very clear picture in my head of what each place, each island, each landscape - err, perhaps seascape would be a more apt term - would look like. Well, the way they've imagined each place for the film is, in most cases, completely different to how I had imagined it! Of course I realise that everyone is going to have their own vision of the book, but. . . in many cases they apparently didn't even take much inspiration from Pauline Baynes' beautiful illustrations for the books. Where are the masks in the hall of Coriakin's House? Ramandu's island looks reminiscent of how Aslan's country is described in the book. . . I won't go on nitpicking. It's all still beautiful and impressive to look at, just - generally different to how it's described or illustrated in the book.

I touched upon plot changes above. They've invented a major plot device - bigger and more far-reaching than I had thought it would be. Once again, I can understand why they did this. It adds more suspense and cohesion, and turns VODT from a rollicking, colourful adventure to a classic battle of good vs. evil, building to a big climax at the end. They haven't given up the sense of wonder and adventure altogether, but it is now only one element of the story.

The whole green mist/dark island thing could have seemed a bit silly and contrived, but the fact that the most important battles are internal rather than physical make things much more intriguing. It is still a journey of temptation and personal growth and discovery for each of the characters, just as it is in the book.

Well, I might try to wrap this post up now. I don't want to give away too many plot details, but after you've seen it (or if you've seen it already), please come here and discuss! Plus I want to get this post published tonight, so this will have to do for now.

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Verdict: yes, this is in some ways different from the book. But it's still Narnia. It's still the Dawn Treader. The magic is still there. And this an EXCELLENT family film for ages 8-10+ or so. It really has grown on me over the 30 hours or so since I watched it. I came out of the cinema feeling feeling a twinge of disappointment over the changes from the book (or should I say the deviations from how I thought they should have made the movie ;-) mixed with pure enjoyment and that hint of sadness that I mentioned - I didn't cry during the movie, but I was not too far from it.

One more thing - like I said at the top, I saw this in 3D. I almost wish I hadn't. The 3D effects were cool, but not exceptional - you could tell that the film wasn't shot with the intention of being shown in 3D, and wasn't converted to 3D until later in the production process. I don't think the compromise in colour was worth the 3D experience.

16 comments:

Traxy said...

Thanks for the review! This is one of those movies that we just "have" to see at the cinema, so looking forward to it! :) With the plot device, I'm guessing the shiny woman on the picture? I really don't remember her from the book. It was a while ago since I last read them, admittedly, but I have read the series a few times over the years.

The actor playing Eustace does strike me as a good choice. He's great! :)

I hope they'll at least make the Silver Chair as well. Those are the major ones that tend to get done when it comes to adaptations. The rest are a bit "meh" as books go. When I read them, I normally start with Magician's Nephew, get bored half-way through and stop, move on to LWW and read the rest of the series and then back to the first one again. Horse and his Boy I've never seen the point of, it feels very un-Narnia and more "let's take a story from the Bible and re-tell it in Narnia!" rather than just using elements from the Bible. And the Last Battle one really rubs me the wrong way. But yeah, LWW, PC, VDT have been made and I'm hoping for SC as well. :)

Hopefully it's available in 2D as well. I really don't see the hype with 3D. While it might be cool and "something different" I really don't feel the need to see a whole movie like that. Sounds like a headache-inducer more than anything!

Elinor Dashwood said...

Thank you for the review! I can't wait to watch this! But I have to wait until it's on DVD. :(

Miss Laurie said...

Thank you so much for this review! It's the first review of VOTDT that I've read and I really enjoyed your "fangirl" take on everything. Dawn Treader is my second favorite Narnia book (after Silver Chair) and I'm really looking forward to seeing it soon! I've almost finished re-reading the book in preparation and might see it Christmas Eve with my family. I'm so glad they got Eustace right, he's my favorite! How was Reepicheep? I hope he still gets his little boat. He's such a courageous soul!
Thanks again! :)

Lady Helen Mar said...

