18 June 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer

Here is the new trailer for the third Narnia movie. I think this is a good time to make some predictions. Then after the film comes out, I'll come back and review it, rant, maybe rave, and see if I was right at all. So here's what I think.

1. I am optimistic that this movie will be better than the first two. Why?

First, because it has a different director. Andrew Adamson directed the first two very, very poorly; now Michael Apted is trying his hand. Apted knows how to direct a serious, non-cheesy, high-quality religious film: he directed Amazing Grace. He also knows how to do a special effects action blockbuster: he directed 007: The World is Not Enough. He's also done a bit with fantasy; he produced Fancis Ford Coppola's 1992 Dracula.

Second, because I think it's the kind of book Hollywood can handle. It's the most hodge-podge of the Chronicles, and it's kind of light compared to the others. Not really, of course, but it's not as heavy on theology, consistent mythology, and ideology as the others (but see my last prediction). It's bright, fun, adventuresome. The characters are delightful and various. However...

2. I predict that there will be a new plot line developed to hold the story together. I imagine that the director/producer/screenplay writer will not think that Lewis provided enough motivation for the Voyage. He provides two, as you remember: Caspian's reason for journeying is to recover or revenge the seven Narnian lords his usurping uncle Miraz sent out on wild goose chases. Reepicheep's motivation is to reach the end of the world and, beyond it, Aslan's country. While this is sufficient motivation for each character individually and is quite fine for the book, I think that Hollywood is going to devise some cheap, facile, end-of-the-world reason for the journey. Now, after having watched the trailer, I seem to be confirmed in this prediction already. There's some "We have to save Narnia from total destruction!" nonsense at the end.

3. There will be quite a few thrills of Sehnsucht, even with the inevitable, sicking cheapening process the people and their archetypal roles will go through. Amongst the poor jokes, juvenile humour, unnecessary risks and stunt suspense, there will be moments of high and lofty beauty: the Ship herself, the Magician's book, the white lilies in the Silver Sea, sometimes the music, sometimes a facial expression, sometimes a curve of the camera, sometimes the sky over the sea. Note: I didn't see any hint of dragons, which would be patently absurd and a bigger cop-out than the deletion of Bacchus and his Maenaeds in Prince Caspian. If there are no dragons (sea- or land-), I'll want my money back. And will weep. And another side note: What are Peter and Susan doing in the trailer?!?

4. I am certain that they will leave out the Christology with which the book closes: the broiled fish, the lamb becoming a lion, the final speech. Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy that they got to know Him in Narnia so that they would be able to know Him better by another name, i.e., Jesus, in their own world. I'll wager there won't be any of that. And other theologically important moments will be cut or watered down: Reepicheep's longing for heaven, the cross-like Albatross, the hellish nature of the Island Where Dreams Come True (oh, it will be bad enough, I'm sure, just not hellish), the punishment of the Star Coriakin, Aslan's comments about coming and going, the Biblical nature of the story in the Magician's book, and (most of all) every rich supernatural suggestive detail on Ramandu's Island. It's almost enough to keep me from going to see the movie. But I lived through the blasphemy of Prince Caspian, so I guess I'll make it. With more psychological damage.

...and, while we're on the topic of films, who can barely wait until Harry Potter 7 part I???!!!


Abby said...

Hodge Podge?? Really?? I always thought that it was one of the heaviest in some ways second to the Last Battle, if not purely because of the scene when Reepicheep rows off into the lilies...

Annelise Holwerda said...

Oh Hollywood! There's more than one way to tell and feel a story! I think that the catchphrase of films ruining books has a lot to do with their lack of sensitivity to what makes a story... When all they see is plot facts. We should start taking books on their own terms, and invent a new medium out of the tool of videorecording (sort of like our Australian Indigenous 'Ten Canoes' has begun to do here, with that other culture of storytelling).

I do agree it's likely to be better though, for the reasons you said; I pretty much agree with everything else here too. I hope you're right about some of those moments, because there are rich ones! This is not how I'd envisaged the book, not how the film was promised earlier in the year, and at points the similarities of action seem detached enough from the first theme or atmosphere to feel a lot like 'accidence' of plot... On the other hand, the effort for faithfulness is clearly there, and fairly fruitful, and I support that.

It seems that wherever this film doesn't match the written standard, hopefully it'll be more like the first Narnia film than the second (...oh, Edmund has to face the Witch-ghost again? His character was the only good thing about that encounter last time :S). The Lion was still really adorable, still decidedly royal and lovely even where different or wrong. I'm fine with that. Caspian just misrepresented everything in a great ball of teenage tensions, but didn't even make you want to read the book itself- to stumble across grown-up knighthood, or Bacchus' Nature, or real mystery, faithfulness, courage. I don't see the present film as being like that. I think people will go and find the books after watching this; as you say, it's different.

Either way. The whole exercise has given a great new vocabulary and background for drawing out just what makes the written stories what they are. That's a very good thing :)

Iambic Admonit said...


Well, I'm kind of making fun of Tolkien (who called the whole series a hotch-potch), although I think if JRRT had read this one (I don't think he did) he'd probably have liked it the least. It does draw from the largest number and the most disparate sources, which is what annoyed him the most. (well, he was also furious that CSL didn't take the time to work out the history, geography, and languages of Narnia the way he did for Middle Earth).

And each book is always my favorite, and feels the heaviest, when I'm reading it! Or even thinking about it.

Iambic Admonit said...

and Annelise: You're right! Maybe the problem with Hollywood isn't that they tell stories incorrectly, just that the tell them all as the same story! And I think this is a matter of the "Kappa element" rather than the plot. All of their stories have to feel the same. Maybe. I'll ponder that.

Annelise Holwerda said...

Sometimes it feels like there are only as many stories as there are genres!

Maybe it's truer though to think of it in terms of the copy-cat effect, which happens in so many kinds of art: that a brilliant creator will express something so aptly, and the 'new thing' will inevitably be mimicked by others in the wait for whatever we're waiting to read/see/hear/love next :)

But even that generalises. I think all artists get certain bits and pieces 'right' (could be better to say they do them well?) each time- and it's all so fluid and dynamic, culturally and socially, with learnings and meanings all interwoven in everything there is for us to respond to. There might be really great individual parts of a story that as a whole isn't overly impressive, too.

So we might again (and always!) leave the definition of a good story in its most basic, open and personal image, of which Lucy will happily tell :) I think I like that art is complex and difficult to pin down, and yet still wonderful and possible to work with.

stephanie spun said...

I hope you are right that this one may be better. I do not think I will watch it though. I am just now listening to the unabridged version of VDT for the first time and it is so lovely. I think I will pass on viewing it, and just read your review here.