Movie review: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

movie posterSqueakin’ in here at almost the last minute with a quick, sloppy movie review. Spoilers galore, but honestly I don’t want you to see this movie. If you haven’t already read the book, on the other hand, just stop reading this post right now and get yourself a copy. It’s by C.S. Lewis and any library or bookstore will have it.

Anyway, I saw this movie over break. I didn’t have very high expectations. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of those books I’ve re-read so many times since childhood that I’ve got large sections of it memorized. There is no way any Dawn Treader movie adaptation could ever live up to the version in my head.

Still.

It really really sucked.

Ok, I can understand why they took some of the liberties with the story line. The book is episodic, meandering, and character-driven. And you know, kidz today need plot plot plot to keep them interested. I didn’t like the business with the seven swords and the evil green mist, but… whatever. I don’t think they needed to invent the idea of Rhince being an escaped slave, and having a little daughter, and the mother being captured, in order to make us care more about getting rid of the evil green mist, but… whatever. And if they were going to make up characters like the little girl they could have at least given her a real role with some oomph so that we really would care about her, but… whatever.

But there were other liberties they took that were totally unnecessary. I am thinking about the small details that give the books such charm and color. For example, the idea of Coriakin really being a star, and having to live with the Dufflepuds as a punishment for… for what? The idea of a star misbehaving, and what does Aslan say about it? That it’s not for us to know what sins a star can commit? Something like that. It’s absolutely delicious! But they cut it completely out of the movie, and for what? Oh, and by the way, speaking of Dufflepuds, it would have taken all of sixty seconds to tell the story of how they came to be Dufflepuds. And maybe another thirty seconds to explain the etymology of their name. It’s one of the funniest episodes in the entire series; what’s the point of cutting it out?

Another thing that really bugged me was when Eustace was explaining how he got changed back into a boy after being a dragon. When asked if it hurt, Eustace said it felt like a thorn being pulled out of your foot — it does hurt, but you feel so much better afterwards. Well, in the book, he compares it to pulling off a scab and he says something like “it hurts like billy-oh, but it’s such fun to see it coming off.” That may not seem like much of a difference (scab versus thorn) but symbolically it is very different. That dragon skin was like a scab, a thick gross-looking outer covering that protected Eustace while he was healing underneath. Why deprive us of that perfect metaphor? What did the screenwriter hope to accomplish by changing scab to thorn?

Last but not least, my very favorite part of the book… You may recall that in the original novel, the sleepers at Ramandu’s table can only wake up after someone has sailed to the very edge of the world and not returned. That someone, of course, is destined to be Reepicheep. Now in the book, when they get to the edge Caspian has a big argument with the Pevensies about this, because he wants to go over the edge too. They argue that it’s wrong to abdicate his throne, plus Ramandu’s beautiful daughter is waiting for him. Grumpily he acknowledges that they are right, but then says that if he can’t go over the edge, no one can, not even the mouse. Finally Aslan intervenes and gives Caspian a stern talking-to, and the book ends with Reep going over the edge and Caspian returning. I love that because it makes the king seem so very human, and it also creates more of a build-up to Reepicheep’s not returning. In the movie none of that happened; Caspian simply said he wished he could go too but he couldn’t because he didn’t want to abdicate, etc. Stupid goody goody!

Argh. Enough ranting. Better hit publish now so as not to ruin my postaday streak…

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