Narnia – A Retake

I went to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader again yesterday in high hopes that I might think better of it a second time around. To be honest, I liked it better on the retake and have attributed this to the fact that we did not it in 3D. Yes, I still have several quips, and this was not my favorite of the movies by far (least favorite, actually), but it certainly wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was.
I feel very bad for saying what I did about it the first time, actually. Yes, I still think the character development was shallow, yes I am still an avid opinion-holder of the production quality being exceedingly bad, but the movie itself certainly isn’t egregious in its lack of these things. The diatribe I threw at it in the previous post was undue; I had gotten five and a half hours of sleep that day, having gone to the movie at midnight and seen it in 3D, and it probably impaired my judgement somewhat.
So, what new things did I see in Narnia the second time around that made me like it a little better?
Well, perhaps it wasn’t so much what I saw this time as what I didn’t see; with 3D being a better door than a window, and 3D not being involved this time around, I felt like I could watch the movie without an unnecessary distraction. The quality of the film still got on my nerves a little bit, but as I looked with a newfound viewpoint at the unfolding events in the movie, I saw something a little different. The dialogue wasn’t so cheesy as I had once thought, there was some characterization (though not enough for my tastes; the characters were, for the most part, stereotypical and superficial, in my opinion), but there was still that underlying lack of seriousness that put me off. There was no emotion, no real, nuanced relationships. It wasn’t authentic to me; it wasn’t real. I thought that the first two Narnia movies achieved this perfectly, though.
And Lucy wasn’t as uncharacteristically unbelieving as I had thought at first, either, and, in fact, she is fleshed out a good bit. Her struggles are the most poignant of the four main characters (herself, Caspian, Edmund and Eustace), but Caspian and Edmund’s are somewhat of a joke, simply because they aren’t touched on often enough. And Edmund is by far the most uncharacteristic of them all, typically during the scene when he is tempted by lake whose water can turn anything it touches to solid gold. He goes through a rant about how rich they could be, how they could rule over everybody and submit to no one else’s authority, but it was poorly executed and doesn’t amount to much more than a brief bicker between himself and Caspian, ending with Lucy telling them to stop behaving in such a preposterous manner. It was certainly a good idea, and they managed to connect it with Edmund’s animosity towards Peter, whom he always saw as above him – more important than him, but it just wasn’t powerful enough. I didn’t get anything out of that scene.
The real heart of the movie, at least when it comes to relationships (and, really, this is the only relationship in the entire movie to even be partially developed), is the one between Eustace and Repicheep. Eustace is about as querulous and annoying as a human being can get, but Repicheep is persistently nice to him, and even teaches him a thing or two about swordplay. The scenes where he tries to comfort Eustace as a dragon and encourage him on to greater heights and bravery are also wonderfully well done, and the relationship was established perfectly. But they fell short in every other place; where was Edmund and Lucy’s relationship? It was present in the first and second between all the Pevensies, including them,  but in this they neglected it. And what about Edmund and Caspian? Yes, at the end Caspian tells Edmund that he’s like a brother to him, but what, in the course of the movie, justified him saying that? It seems that all they do is fight with one another, and if they’re not doing that then they’re fighting against someone else at each other’s side. Lucy and Eustace? Not much. Edmund and Eustace? Not much, but justifiable, as they don’t really have much of a relationship anyway. And Caspian and Lucy? Nothing; as empty as the rest of them.
That’s what ruined this movie for me: The lack of depth. But that still didn’t justify saying such intense things about how much I hated the movie before. It isn’t my favorite Narnia movie, and in my opinion it’s not entirely good, but it isn’t entirely bad either. Depending on what you’re looking for in a movie, you may like this movie, and you may not, because the filmmakers focused on a different aspect of storytelling that I don’t enjoy as much. There were no fleshed out characters, no palpable, warm relationships, and no, in my opinion, beating heart that drove the story forward. I think characterization is am extremely important part of moviemaking that cannot be left out, but which was not given enough weight in this movie. The same towards the relationships; that’s half the reason why I watch movies, is to see the characters’ interactions with one another, their love towards each other and what they do to help each other out. But there was nothing of the sort in this movie, and that’s why I walked away disappointed. I could see so much potential that wasn’t fulfilled, so many things that could have been changed to found relationships, but these opportunities were always missed. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good in its own right. Many people I know like it because they saw something in it that touched their hearts, and I am glad for them. But we are each affected by different things, and this movie was not one of them for me.
