It's great to be back in Narnia.
You can see it in the faces of Lucy and Edmund as they enter Narnia in the latest movie version of the "Chronicles of Narnia" series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and our family joined that sentiment when we saw the movie on opening day.
I didn't discover C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia until I was my 20s, but I've been hooked ever since. And I have always been determined that our children grow up as kings and queens of Narnia. I want them to have the ability to return to Narnia whenever they like, and to have the Narnia stories inform their life and their imagination.
I started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my oldest (now a teenager!) when she was not quite four years old. I thought she might be a little young for it, but when I read that they were making the movie (the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, eventually released in 2005), I wanted to be sure that her Narnian imagination was first her own. Even though we are all readers in our house, we still read the Narnia books aloud from time to time. I finished just a week ago reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my youngest, with the rest listening in when they wanted.
So you are probably not surprised to hear that the release of "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" Friday was marked on our family calendar for many, many months. And after seeing it once, I'm plotting how we can get back to it at least once or twice over the Christmas break--this from a family that rarely sees films in the theater. It's that great.
As a mom, I had good reason to be nervous ahead of time. The last in the series, "Prince Caspian," deviated so much from the novel, that I can't even begin to critique it (here's a beginning: dark & violent). But I had high hopes for "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader:"
*First, Michael Apted was picked to be the director of this--I admire his work highly, from his well-done Amazing Grace, to the amazing Up series, which follows a group of English children from 7 years on up, easily one of the finest documentary film series ever. My sense is he tends to be respectful of his subject, and would respect the Narnia setting and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He did, and more.
*Second, I expected it to be not too violent, because the book itself is just a great sea story, with adventure after adventure. Check here as well--no extra violence or gore here, though the sea-serpent scene went on far too long.
*Third, I expected the great themes of Dawn Treader to be here: transformation of the characters, especially Eustance; Reepicheep's single-minded yearning for Aslan and his country; all the characters seeking adventure and the fate of the seven lords. They were, and even more. Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund when he confirms they will not be returning to Narnia, "But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." The fact that that line made it into the movie unchanged is itself amazing and beautiful.
Still, the film not perfect, partially because of some of the changes, but primarily because of its (lack of) length--it's only 1 hour and 52 minutes. After thinking it over for a day or so, I realize the shortness of the film is the chief problem. It's just not enough time to cover even some of the great moments in this classic novel.
For comparison, I'm thinking of how much less satisfying the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice was than the British miniseries version from 1995 (you know, the one with Colin Firth, not that he's why I watch it--it's purely my literary devotion to Jane Austen, wink). And yet, by itself, the 2005 version is a good movie and very enjoyable to watch, just not enough. When you go back and read the Pride & Prejudice, or see the 1995 miniseries, you see the bigger picture and so many great moments that the shorter version leaves out.
It's the same with "Dawn Treader." How could they leave out Ramandu and his daughter singing the sunrise? or Lord Bern and Caspian taking back the Lone Islands from Gumpas? or Lucy seeing, in the magic book, her friends talk about her? And so on. If there were only a five or six-hour version of Dawn Treader, that would make us Narnia superfans happy.
Some random thoughts:
*Per the reviews, and our own family preference, we saw it in 2D. 3D is vastly overrated--we saw the tremendous Toy Story 3 last summer in 3D and it was just annoying to have to wear glasses on top of our glasses.
*Thank you, whoever made that movie decision, for getting rid of the fakey-Spanish accent of Prince Caspian.
*Am I the only one who thinks Georgie Henley, the actress who plays Lucy, is much more beautiful than the actress who plays Susan? Still, the scenes of Lucy's temptation to be as beautiful as Susan were powerful, and an interesting way to handle that element.
*The addition of the evil green mist and the Dark Island being the point of the quest were not at all in the novel, but work so well they could have easily been in the novel. A good Narnian touch.
*Will Poulter, the actor who plays Eustace, is PERFECT. I cannot wait to see him in "The Silver Chair," and hope the casting for Jill Pole is just as wonderful.
*Reepicheep, thank GOODNESS, is much less "cheeky" than in the movie "Prince Caspian." His nobility and purity of spirit is much more evident here, from how he takes Eustace under his wing, to how he boldly travels to Aslan's country. It's hard to pick favorite moments from the novel, but probably one of the best is when Reep leaves the Narnians to ride in his little coracle to Aslan's country: "Then he took off his sword, (‘I shall need it no more,’ he said) and flung it away across the lilied sea. ...Then he bade them good-bye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness." The movie scene is not quite as powerful, but still well done.
Did you see "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"? If you haven't, I highly recommend it. If you did, what do you think of it?