Sunday, January 23, 2011

Voyage Worth Taking

"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" was actually pretty good. Still not up to LotR, but the Narnia flicks are easily the best live-action fantasy films we've had since those. The Christianity gets a bit thick at the end, but before that, you've got swashbuckling adventure, swordfights, sorcerers and grimoires, invisible monsters, dragons, and sea serpents.



You can tell the budget wasn't quite up to what they had in the previous two films. There's no massive battles full of nearly-realistic CGI monsters and animals. Still, the look and feel is still there. I didn't miss Eddie Izzard's voice in Reepicheep's mouth as much as I thought I would (and full props go to Simon Pegg for an excellent performance). And there's a lot to like.

The sets and costumes, as always, are great. I think it's interesting that they took the time to make the swords of Narnia's "golden age" noticeably different from the "modern" swords used by most of the native characters. The film is full of neat little touches like that.

For most kids, Dawn Treader is the favorite book. It's got adventure, strange places, pirates, and a cool sailing ship. It also has the most amusing writing. The first lines of the book are,

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

Of course, Eustace is the pivotal character, and his relationship with Reepicheep is as heartwarming and fun in the movie as it is in the book.  The actor who plays him might not be as good as the original four children actors, especially Miss Henley, who plays Lucy, but the role is a difficult one, and his scenes with Reepicheep (which must have been especially difficult) are perfect.

The thing that I find most fascinating about this story is how it doesn't follow a familiar formula, even in the hands of Hollywood. "The King's Speech" is an excellent film, but you know exactly what's going to happen every step of the way. It's very paint-by-the-numbers, though a very good one. Dawn Treader isn't like that. Some characters follow exactly the arcs you'd expect, especially Lucy, but others go to some extremely odd places before winding up in very satisfying circumstances before the end. If you've never read the book, or it's been a while, the movie has a few neat surprises for you.

The movie does suffer a bit from being short. Caspian's personal arc isn't given the attention it deserves, and Edmond's is barely given enough time to fully develop. Still, the bittersweet conclusion satisfies, and if this turns out to be the last movie made in the series, it'll be a satisfying conclusion.

And if it's not, it's set the stage very well for "The Silver Chair."

2 comments:

Robert Fisher said...

This is an odd one. While this was probably my favorite of the books as well, I have to admit that a faithful adaption would make a poor feature film. (Which I could probably say about any novel, but especially this one.) The fact that they managed to graft a feature film story onto it and still capture a lot of the charm from the book impressed me.

And personally, I didn’t miss the massed battles one bit.

The disappointing part is that I’ve always liked to use bits of this book in RPG adventures because so many players had never made it past the first book. Now, lots of people will recognize the golden statue in the water. ^_^

trollsmyth said...

Heh... Yep, agreed on the statue. That whole section felt so very much like a D&D session. Must have been inspired by one of the games Tolkien ran for the Inklings. ;)

And agreed. I didn't want to get too much into the plot (primarily because it's been so long since I have read it, I wasn't sure what I was misremembering) but I remember being worried they wouldn't be able to do it justice. But by nailing the Reepicheep/Eustace stuff, I think they really got to the heart of the story.