Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Monday, December 13, 2010
Me: It seems like Dawn Treader is a pivotal film so far as the future of the franchise goes. How do you feel about that? Is there a lot riding on this film so far as what happens next?
DG: Yes, of course, but it's no different from the others. I mean Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, when we did the first one, we knew that we wouldn't be doing a second one unless we had a success on our hands, and the public were very generous and supported us majestically on that movie. Then we knew with Prince Caspian that we wouldn't be doing a third one unless we had a success on our hands, and of course Prince Caspian did very well at the box office despite some of the things that have been said about it. We took four hundred and twenty, I think, million dollars, which isn't bad; it makes it a blockbuster hit. So of course, whether we make the fourth one depends on how the public supports us with Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So you know, take your friends, take your friends friends, take your enemies too—you're supposed to love them as well, you know—and take everyone and go and see the movie if you want another Narnia film to be made.
Me: It's been an interesting voyage for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader so far as actually getting to the screen, especially with the changing of distribution companies. Do have any thoughts on how that went down and why that change was made?
DG: Yeah, well, you know it's interesting, I think the enemy has finally woken up to what we're doing here and the fact that we're doing some good in the world and trying to stop us because this movie was, in various ways, attacked more than the other two put together. We had all kinds of stuff going on with this movie. We had people who were losing loved ones, we had marriages exploding all over the place, you know all sorts of attacks on people's personal lives were going on while we were shooting and making the movie and so forth. It's been a hard one, it's been a tough one to make for all kinds of reason. Our distributor house dropping out, you know, at the last minute didn't help, of course. But, I have to say there was a queue of other studios sort of waiting to pick up the reins. Whatever it was that stimulated that decision, I think the other studios saw it somewhat as a foolish step to take because they were all ready to jump in. Of course we went with Fox, who I've always wanted to work with, by the way. They're a great company. So that's where we are today, and we got a beautiful and exciting and very moving and humorous movie for everyone to look at.
Me: You know, Dawn Treader is one of my favorite books...
DG: Mmm, mine too.
Me: I know a lot of people prefer The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but Dawn Treader was always the one that captured my imagination the most. When I heard about what was happening with the budget of this movie, all the wrangling of how much the budget would be so on and so forth, I was thinking that of all the movies, it seemed to me that this was one that would require a lot of big-budget special effects and location shoots. How did that all work out with figuring out the budget and how that would fit with a story that's so expansive as the Dawn Treader goes on its journey?
DG: Well, we had some really good fortune there. We managed to capture probably one of the most experienced directors in the world in Michael Apted. Michael is a guy who knows in his head, he puts a vision in his head of what he wants to see go up on the screen, every single shot, then he shoots it. So we don't have this long extended shooting process which wastes time and money, which happens sometimes. But Michael is extremely experienced and we had a wonderful DP as well, director of photography, in Dante Spinotti, who's an absolutely genius. So putting the team together, I mean Michael had a good team. We have a great team. In Australia we had a terrific setup with crews and so forth, they were wonderful. We managed to build some of the best sets we've ever built; we did it economically. We were blessed in our crew and blessed in our top people on this movie despite all the difficulties we had in other areas and things going wrong and so on. What I think we've wound up with, to be honest with you, is a movie with more dollars actually on the screen then we may have had in Prince Caspian for example. It's a very interesting process the way movies are put together. We've got a very rich movie in terms of visuals: it's a beautiful movie to look at, it's a lovely looking movie. Then again there's a huge amount of action, there's a lot of humor, and an awful lot of interesting stuff going on in this movie. It's exciting, there's lots of action and stuff going on, you know. It's wound up, I think, being on the top level, well of three, it's probably right up there with Lion/Witch. They're all beautiful movies in their own way, but there is something special about this film.
Me: As a fan of the book, I have to ask: how do you go through the process of making sure fans of the book are going to be happy with what they see on screen? And let's face it, that can be tough. The avid fans of the book are never happy.
DG: You have to remember, I am the worst Narnia purist in all the world. If anybody changes a comma in a text I jump up and down and scream and bite the rug, you know. So for me, all the changes we have to make to translate from a verbal, print medium into a visual medium just drive me up a wall, and I fight tooth and nail to get things back to what Jack wrote and so on. I do have to learn, and have had to learn, the importance and the necessity of some changes being made in various way. And some of the changes in this particular movie are there for very good reasons and one just has to accept it. Of course, what we do is we all sit around the table and argue lots. I argue my side they, they argue theirs. Eventually of course we come to compromise; you know, I haven't shot anybody yet, so I think I'm doing all right.
Me: Well, that's good. It's nice to know we have someone like you on the side of the avid fans of the book who want it kept as close to the book as possible because that's the way they love it.
DG: (laughs) I don't always win, remember.
Me: It's still nice to have an advocate helping us out. Well, thank you very much for your time, Mr. Gresham.
