Ask any Narnia fan of the books, and they will likely tell you that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is their favourite. Some will say Prince Caspian, some will say The Horse and His Boy, but most will say that the Voyage of the Dawn Treader holds a special place in their hearts.
It is a beloved book for many reasons – it is the last time Edmund and Lucy appear until the end of the series, it introduces Eustace (whom readers come to love), it shows us other parts of Narnia, and it takes us to Aslan’s own country through a sea of lilies. The imagery on every page is some of C.S. Lewis’s finest creative genius – and it gives us one more chance to be with Reepicheep, the warrior mouse.
The movie does have all of this. The pictures we readers saw in our minds come vividly to life – the flower strewn path to Aslan’s country, the mysterious islands, the Dufflepuds, that beautiful ship the Dawn Treader. It’s all there. The problem is that the rest of the book went missing in action.
The only way to view it, and review it, is to start by acknowledging that this is not the book at all. It is, in the new parlance of movies, a ‘re-imagining’ of the book. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (and two others) and director Michael Apted imagined they could do a better job of the book, and write something more popular and in the expected formula of adventure movies.
We still have our heroes setting out on an epic sea voyage. We still have Eustace learning a lesson in humility and respect. We still have the final journey to Aslan’s country. But in between we have something like chopped liver. Tasty enough, but no longer resembling what it started out as.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has no climactic battle, so one is written in. It has no definable villain, so one is written in. It has no narrative flow acceptable to movie makers, who rely so heavily on formula, so the whole thing is chopped up and rearranged until it actually makes no sense at all. In spite of all that, it is beautiful to look at, the performances are fine (especially Will Poulter as Eustace) and the sense of magic and wonder is still there. But so much is lost.
All fans of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader were waiting eagerly for the Dufflepuds. Lucy’s temptation by the Book of Spells, her meeting with the wise, amusing old Magician on the island, and the revealing of the Dufflepuds’ true form was rushed by, in favour of getting on with the re-imagined plot. The best part of the whole book, and even the character of the Magician, was thrown away just so we could get to the next 3D scene.
Instead, some pretty pointless stuff is introduced, like another cute little girl. She isn’t in the book, and what is she there for? Is Lucy (Georgie Henley) not little and cute enough anymore? And what is this thing they have with the White Witch? She only appeared in one book. Then there’s the 3D, surely the most pointless last minute addition. It adds absolutely nothing.
It’s all very infuriating, but what is even more infuriating is that the movie still has moments of greatness. It is still enchanting to look at. Aslan is still one of the greatest CGI creations in movie history, and like everyone else, I badly want to see the next book come to the screen, no matter what they do to it.
I saw this movie with my own funds.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (Single-Disc Edition)