So, this evening I was out with the family at the movies, seeing the latest installment of an ongoing fantasy franchise. No, not that one, we saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As Voyage has always been one of my favorites among C. S. Lewis' Narnian tales, I was rather worried about how it would turn out. The various trailers leading up to the film's release didn't really help my growing sense of unease.
As it happens, my fears were completely justified. The various episodes that make up the tale of the Dawn Treader were for the film, variously abbreviated, combined, shuffled, and forced into an overarching metaplot with no basis in the original book whatsoever. As an adaptation, it was probably one of the worst I've ever seen, second only to Eragon.
And yet . . .
And yet, it's only in the adaptation of the story sequence that I can find any faults in the film. Visually, it's gorgeous, as most movies are these days, with special mention going to the Dawn Treader herself, as well as the Sea Serpent in all its giant-cobra-meets-Venus-flytrap glory. None of the characters were mishandled, as far as I could tell - Eustace's introduction and growth from whiny baggage to protagonist, in particular, was handled quite well, even including his particular friendship with Reepicheep. Aslan, much to my delight, even kept his lines from the end of the film spelling out that He's in our world, too.
There were a surprisingly small number of things that were actually missing from the film, given how violently everything else was rearranged, and most of them I can grudgingly concede as being lost for time constraints (although you'd think that when one meets Ramandu's Daughter on Ramandu's Island, Ramandu himself would at least show up). Even the aforementioned metaplot, as shoehorned in and unnecessary as it was, at least wasn't completely out of left field - maybe I grasp at straws trying to make it better, but the "seven swords on Aslan's table protecting Narnia" thing, to my mind, has a faint echo of the tree Diggory planted at Narnia's genesis in The Magician's Nephew.
Clearly, I have some rather conflicted feelings about the film. Maybe I'm too easily pleased by a decent spectacle, but I'm having a hard time building up any rage against the film-makers for the changes they made to the story. One thing I'm not conflicted about is that when they get around to doing my other favorite Chronicle, The Silver Chair - and there were certainly enough hooks in the ending to assure me that they're planning just that - I'll be ready and willing to set sail for Narnia again.
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