DG: Thank you indeed
C.S. Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham, discusses the integrity of the new film.
Douglas Gresham knew C.S. Lewis as more than just a great author and apologist. He knew him as a father. Gresham was adopted and raised by Lewis when his mother, Joy Davidman, married Lewis in 1956. Gresham went on to develop a deep bond with the man he knew as Jack, and their relationship inspired in him a dream to someday make the Chronicles of Narnia books into movies.
Now, more than 40 years later, Gresham is in the throes of making that dream a reality. As the producer of the Narnia franchise, Gresham is working with Walden Media and 20th Century Fox to release the third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which comes out today. It's his role to advocate for Lewis' original intent while trying to straddle the inevitable compromise of adapting literature to film.
Some people—critics and audiences alike—have expressed disappointment with the films, questioning whether they have successfully represented Lewis' vision. We talked to Gresham about translating these beloved works for the screen and his thoughts on how faith and art intersect in the works of Lewis.
How did C.S. Lewis’ faith impact his work, specifically the Narnia series?
Well, I think Jack’s faith impacted his work in the sense that it’s quite discernible to those of us who have committed our lives to Christ. The Holy Spirit of God really was the author of the works; Jack was the co-author through which they came, particularly the Narnia Chronicles. He made no secret of the fact that the ideas and the stories themselves just floated through his head, and he recorded them. So, I think it’s pretty obvious when you read the Narnia Chronicles that this man had a very close connection with the Author of all things.
How have you tried to bring the faith that’s so entrenched in the book series into the movies?
What I really concentrate on in the films is to make sure it’s what Jack said in the books that goes into the movies. I try to make sure we stay as close to the original books as is possible. Of course, it’s quite a tough job to adapt a book into a movie. The two mediums are so different from each other. So we have to wind our way through the various pitfalls in adapting. The important thing to me is to keep the messages of Jack incorporated in the films, and I think we’ve succeeded in doing that so far.
So the messages haven’t been compromised?
I don’t think we’ve compromised any of the messages in the movies we’ve so far made or the one we’re making now for that matter. I think, in some ways, the reverse has happened. The essential messages of The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobePrince Caspian have shone through very strongly. Some people, some Christians indeed, have told me they shine through in the movies even more strongly than in the books. and
How does that work with the studio and directors? Do you have disagreements?
All the time—fortunately, the directors I’ve worked with are very open to discussing things at length. We work as a team, and it’s a good team. We do have disagreements, of course. I see things in different ways sometimes, but we always come to some sort of a compromise in the end, which works for both parties. Sometimes, certainly, it’s been hard work. It’s been heartbreaking work at times, where I really felt strongly about something, and I haven’t been able to get my message across. But it’s a team, and I’m blessed to have had some really good teams working with me.
When have you had to make a compromise?
Sometimes we compromise on the detail of how things are actually represented on screen, but I don’t think anything really desperately important has ever been lost. I have to go through the book and decide what is essential to go into the screenplay and what doesn’t matter so much. It’s always, for me, the deep theological meanings Jack wrote that I think are essential. The stuff like language usage in 1940s England as opposed to now, as far I’m concerned, isn’t so vital. But all in all, I think if you’ve seen the first two movies, then you’d probably agree we did a pretty good job at getting Jack’s message across.
So you are satisfied with the first two movies?
Yes, very much so. Everybody is in love with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of the story itself. Prince Caspian was a much more difficult story to adapt to the screen, because, basically, the book is all about the kids who get into Narnia. They meet a dwarf. They rescue a dwarf. They all sit down around a campfire. He tells them a long story about somebody they’ve never met. They go for a walk in the woods, and then there’s a battle. Now, that doesn’t make a good movie. We had to bring other things in and make some action happen and so forth. But I think the essential messages that are in Prince Caspian come forth extremely well in the film. I’m very happy with it.
Is that why Prince Caspian wasn’t as critically successful?
Well, I think the critics liked it well enough, but I think there are a lot of reasons why it didn’t succeed in terms of finances. One of the main ones, of course, is, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has the greatest story ever told anywhere in the history of man, and Prince Caspian doesn’t. But don’t forget, Prince Caspian was a highly successful movie. It grossed over $400 million in the box office, and that’s a blockbuster. The problem is, of course, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was such a standout film—it’s such a standout book—that you can’t really compare the two.
Does critical reception matter to you?
Not a great deal because I know how critics work; I used to be one. There are critics who make it a point of their work to say something nasty about whatever they’re criticizing, and that’s a shame. We’ve had some great reviews; we’ve had some bad reviews. I don’t really read reviews anymore, as [much as] I can possibly help. What matters to me is what people feel about it, what the audiences feel about it. I’ve had some wonderful emails from audience members all around the world on both of those movies. For example, someone who watched Prince Caspian said: “Thank you so much for making that film. My 17-year-old son saw the movie and suddenly committed his life to Christ.” And that is magnificent.