To conclude, the first two Narnia movies will forever remain my favorites, and I will return to them whenever I feel particularly nostalgic. Whether this movie takes the series in a better direction or not I cannot be certain, but Voyage was #1 at the box office this past weekend, so they must have done something right. I’ll cherish the first two in my hearts, remain disappointed with the third, and hope for better as the next ones are released. However, if they touched the heart of at least one person, then the filmmakers ought to be proud of their accomplishment. Three out of five stars for the next installment of the Narnia series.
God bless!
Ryan

The Chronicles of Narnia – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We (that is me, some of my family, and our good friends) went to see the Voyage of the Dawn Treader last night; it was my first midnight premier of a movie I’d been to, and I was concerned to some degree that I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open throughout the film’s entirety, but fortunately, I managed to. I went in with high expectations, but also with some foreboding as well. I had seen the trailers of the movie, and it had appeared to me to be different somehow when compared to other films, particularly the camerawork and the quality of the footage. But, quips aside, I was still excited, and prayed that the film would live up to its potential. So, it began.
How very disillusioned I was.
Everything that made the first two Narnia films great was cut from this. There was no depth to the story anymore, no character development; each face on the screen was merely a cardboard cutout used to further a shallow and unmoving story. Yes, the plot line was changed, and this is understandable; the Voyage of the Dawn Treader would have easily been the hardest of all the movies to film. But it was told absolutely terribly. I really cannot describe to you how disappointed I was!
The dialogue didn’t make sense in places; each scene was rushed and shallow. The plot line contained many logical flaws and seemed to be only an expedient to providing a 3D roller-coaster ride for the audience; and, really, the effects were not that good. Lord of the Rings did a better job, and it didn’t rely on them to make a good movie. Voyage of the Dawn Treader did, however, and consequently it suffered; at the end, when they were leaving, I didn’t feel anything at all, whereas there was a sadness and yearning in my heart when they left during the first two. That’s because the characters weren’t characters at all, and the pitiful attempts to make them such ended in disaster. Every line of dialogue they spoke was simply commenting on the events unfolding in the story except for a rare few, precious moments; this made it seem as if they weren’t people at all, and merely a device to attaining an end.
I saw this especially in Lucy, who seemed skeptical about Aslan’s country in the Utter East… Excuse me! Lucy was the one who believed in Aslan before the others! What happened to her? Her entire character was based upon her willingness to believe; it was even mentioned later in the movie. But here she is being skeptical about Aslan’s own country! The dialogue went something to this effect: Lucy: “Do you really believe there is such a place?” Reepicheep: “We have nothing if not belief.”
That was when Lucy became a cardboard cutout to me.
And then there’s Prince Caspian (well, king Caspian now, I should say), who doesn’t seem any more like a real character than the others. I was especially disappointed with his speech at the end to his men, which was brief and less than inspiring. But the men cheered, of course, crying “For Narnia!”, and the battle began.
The story is standard. After Caspian tells them about the seven lords of Narnia, each of whom was lost following his father’s kingship, they set out to find them in the Lone Islands and beyond. When they arrive at the islet of the Dufflepods, they meet a magician who tells them that the evil, amorphous “mist” they have been seeing must be destroyed, and that the swords of the seven lords must be lain at Aslan’s Table in order for its spell to be broken. They rather precipitated us into this talk, and the drama that it contained was cheap and ineffective; “You are all about to be tested.” “Tested?” “You must be strong!” It was awful! It didn’t mean anything to me; it was all empty talk. Here, also, lies another logical gap; when the companions arrive on the Dufflepod island, the magician comes out with Lucy to greet them, but they speak nothing of their journey or its purpose; then, without any reason at all, they head to the magician’s chambers and he tells them what they must do to stop the mist. What? That doesn’t make any sense at all; the magician didn’t even know they had seen the mist before, because they hadn’t spoken of it beforehand! It’s another reason that I think the plot was just a means to an end, and why it appears that it was given so little attention. It was meant to be a thrill ride, and they achieved that job well enough; but I believe that many Narnia fans will leave this movie wanting more from Edmund and Lucy’s last adventure than what was given to them.
I’ll give two out of five stars for this unremarkable achievement. They ruined everything about Narnia that I loved, and the ending, which was a perfect opportunity for a moving farewell, was not done justice, chiefly because they didn’t do anything throughout the entire movie to earn it. The characters were flat; the plot spoiled; the quality of filming terrible; the dialogue shallow; and every attempt at emotion mawkish and unreal. I have half a mind to watch the first to Narnia films because I miss them so much; I only wish they could have done the Voyage of the Dawn Treader justice.
God bless you, everybody!
Ryan