Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Bit Disappointing

I watched the new Voyage of the Dawn Treader last night for the first time, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It was better than Prince Caspian, and I suppose it could have been much worse. Overall, however, I was not impressed.

I think my major hang up was the bizarre "evil fog" plot device that I thought rather butchered the plot. I do not understand why they thought they needed that. I kept having flashbacks to weird '80s movies like the Never Ending Story or The Fog. I thought this device made the story revolve around defeating the Dark Island like some sort of quest, which in the novel was only one, isolated chapter. Granted, it is one of the best chapters in the book, but that island was not crucial to the overall story arch.

I also didn't much care for the scene were Edmund finally destroyed the sea serpent. It looked like a Harry Potter magic wand rip off. I thought that was unnecessary.  I also never quite figured out what the director was thinking with the addition of the second girl whose mother was taken in the fog and who stows away on the ship from the first island. What was that all about? I don't even think she had a name. That subplot seemed to be more of a distraction than anything.

On the positive end, I did like the beginning and the end of the film, particularly with the water pouring out of the picture frame. The sweeping views of the Dawn Treader at sea were also quite nicely done. I can only imagine how impressive those were on the big screen. I also must say they did the Reepicheep mouse character extremely well. He was always my favorite character when I was reading those novels as a boy. I thought the actor for the casting of Eustace was also nicely done, though they turned him into a dragon for a much longer period in the movie than I thought was necessary.

My one question, having not seen the original theatrical version, concerns my recollection of some reviews I read when the film came out in the theater. I know some people were ranting about something Aslan did or said that departed from the book. If memory serves, people thought Aslan went onto some relativist speech at the end of the film or something. If that is correct, the scene has been edited out from the DVD version because Aslan never departed too far from his cameos in the book from what I could tell.

Overall, I don't think it's a film I care to watch again, unlike the first film which was really well done and pretty close to the original novel. I own that on DVD.

I don't think I'll buy this one.


Matthew M said...

Sorry you were disappointed, I loved it.
Obviously you don't frequent the Narnia sites or you would have had a lot of things explained either by Douglas Gresham or the director Michael Apted. Of course if you are a purist it won't matter what the reasoning is, reasonable or not. I on the other hand am not a purist and understand that most if not all books do not translate to the screen without changes, modifications and like the original James Bond movies, complete rewrites! Very little of Mr. Fleming's novels made it to the screen except "ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE" which he purposely wrote as a movie script. Unfortunately, miscasting of Blofeld (Telly Savalas instead of Donald Pleasance who portrayed him excellently in "YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE") pretty much ruined that one. But I digress.
Mr. Gresham (I'm sure you know he is C.S. Lewis's adopted son and runs the estate) was quite pleased with the necessary adaptations as he was involved with all three movies as co-producer and advisior on set. He would never allow things that might cause harm to the Lewis name.
So many people don't realize that everyone who reads the books reads them differently and the movie they make in their heads are completely different from one another - no two people think a like when it comes to books and film. In fact, two people can see the same movie together at the same time and come away with two different views. The same thing applies.
Oh, people whined and complained about LWW as not being like the book also so why should Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader be any different.
I have never understood why people want the exact same thing on screen as they read in the book. If you want the book, read the book, don't see the movie you will never be satisfied. Expectations Father, it's all about expectations, the fewer you have the easier life will be.
O.K. enough lecturing. Consider yourself reprimanded now go to your room!

The Archer of the Forest said...

I said a bit disappointing, not overly disappointing. I certainly understand that very few movies live up to the books on which they are based.

I have to disagree with you about having low expectations. I don't think holding them to as high a bar as possible is a bad thing. I think movie adaptations can do well, even when they deviate from the book. The minute movie producers realize we will settle (and still pay big money) for sub-standard films, they will be all too happy to rush to lower the bar.

I likewise disagree with you about On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I thought that was actually a descent Bond flick. It got universally panned, but I never thought it was that bad, though Telly Savalas was, indeed, a strange choice for Blofeld. There are certainly many other Bond movies I think that are worse. People usually pan George Lazenby as Bond, but a lot of the way that movie was filmed didn't do him, or any of the other cast members for that matter, any favors. They had Bond in this bad, late '60s cut tuxedo and these weird low camera angles that made him look like he needed a stunt double to run up a flight of stairs. A lot of that wasn't his fault.

And, yes, the cinematic Bond has little to do with the actual Ian Fleming books, though the new ones do capture a bit more of the real Bond least the first one with Craig did. However, the films, however, are still fun and tell a good story.

That's my general rule of thumb in gauging whether changes to a book are warranted or not in a film adaptation. The weird plot devices in Dawn Treader were irritating because they were largely unexplained and unnecessary.

When I am watching a film based on a novel I've read, and there is this major change (or additional character or whatever) that doesn't seem to have any purpose on film, that's when I get irritated because in my head, I am constantly asking, "What's going on here? What's this about? Who's this person?" If I have to do that too often in a film without getting any answers to my questions in the film itself, then I'm disappointed in it because the changes detract from the movie watching experience.

That's what I felt was the difference between the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the later two films. There was all sorts of bizarre junk going on in Prince Caspian that was never explained. To a lesser degree, this happened in Dawn Treader.

Matthew M said...

O.K. I'll give you some points. You can have Supper and Dessert.
I may have over stated my criticism of OHMSS. I really like the story and thought George Lazenby was excellent as a new kind of Bond, just couldn't get past Telly.
Oh well, enough of this. Don't know if I should ask this question perhaps better left to an e-mail.Just tell me, no I'd better send an e-mail. Don't want to get you in trouble with any one. It concerns the Orthodox Western Rite. Let me know.

The Archer of the Forest said...

Sure, you can send me an e-mail off blog, if you like. Pezman419[at]gmail[dot]com