The Chronicles of Narnia series, while it hasnít been known for making Harry Potter level money or inspiring viewers to get pumped for the next installment, has been known for one thing: staying fairly true to the books. Of course, characters and events were slightly tweaked and changed in the first two films, but with Disney washing its hands of the franchise and 20th Century Fox picking it upÖ only to wash its hands of the franchise, the last of the Narnia films features more swashbuckling and adventure than its C.S. Lewis written counterpart.
Since The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is generally one of the more popular titles in the Narnia series, itís a shame it doesnít stick as closely as the others to plot, but I canít really blame director Michael Apted for turning a niche-audience story based on wit-filled interactions and strong characters into a broad story mainly about action. Iím sure he has kids to feed. Or a dog.
Following is a breakdown of the biggest changes I noticed in my screening.
Following the first two films, England is set in WWII. Edmund, with the fighting skills heís honed in Narnia is anxious to join the war, but is deemed too young. Peter, instead of studying at the old Ďwardrobeí house with Professor Kilgore as he does in the book, has joined the army. The continuation of Edmundís jealousy for Peter does not become him, and is a reminder that Edmundís character has not developed as far in the films as in the books.
Eustaceís over-the top journal musings are a main component to the narration in the film. Eustace is a ridiculous character, no matter how you paint him. His journal musings are comedic insights into the way he thinks. However, in this film these musings are used less to comedic effect and more to keep the narrative rolling. This works once or twice.
Eustace is a dragon for half the movie. Eustaceís transformation from whiny and insipid to smart and included is played out in the Dawn Treader, although Eustace, in a far more lengthy punishment, is a dragon for twice as long in the film. Luckily for us, we donít have to see him peel off countless layers of skin to become a human boy again.
From the time the crew reaches the Lone Islands, Dawn Treader is extremely action-driven. The Dawn Treader is a book about its characters being brave or hearty and thinking their way out of situations. Caspian is the key to this. The movie shoves this idea aside, creating less room for thought and more room for action. Caspian is hastier and quicker to choose firearms over mental will, although this route seems to just as easily lead to saving his people.
The islands are out of order and some are missing. The Dark Island is key to this film, and to get there, fewer islands are necessary to get to the storyís heart. This leads to more action in a smaller area. This is the formula for less movie minutes, people, and less money spent on the budget, I would suspect.
Mist brings nightmares to those traveling East in Narnia. Aslanís country is reached, but it was never really the goal of the film. Instead, it is first the goal to find Caspianís Lords and second the goal to save the country from an evil green mist that has been stealing Narnian citizens and taking them beyond Caspianís reaches. Saving the people means finding the Dark Island, and that becomes the goal of the film. This is a wayward turn of events, since the mist doesn't exist in the books and is a weird stand-in for the darkness that is a frightening event in the book.
Seven swords hold the key to beating evil. The wish Caspian has to find the seven Lords who were his fatherís followers becomes more important when it is discerned their swords hold the key to saving the kingdom from the green mist. Reuniting the swords on Aslanís table will defeat the evil mist; the only problem is getting a hold of the final sword, which lies in Lord Rhoopís hands within the Dark Island.
Lucy is a caretaker. A stowaway named Gail is found, perhaps to augment the ratio of female (1) to males (several dozen) on board. Gail is a young girl whose mother disappeared into the green mist. Lucy must turn away from her petty yearnings the audience learns of early on at a magicians abode. This way, she is able to mentor Gail and be the strong sweetheart audiences know her to be.
The sea serpent becomes the main villain. Everyone knows that sea serpents are very stupid animalsÖ except when they are made of green mist. Then they become vastly more intelligent and all the more wicked because they are created by nightmares, apparently. Besides, fighting a giant sea serpent at the end of the film as Eustace tries to return the final sword to Aslanís table leads to a lot of cool cut-to shots.
Reepicheep journeys with Aslanís blessing into his kingdom. It is Caspianís longing to see his father again that eventually leads to Aslanís country. While Caspian, the Pevensies and Eustace cannot go, Reepicheep humbly asks Aslan for a pass. The storyline works within the circumstances, but doesnít allow Reepicheep to do what it is in his character to do: go out boldly, with a bang. Perhaps this is a statement about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader itself.
See anything I missed? Add to the list yourself in the comments section below.