Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Dawn Treader

Right up front let it be stated that I'm a stickler for the following of books rather strictly when they are being produced in movie form.

Now, I know they can't catch every nuance, or portray the characters exactly as the author described them, especially not an author of Lewis' caliber. However it would be polite of them to at least try. It would be nice to have it explained how screenwriters manage to make such a mess out the thing. Here is a book that has charmed thousands of people, children and adults alike, ever since it was first published. It is witty, charming, zesty, fairly dripping in adventure and chock full of memorable characters. With deft strokes Lewis spun a tale that should (and does) keep one on the edge of ones seat, he gave the film makers everything to create a spectacular tale.

But. They. Crashed. Burned. And. Ruined. It.

Not only that, if you took the film solely on it's artistic merit you'd be sadly disappointed. It is badly filmed, badly acted, poor (bordering on moronic) lines and rushed. Getting a new director did the film company no favors, he failed to draw out of his actors even a tenth of what the previous director had managed.

Perhaps at the one of the first meetings to discus the film someone (a bigwig) said "Look, children are stupid, they'll be satisfied with drivel and Christians are gonna love the film no matter what we do. Because it will be family friendly and about Narnia, so lets not spend to much time on it." And then the next person pipes up "Yeah, and lets put in some green mist, there isn't enough green mist in films these days. I'm picturing Simple Green here."

Thus was born the key plot line, a gangling, all elbows and knees, embarrassed at being shoved into and above the real story, apologetic and not knowing where to look. The search for Aslan's country, noble deeds, fights, friendships, the conquering of self and the defending of innocent lives isn't enough material to make an exciting movie. We need a green mist that makes no sense, with an emphasis on self betterment, awkward friendships (Lucy's with the small girl) along with a general debasing of all characters. With the (boring) culmination, not a leaning on Aslan, but a "We can do it" slogan infused with a pathetic attempt at an exciting magical twist (the seven swords).

Sadly the pathos that is attempted to be interjected by the adding of a Father and small girl who have lost their wife and Mother to the green mist, adds no pathos at all. The best part happens at the end when they jump off the ship to swim out to the Mother after she's been found, but the reunion isn't what brings joy. It is the fact that, praise God, their no longer cluttering up the deck and acting as flies in the ointment. The only thing better would have been if they'd gotten washed away sooner.

Lewis did not consider children (or Christians) to be stupid or unable to grasp "higher and deeper" ideals and thoughts. His tales are always refreshing, biting, with a crisp edge as well as a homely and gentle touch that was genus. I respected that as a child and still do as an adult. It is my opinion that this film would have made him chuckle but on the other hand be rather annoyed because it deliberately drags us down to the level of oatmeal. Feeding neither the imagination nor the soul. Giving us nothing to aspire to, trampling on the wild joy and creativity that should have been a directors dream to portray.

I never thought I'd say this but....I hope they don't make another one, it obviously can only get worse from here on out.