Film Review: Narnia 3 - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Narnia 3 – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader [Film Review]

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of the most treasured of CS Lewis’ books, so it’s no wonder fans felt trepidation about how Hollywood might handle it.

By Mark HadleyTuesday 30 Nov 2010MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Rating:  PG
Distributor: Fox
Release Date: December 2, 2010

People who have fallen in love with a book often approach its movie adaptation with as much anticipation as they would a treasured childhood home. They can’t help but want to see it, but wonder whether or not it will still be the magical place they remember.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is quite possibly the most valued of CS Lewis’ children’s books after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so it’s easy to understand why Christians might feel some trepidation about how Hollywood has handled it. The good news is that this seafaring journey of personal discovery has survived the storms of the 21st century largely intact.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader picks up where Prince Caspian left off with the two youngest Pevensie children, Edmund and Lucy, wondering when they will find their way back into the land of Narnia.

Half-way through an argument with their annoying cousin Eustace the three children find their everyday world merged with a painting of the high seas, and the next moment they are being rescued by the crew of Prince Caspian’s flagship.

Prepare yourself for more fantastic vistas, formidable creatures and fast-pace storytelling. Of course there have been the predictable trade-offs that were bound to occur when Christian fable met Hollywood franchise.

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The producers have boosted the film’s international and teen appeal by roping in Idol favourites Carrie Underwood and Sreeram Chandra for alternate English and Hindi theme songs. And Ben Barnes’ Prince Caspian has undergone a significant transformation from brooding Spaniard, to more ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

The storyline has also had a little of the Lewis polished off, with Caspian being given a magical sword and told by his star guide Lilliandil that, “The fate of Narnia depends on you!”

Possibly the more saddening inclusion, though, is the second resurrection of the White Witch. Her repeated return leaves you wondering whether the lion Aslan really had much of a victory at the stone table. This sort of dualistic dual between good and evil has no place in Lewis’ Narnia.

But am I disappointed with Dawn Treader? Not one bit. The third film has managed to preserve what has always been the book’s most important message for me: an understanding of who we are.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader artwork

On a lonely island the irritable Eustace is transformed into a dragon in part because of his greed for ill-gotten treasure. Magical mechanics aside, it’s clearly a case of the external flesh giving way to the internal character and Eustace bitterly regrets his prickly personality, now so apparent in his spiky hide. However his attempts to shed his scaly skin only serve to show him how much he needs the help of the God-like Aslan. When CS Lewis first penned the scene, he put these words into the restored boy’s mouth:

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.”

Eustace finds himself not just smoother but smaller after the experience. His coming to terms with his dragon-hide has made him aware of how many layers there can be to our beastly characters. There is no room for his former arrogance or self-justification. And that is just the way any encounter with Aslan – read, watched, or lived – should be.

*CS Lewis, ‘How the Adventure Ended’, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Geoffrey Bles, 1955.