What would Lewis think about all this?
Jack always had his worries about the thought of anyone filming the Narnia Chronicles because he thought it would have to be done by the old-fashioned cartoon animation, and he never wanted Aslan presented as cartoon character. I can quite understand why. But I think if he looked at the Aslan we’ve put on the screen, he would be absolutely thrilled. And I certainly think he would understand and enjoy the changes we made to Prince Caspian. I sincerely hope so; otherwise, I’ve just wasted the last 15 years of my life.
What do you ultimately want to accomplish through the movies?
I want to accomplish the same thing Jack did when he wrote the books. The idea being that when you read the Narnia Chronicles, you should be able to get to know Aslan very well throughout the seven books. If that happens, as it should happen and does happen, you’ll then know his new name, his different name here in this world as a result of having known him as Aslan in Narnia. That’s also what I want to accomplish with the movies: to know Aslan there, so that you can know him better here.
Another disappointing entry in the Chronicles of Narnia film series.
Andrew Adamson had never made a live-action film before he stepped behind the camera to make the first two films in The Chronicles of Narnia, and it showed. The acting was mediocre, the visuals were colorful but flat, and Narnia felt about as big as Central Park. For the third installment in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there's a new director—Michael Apted, who has a significant number of movies under his belt. But the reasonable expectation that a more experienced artist might be able to redeem a so-so franchise proves unfounded. Almost nothing about this picture is an improvement, except for a sense that Lewis' fantastical land might actually take more than a few days to explore. Otherwise, it's just more of the same.
The movie's flaws aren't just isolated to the acting or the visuals, though. Like its predecessors, it exhibits a mild impatience with its own source material. On the surface, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader prides itself on bringing Lewis' magical story and insightful theology to life for the world to admire. I can't get past the feeling, though, that what we're really watching is a child who desperately wants to steal attention away from his older, more impressive cousin, The Lord of the Rings. The Narnia stories are children’s literature. They are short, packed with meaning and derive much of their beauty from their simplicity. Yet the filmmakers behind the series seem intent on trying to steal Peter Jackson's thunder by adding in more action than necessary and borrowing from other sources to “improve” certain plot points.
Just take a moment to consider the plot of Lewis' book. Lucy and Edmund, the youngest of the Pevensie siblings, have been sent to live out the rest of World War II with their bratty cousin, Eustace Scrubb. They're understandably miserable. Then, in a moment that defies all logic, the children are pulled inside a painting of a ship at sea and find that they've landed smack-dab in the middle of Narnia. There, they find that Caspian, who was upgraded from a prince to a king in their last adventure, is looking for seven lords who went missing back when his evil uncle stole the throne. The heroes travel from island to island, encountering danger, excitement and the missing lords as they go. Eventually they disembark on a distant land where they discover three of the men they're looking for locked in a deep sleep. The only way to break the spell is for the heroes to travel to the end of the world and leave one of their party behind.
The filmmakers get much of this right, but the rest is hopelessly muddled. Instead of just looking for the seven lords, Caspian is tasked with finding their swords, which—for some reason—have magical powers when brought together in one place. On top of that, the heroes have promised to discover the mystery behind an eerie green fog that causes people to disappear. And did I mention they also have to destroy a black, wispy island inhabited by a sea serpent?
I don't know whether we have screenwriter Christopher Markus to thank for these changes or Douglas Gresham, the movie’s producer and Lewis’ stepson, but it's all too much. This is exactly what I’m talking about when I say the Narnia series is acting too grown-up for its own good. Instead of embracing the simple plot of the book they're adapting, they try to make the story feel more complex. But the changes they've made for this big screen production only contribute to its confused sense of itself. The movie doesn’t know what it wants to be or where it wants to go, so it goes nowhere, and it goes there with as much bluster as it can.
There are two notable aspects of the movie that do deserve praise though. One is the addition of Simon Pegg to the cast. He replaces Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep, the swashbuckling mouse. His passion for life and unshakable faith in Aslan perfectly capture the light-hearted yet absolutely serious spirit of Lewis' work, and Pegg makes us feel this using just his voice. Actors Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes and Ben Barnes—as Lucy, Edmund and Caspian, respectively—feel stilted by comparison. Will Poulter is good as Eustace, but it's hard to get over his voice, which makes him sound like James Cagney on helium.
The second thing I admire is that the film includes Aslan's admonition to Lucy to look for him in her own world. “But there I have another name,” he tells her. “You must learn to know me by that name.” If the rest of the movie seems to drown out Lewis with its noise, here he's allowed to shine as brightly as the sun gleaming off the ocean waves. This is pure Lewis, without the extra bells and whistles, and the lines, as voiced by Liam Neeson, have enormous power. If only the rest of the movie came as close to hitting the mark.
