Last week, my husband and I watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If you are a fan of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, my suggestion is that you simply not bother with this movie. Not only is it a poor rendition of the book, it’s not even a particularly good movie in general. It wasn’t awful; I’ve definitely seen much worse movies. There were enjoyable parts, and some of the actors are very good. But overall, I just didn’t end up feeling like it was worth two hours of my time.
The Good. As always, I loved the actress who plays Lucy in the films. She is just right for the part, and the writing for her character is good. I also thought the actor playing Eustace was good. I loved the film version of the ship itself. I don’t know much about ships, and I’ve always had a hard time quite picturing it as I read the story. My mind has now been expanded. Of the changes made to the story, one that I appreciated was the addition of Reepicheep teaching Eustace how to sword fight. Because there isn’t as much time for character development, and it’s hard to show on-screen, I liked the way it was handled with some key scenes.
The Bad. Although I thought some of the changes made a better film, and others made sense given the limitations of the medium, there were others that made no sense and didn’t add anything productive or enjoyable. For example, there was no need to change Rhince from first mate to a random man looking for his lost wife. The addition of a stowaway girl didn’t add much, either. She didn’t do anything interesting. As far as I could tell, that storyline was intended for the purpose of a heartwarming family reunion at the end of the film. Unfortunately, the reunion was not particularly interesting. It seemed forced, and the whole thing didn’t fit in with the plot. It was just badly executed. Although that part was an addition to the original story, it could have been done well; it just wasn’t in this case. The other unnecessary change was making poor Lord Bern a scraggly prisoner. I understand the need for a good battle scene (there aren’t any in the book). But I think that could have been accomplished while staying more faithful to the original story. At the very least, even with the changes, slave trade should have been done away with and, at minimum, Caspian should have knighted Lord Bern. Which, of course, brings me to…
The Ugly. The very worst thing about the movie (and the previous one, too, actually) is Caspian himself. Throughout the film, my husband and I couldn’t decide whether it was bad acting, bad writing, or a combination of the two. By the end of the movie, we determined it was definitely a combination, but the greater burden lies on the writing. Movie-Caspian is nothing whatsoever like Book-Caspian. He is, to be blunt, a jerk. His sense of humor and his kind, gentle nature have been lost in translation to the screen. Instead, he is little better than the usurper he has replaced as King. Sadly, this one change sucks the life out of the film. The other random changes would have been much more palatable had Caspian been more like himself. It doesn’t make any sense, either, as all the other characters retained their personalities from the books. He appears to be the only one who has had such a radical change.
The bottom line is, some changes, no matter how small, can entirely change the quality of a book-to-movie transition. In my opinion, if you want a good dramatization of the Narnia books, listen to the Focus on the Family Radio Theater production.