I really want to read this, but I have not seen the movie yet (going on Saturday with my cousins!), and I do not want any (more) spoilers. I am trying to psyche myself down so I will not be as disappointed as I was with Prince Caspian. (I am a book purist, but I do allow 'some' leeway.) I am quite excited and trying hard not to be, which makes for some very interesting feelings as the time draws nearer. Cannot wait to read your thoughts though(after the movie)!
Through Christ,
LH

The Editrix said...

Traxy, the woman in the picture is only one small part of this big plot-device-thingy! She's Ramandu's daughter from the book. They've expanded her role, given her a name (Liliandil), and left out Ramandu himself altogether!

Elinor, I sympathise with you. :-(

Laurie, yes he does get his little boat. :-) Glad you enjoyed the review!

Lady Helen - well, be prepared for quite a lot of leeway!

Deanne said...

I had started to read the book to Isaac and Noah in preparation for the movie, but because we ended up seeing it pre-release I didn't get through it- and I am glad because I think it would have spoiled it. I have gone back and reread it this week and see why they made it the way they did. I liked how they made it more of a quest to set things right rather than just wandering from island to island looking for the lords.

I think if you take on its own merits rather than a comparison to the book it was fantastic and I just loved Eustace - he was brilliant!
JMHO

The Editrix said...

I think you're right, Deanne - I've read the book twice in recent months. . . if I hadn't, perhaps I would have had an easier time just accepting the movie for what it was!

Vellvin said...

It was such a great movie!!
I agree that the islands were a bit different but still, I think they were really good!
I think Eustace was Brillant too!
And Reepicheep was really aswell.
♥Love Vellvin.

Vellvin said...

Oh, and thay are planning to make all of the films with the silver chair next then THe Horse and his boy, The Magicans Nephew and last of course The last battle.

Vellvin.

The Editrix said...

I sure hope they do! Where did you find that out, Vellvin??

Anonymous said...

Miss Laurie, i personally didn’t like Simon Pegg as Reepicheep though no one else had a problem with him (although i do think that Eddie Izzard is THE Reepicheep), and theoretically they kept his coracle (boat) but not really, it’s just there at the end of the world, you don’t know where it comes from or anything. Altogether it was very good.
-Briana

Andrew said...

I was interested to see what you thought of the 3D experience. I have seen a few now, Beowulf was the first. I can't remember what was next, but after that I saw Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Despicable Me. The only one I think was worth it was Avatar. I find it a strain in the other movies.

Also in theory they are supposed to compensate for the loss of color by boosting everything. But I don't think it works.

Prince Caspian is out here (South Africa) to. I am going to watch it this weekend. I was not sure if we should watch it in 2D or 3D. I think it will be 2D now.

I really hope this is not the last movie.

The Editrix said...

I hope so, too! Hope you enjoy the movie. :-)

Andrew said...

Ok seen it now.

@Miss Laurie
Yes he has a little boat.

I thought the special effects were very good.

The last time I read the book was about 7 years ago so I actually remember details of the plot. But I was wondering how they were going to make this book into a movie. So I think they had to have a significant change to the book.

I went into the movie with low expectations for the reasons above and because of the last movie. But I really enjoyed the movie. I think they got the ending just right. The part I love about the book is Reepicheep, the smallest, seemingly most insignificant subject being the bravest, most valient and faithful of them all.

The part I love about the movie version of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is they way they got the last line in. Something like, "He is not a tame lion. But he is Good". I love that they did not remove a very important message i.e. God is good, but he is not to be controlled, shaped according to our whims. In this movie they got the ending just right again. Aslan says that in our world he goes by a different name and that we come to Narnia so that you may know him better in our own world. That would have been so easy to just remove and yet they didn't.

The Editrix said...

Indeed, bravo to them for not cutting that line!

I also think the ending was very well done. They really got those last few minutes right.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I was just thinking the same thing about Will Pouter: he is an excellent as well as a charismatic actor--and I'd love to see him reprise his role as Eustace in a movie adaptation of The Silver Chair! But I guess they won't be making one? =(

And I have to disagree with you about Ben Barnes! =P I liked him much better as Prince Caspian (in terms of both acting ability and attractiveness!) and thought that his kingly self needed a lot of work. When Drinian roars in assent to Caspian's big motivational speech, he sounds much kinglier! And I kind of missed the fake Spanish accent. LOL!