17 December 2010

Rage against The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I am reviewing the new "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" film for Curator, so I can't run a proper review here. However, I can tell you that it was just awful. And I will list some of the reasons as I get warmed up for my real review. Other viewers, please feel free to add to this list or to counter it with a list (or discussion) of positives. I'll link my actual review on this blog after it appears.

Here are the problems, in no specific order. Spoiler alert; I don't recommend you see the film, so I won't hold back from discussing the ending or other plot give-aways.

1. Reepicheep sails AWAY from Aslan over the wave; the entire point of his journey to the end of the world was to MEET Aslan.
2. I have already griped about the casting of Ben Barnes as Caspian (and about a lot of other things) in my Prince Caspian review. But it is especially irksome, in this "Solar" story all about the sun, the dawn, and gold, that he should not be a blond Apollo.
3. Will the White Witch never die?
4. There are three blue, glowing swords that have to be all stuck into the right slot so you can pull the lever for the magical jackpot
5. There's a green mist that represents "all evil" -- but it will poof! and all evil will disappear from the world when the seven magical swords are set in place
6. Lucy laughs and says scornfully to Reepicheep: "Do you really believe there's such a place" as Aslan's country (!)
7. The sea serpent isn't real; it's just the shape the evil green mist takes on because Edmund just happened to think of a sea serpent
8. The sea serpent morphs into, apparently, an eviscerated crayfish?
9. Aslan only appears in dreams and at the end of the world and never intervenes in life
10. Lucy steals the spell to make herself beautiful -- she tears it out of the Book! -- and actually says the spell. This turns her into Susan, but then it turns out it was all a dream.
11. The whole movie is preaching, not Christianity, but the Disney Gospel about believing in yourself so you can be a hero.
12. Lucy and several other characters talk about earning and deserving Aslan's country, as if we can work our way into Heaven.
13. Reepicheep replies "We have nothing if not belief" -- as if belief itself means anything if you're not believing in the right One!
14. The series continues to be called "Epic"; the stories are not epics, they are fairy tales.
15. "We can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe" -- ditto
16. There's a screenplay. Why do you need a screenplay for a well-written book? Why not simply cut the existing text down to a length suitable for the film, as actors and stage directors do with book adaptations for the stage? Lewis's writing is better than that of Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Michael Petroni--theirs is fairly cheesy--and I staunchly believe contemporary children could readily adapt to the slightly old-fashioned tone of Lewis's kids.
17. The Dufflepuds weren't funny.
18. Lord Burn was a senile old prisoner.
19. The movie is pretty much just all about Eustace's sudden transformation into a silly Disney physical hero, rather than about the slow and difficult process of sanctification.
20. As if superstitious swords and green mist weren't important enough reasons for a quest, we also had to rescue somebody's Mum who was -- get this -- offered as a sacrifice to the green mist, sucked through the water, and then apparently sat in a boat without moving for months while her hubby and stow-away little girl added sentimentality and pathos to our voyage.
21. Lucy easily slips the bracelet off of the dragon's foreleg as soon as she meets him. Well, after his big attack on the ship, that is.

Well, I guess that's all I will post now. I've got to finish off my "real" review, which will be far more balanced and intelligible!


Rosie Perera said...

Sounds dreadful. I won't be seeing it.

Iambic Admonit said...

To be fair, many thoughtful, intelligent Lewis fans and scholars completely disagree with me. Many really loved it a lot and thought Lewis's message was not obscured.

Grayson said...

I had a number of criticisms, but overall I thought it was a good film.

In brief/in general, a film has to be an interpretation of a book; it can't be THE book. So, is this a good interpretation? In many ways, I think so. Here are some highlights:

(1) It wasn't just about magic, though magic, enchantment, wonder, and adventure (and much else besides) all play a role.

(2) Lewis wants to “remythologize” our minds, our world, especially those of us who live in the modern West. That is, he wants to fill our lives once again with the power of story, for he knows that story goes beyond truth to communicate meaning. Again, I think the film does this on a number of levels.

(3) Lewis wants to challenge many assumptions of modernity, including the notion that what is old is always inferior to what is new; or that we, above all else, are individuals who can live independently of others – without community, in charge of all we survey, the captain of our own ship! Ditto.

(4) Lewis also wants to show us things about ourselves – and not always nice things: how easily we deceive ourselves, for example, or how the enemy (or evil) often lies within our own heart, or how easy it is for us – any of us – to be led into temptation. Ditto.

(5) In keeping with Lewis, the film advances a number of moral lessons – the importance of bravery, courage, faithfulness, hope, love, grace, and redemption – to name just a few.

(6) Lastly, Lewis wants us to be filled with hope, for even in our worse moments, even when we have failed utterly or behaved terribly, we are still loved, redeemed, and transformed by a great and loving God.

A sure sign of the film's "success" was the moment it finished. Admittedly, it was a largely Christian audience, but this was true also for the non-Christians present. At the end of the film, everyone sat, silent, not moving. No rush to the next event, no checking IMs, no attempt to turn on their cell phones, and so forth. They just sat still, not talking. I interpreted this to mean (later confirmed by numerous conversations) that Lewis' messages had "got through"; that they has experienced a time of transcendence. Being an emotional type, I have been deeply moved by many films, but this was the first that I had also seen those in attendance equally moved (it didn't happen in the Lord of the Rings films! -- I could not speak for hours after watching those!).

Annelise Holwerda said...

Oh! I haven't seen this film and don't want to, from what I've heard. For me it's not about 'getting it right', because the stories are still happily set in the books. It's more a disappointment for what these films could be with a really brilliant artist, having such a story to work from and such resources as we do.

So when the Witch makes her way into 'The Horse and His Boy'... Epic indeed?