Last night we watched the latest Narnia movie, which was disappointing in many ways. The “Dawn Treader” book (along with “A Wrinkle in Time”) kicked off my love of fantasy/sci-fi novels when I was in 6th grade, and it was a downer to see the story mangled into yet another Hollywood formula film with a contrived plot and an overblown mega-battle at the end. What gives? Here’s some of the stuff I had a problem with.
- First off, check out the movie poster. What’s with Aslan’s HUGE mouthlines? Were they trying to give him an enormous grin or something? Lions don’t have that kind of mouth, it just doens’t open that wide. He’d have a flip-top head if his mouth opened like that. Truly bizarre! There’s a different version in which he looks like an actual lion, not some freakish gaping-mouthed monster, so I wonder why this version is so common.
- The green mist and those human sacrifices to appease it: what utter horseshit! Why was this necessary? The characters were tempted by many things in the story, and they didn’t need this mist following them around to cause that temptation. The mist was only a plot device which ultimately led the characters to…
- The Dark Island. In the film this is the Big Enemy Which Must Be Destroyed. The book clearly lacks a central enemy, it’s simply a string of encounters and adventures for the characters, who in turn learn and grow from the experiences. The Dark Island only one of many things the characters encounter on their voyage. The filmmakers obviously felt the need for some kind of boogeyman which must be defeated, so they picked this island and added an extremely disgusting sea serpent for the Giant Battle towards the end. (The book does have a sea serpent in it at some point.)
- When Eustace is caught stealing food by Reepicheep, the mouse swats the hell out of him with the flat of his sword up and down the length of the ship. He doesn’t use it as an opportunity to coach Eustace in swordplay, he simply humiliates him because he finds him extremely irritating (which he was, much more so in the book).
- The Dufflepuds are entirely pointless in the movie. There’s all this buildup with them when they’re invisible, then once you can see them, the old man Coriakin shoos them away so you don’t get any explanation as to who/what they are. And the reason they were invisible? To protect them from the bullshit green mist, of course! Coriakin is also turned into a grim old man with a grim message about defeating the Dark Island, whereas in the book he’s kind of a dottering old eccentric.
- The way Aslan removed the dragon curse from Eustace is not nearly as dramatic or meaningful in the film. In the book, the thick dragon skin is literally torn from Eustace’s body by Aslan’s claws, then he is lowered by Aslan into a pool of water which heals and cleanses him. It’s clearly a reference to baptism and the washing away of sins. But in the movie, Aslan just paws the ground a little and roars the dragon curse away. YAWN. Yeah, I can see how this scene might have been too disgusting for film, but it makes for quite a scene in one’s mind. Too bad.
- The scene at Ramandu’s Island was nearly pointless, since the film didn’t show Ramandu at all, only his shiny daughter the Star. This means they also couldn’t do the whole bit with the birds coming down from the sun, etc. What a shame, it’s kind of beautiful in the book.
- The last leg of the voyage to the End of the World is completely missing from the movie: the crystal-clear waters, the merpeople (?) who follow and try to tempt Lucy into joining them, the feeling of rejuvination the characters feel when they drink the seawater, which is sweet and “like drinking light”, etc. They do mention the water being sweet in the movie, and the scene where they slowly row through the water lilies was kinda neat, but that’s about all we got.
- For a series with such Christian overtones, the movie left out the biggest Aslan=Jesus bit from the book: when the lamb welcomes them to the end of the world and then turns into Aslan the lion. Too obvious for moviegoing audiences, maybe? (The film did retain the bit where Aslan tells the children he is in their world but they must learn to know him there by his other name.)
Having said all that, I do think the movie got a couple of things right. Eustace was a huge prick (though still not as bad as in the book), and the Dufflepuds looked just as I’ve imagined them. But mostly the movie just rushed from one special effects scene to another, all strung together with a boilerplate plot. What a shame.