Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader"

"The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader" is the fourth book in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and the third of the books recently filmed1. And it's a beautiful film. While it doesn't contain everything from the book, and has added a thing or two, and changed the sequence of some events, it has been faithful to both the story and the ideas behind it.

I'm not going to do a full review, but there is one thing that I wanted to mention, and praise the filmmakers2 for. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia in order to, in his words, "smuggle in theology" to children. There are many places in the stories where this is clear, and the ending of "Dawn Treader" is one of them, with some of the most explicit symbolic christology in the whole series.

As the Pevensies, Eustace and Reepicheep reach the shore at the end of the world, a lamb greets them. There is fish cooking over an open fire. And the lamb then turns into Aslan. Reepicheep goes on to Aslan's country, while the others are returned to earth. But there is a conversation between them in which Lucy laments that she won't return to Narnia, not for Narnia itself, but because she won't see Aslan again. And he explains to her that he will always be with her in her own world. "In your world," he tells her, "you must learn to know me by a different name."

And they filmed it. Not all of it, not exactly the way it's written, but the important parts, they included. They didn't include the lamb. Caspian was with them. There was sand instead of grass. But the key, the important idea of the scene was there. They made a big, mainstream film, and Aslan told Lucy, "in your world, you must learn to know me by a different name."

There must have been pressure from someone, somewhere, not to include it. But they included it anyway. Even if the rest of the film had been terrible (it wasn't), I'd have forgiven them almost anything for including it.

1 - Which makes it sound like they've skipped something, but what they've done makes sense. The second book, "The Horse And His Boy," actually fits, chronologically, within the boundaries of the first book, and the only major characters from elsewhere in the Chronicles (with the obvious exception of Aslan) are the adult versions of the Pevensies, High Kings and Queens over Narnia. So there's no urgency to film it before the actors "age out" of the parts...

2 - A large part of the reason that the movies have been true to the spirit of Lewis' books is the presence of Executive Producer Douglas Gresham, Lewis' step-son, who, I believe, holds the rights at this point, and is determined that the films be faithful to Lewis' beliefs.

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