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20th Century Fox's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
If epic had a name, it would The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
It's been a year since Edmund and Lucy last visited the magical world of Narnia. Now, they are living with their aunt and uncle and cousin, whose name is Eustace Clarence Scrubb (and he almost deserves it), in Cambridge while Peter is studying in the English country with Professor Kirke, and Susan and their parents are traveling in America.
Edmund, most of all, has felt the longing and the desperation to return to their kingdom; whether due to being tired of he, a king and great warrior, being treated as a child, or possibly simply being tired of having to deal with his cousin.
So, when a magical painting in Lucy's bedroom beckons them once again to Narnia (with Eustace unwillingly tagging along) and to return to their lives as High King and Queen, neither are all too disappointed. They find themselves having returned during a time when Caspian X is reigning as king and all bordering countries are at peace. So, why they should have returned during a time with no battles to fight and without any Narnian having summoned them is a question the Pevensies would like to have answered and they find that it will be soon.
They find themselves aboard Narnia's first sailing ship, the Dawn Treader, sailing across the high seas on a voyage to find the seven lost lords banished during the reign of the usurper Miraz. During their first docking at an abandoned island, they discover that their purpose is far greater than they first believed.
I must admit that, even though I absolutely adore the first two films, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, from the first viewing, has been my favorite. "You get so much worth for your money. You get action and comedy and fantasy and magic and emotion and great characters which everyone's coming to love and just such [a] great visual experience and colors and Christmas magic and it's just the best," to borrow the words of Georgie. (Skandar is quick to point that she'd “go on all day [if you'd let her].")
But my real reasons for loving it is the characters. The growing relationships between the many different characters proves to fans that C.S Lewis' beloved characters are just as real and relatable for our generation as they were for our grandparents'.
One character that changes the most throughout the film, as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is Edmund.
But unlike in the first film when he changed from his selfish ways, in this film you see how all of Edmund's actions, both for the good and for the bad, revolve around his sister and finding a better life for the two of them. After years of being handed off to one family member or another, or sent to boarding school, or being left behind while Peter and Susan are off on their own, Edmund realizes that he and Lucy are also on their own. He realizes that, even though he has always loved Lucy as his sister, the one who made all the decisions and who was the one both sisters would go to with problems or for comfort when they were scared was Peter.
But now that Peter is no longer there during a time when Lucy undergoes the many changes between childhood and womanhood, Edmund must take on his new role of being her older brother. As the film goes on, Edmund realizes that Lucy is growing up, but she is still his little sister and he sees that he is the one that she goes to for comfort or encouragement. He is her constant.
I love this change. It's a transition which many must make, nonetheless Edmund. It takes him most of the film to become comfortable with this new position. But throughout, you see his transition and how his character changes from focusing on only what would be helpful for himself and he suddenly begins focusing on what would help him and his little sister have a better, more comfortable life, whether these actions had good or bad consequences. He realizes how much they really must rely on each other since Peter and Susan won't always be there for them and for the first time, they are on their own and only have to rely on each other.
Apparently this film has been given many poor reviews due to the many changes between the epic masterpiece by C.S Lewis and this heart-pounding adaption. I can't really say much to the writers of these reviews since the few that I have read have given the film its due credit; but what I can say about this film to Chronicles of Narnia devotees is my opinion and views on the changes made:
My first thought after finishing C.S Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is that, much like Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (two stories that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is often compared to), there is a lack of plot. Yes, yes, just like in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, there is a main plot—the finding of the lost lords—but, unlike with the other Chronicles where every small aspect ties together both the beginning and the ending, with Dawn Treader, all of the adventures leading up to the finding of the lost lords are separate from the main plot. If any of those “subplots” had been left out, it would not have affected the story in anyway. With a book, having several different plots with no intertwining features is acceptable and quite enjoyable. It makes for simple reading, especially in a children's story; but to be able to keep audiences attentions during a two-hour film, random adventures which lead nowhere nearer to the final plot simply will not due for a live-action film aimed toward audiences of all ages.
So how is this problem solved without utterly destroying a timeless classic? Create a plot—in this case several plots—which are hinted at throughout the book and intertwine them with the original plot. This 20th Century Fox has done quite well.
One plot that has been added and is the first which will be noticed is the man-devouring fog and the finding of the seven swords of the lost lords. This was mentioned slightly in the chapter “Two Narrow Escapes” when Caspian and the Pevensies find a sword on the island with the golden water. The delusions, caused by the fog were mentioned in the chapter “The Dark Island,” but what they were was never explained.
Adding Caspian IX appearing and claiming to be disappointed in the type of leader his son has become allows for a lesson in leadership; it teaches audiences that no matter how many mistakes a leader makes, the mark of a truly good leader is one who never abandons his people. When Edmund is repeatedly visited by Jadis, it is an example of how a Christian, by himself, can never overcome sin; the devil (or the White Witch) will always be close behind to remind you of past failures or to shatter your confidence, no matter how many times you may have defeated the devil's influence over you.
The second plot—the testing of Caspian, the Pevensies and Eustace—is one mentioned throughout the book. Micheal Apted and the screen-writers decided to draw on these small scenes and make them a part of the main focus of the film; this also gave the screenwriters an opportunity to teach their audiences several different lessons which found themselves throughout the pages of C.S Lewis' classic, such as submitting yourself to the authority set before you, realizing you are beautiful on the inside even if you don't believe you are on the outside (which also explains the sudden appearance of Gael) or even something as simple as realizing when you are an ignoramus. They expertly intertwined these subplots into the main plot to make for a truly extraordinary adventure.
One change I was particularly pleased to see was one I was also quite shocked to see in a major Hollywood film. Each of The Chronicles of Narnia books have a principle of Christian character hidden within the pages; for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that principle is the basic foundation of the Christian faith: Salvation. But in the book, that principle is very slight. In the movie, however, it is very strong and obvious that Salvation is the lesson learned by Eustace. When Eustace, Caspian and the Pevensie's are traveling across the sea of water lillies, and Eustace gives the account of his transformation, to paraphrase, he tells his companions,
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't [change back] by myself; I needed His help.
This is an analogy of a sinner's transformation into a redeemed child of God. No matter how hard you try, you can't make it to Heaven (or change back into a boy) by yourself; you need help. And the only one who can help is Jesus (or Aslan).
Some Narniatics may find these additions as non-Lewis and therefore offensive to the true classic. But if you understand the changes and why they had to be made, I don't believe a fan would have any problem with them and may even embrace them once they realize that they actually enhance the classic that is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
But it seems that many fans that have loved the book for years don't understand these changes or why they had to be made or else why they were important; and they also may not understand why, if the movie makers had left the script the same as the book, the film would not have held the attention of the viewers and therefore, would not have been as extraordinary as the book, even though the book itself is extremely popular.
These subplots had to be added to keep the film moving and to make for continuity in the film. It connects famous scenes from the book into the plot, without seeming fortuitous. It allows for more of the classic story to be in the film, while also allowing for an amazing cinematic experience for audiences of all ages. In making these changes, it ultimately causes the adaption to be a magical journey and a classic itself; it allows for the wonder of the book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, to be a whole new adventure for children just discovering the Magic of Narnia.