Andrew Welch writes about movies for RELEVANT and lives in Texas.
Where's the Dawn in 'The Dawn Treader'?
New Narnia film overlooks one of the book's main themes, falls short on others
CT film critic Steven D. Greydanus, writing for The National Catholic Register, clearly articulates a number of the problems with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which opened to a weak $24.5 million over the weekend -- a much weaker opening than for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ($65.6 million) and for Prince Caspian ($55 million).
Analysts and studio heads will come up with all sorts of theories for the weak opening, but certainly one of the reasons is that the film got all sorts of things wrong, when compared to the book. Greydanus does a nice job in describing the challenges of converting a beloved book to the big screen, that it rarely can be a perfect adaptation, and that some changes are inevitable. That's well enough, but some of the changes are head-scratchers -- starting with the title itself.
The Dawn Treader is supposed to be sailing always east, toward the world's edge, the eternal dawn, toward Aslan's country. But the film completely overlooks that. Greydanus asked two key people about the that -- Walden Media president Micheal Flaherty and co-producer Douglas Gresham. Flaherty understood and acknowledged the validity of Greydanus's point; Gresham blew it off.
"Narnia has an interesting geography: The world is flat," Flaherty said. "And there is something beckoning about the utter east. That would have been a good shot. … That’s an interesting point.” But Gresham, C. S. Lewis's stepson who calls himself the "Narnia police" to make sure the films get the main things right, said, “I don’t think that’s the least bit important, to be honest. That they sail eastward, in Narnia? A flat world, theoretically? I don’t think it is, no.”
Read the rest of Steven's insights here. He voices all of my own concerns about the film, but much more articulately than I ever could.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) | Review
I have come to appreciate Gresham's role, and the positive part he plays in the films, more and more over the past few weeks. (For more on this, see Douglas Gresham on Policing Narnia with the provided links, and Yo Snyder'sI think a lot of people don't understand the process of movie making, and what it takes to translate a book into a film. Nor can they understand or appreciate what's involved for somebody who is managing a literary estate, and trying to make sure that these movies remain true to the original books. I think Doug Gresham is in a difficult position. I think he has taken a wise position in that he has to sign off on script before they can go ahead, and he's involved in the whole production process by being a co-producer. But there's a lot of give and take in that process. At a certain point he has to decide, "Am I going to say, 'no,' to this?" and thus not have a movie made at all. Or, "do we come up with a compromise and keep moving ahead?" He wants the movies to be true to the books, but he wants to keep moving ahead with these movies.
I also have appreciated the insight of Inside Narnia author Devin Brown. In my interview with him this past week, he commented that "everyone has their favorite part that they wish made it in the movie." For those who are fans of the books, "our first love will always have to be" the books. So it's important to realize that it would be impossible to incorporate everything from the books into the movie. Even the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre version (whose creators were dedicated to making the series "the most faithful rendition" ever) made changes adapting the books.
So, when I went to see the movie again (both in 2-D and 3-D) this weekend, I was determined, as I had told Dr. Brown, to "to sit back and relax and enjoy what's there instead of trying to pick out what's not." What a difference. The second and third looks have me hooked—I am enthralled.
What struck me first about the movie is the attention to detail. Eustace's house was especially well done—from Eustace's room filled with dry, dusty books and jarred or pinned bugs; to Lucy's guest room with the worn-out furniture and the mirror splattered with black dots from age (also a great way to picture Lucy's thoughts about herself). The cinematography is also splendid—from the way shots are set up, to the fabulous use of lighting. And the special effects are even better than in Prince Caspian (although I'm still not crazy about 3-D).
I have heard some critics complain about the acting by the principal players. I wonder if they saw a different movie than I. Skandar Keynes (Edmund) and Ben Barnes (Caspian) were solid, and Georgie Henley has improved dramatically (pun intended; both meanings fit) as she has grown with her part. Newcomer Will Poulter makes an excellent Eustace, often stealing the scenes with his natural "straight man" comedic sense.
I found the script actually to be the best of the series. Yes, there is that irritating (and hokey) bit about the seven swords* and the "green mist," but other than that, the progression shows a great balance between tension and release; the character arcs (especially Lucy and Eustace) are well developed, and the interjected humor is much better than anything in the other two films. People were actually laughing out loud in the theaters I attended. I also enjoyed the developing friendship between Eustace and Reepicheep—something those struggling with their relationship with some obnoxious stinker that has been brought into their life should take to heart.
Most of all, the movie captures the overall spirit of C S Lewis's book. The themes of temptation, courage, and responsibility shine though, even if they do have a bit different nuance than the way Lewis wrote about them. Lewis and Narnia experts will realize that the temptations the characters face are not exactly the same in the movie as in the book. I could write a long article on this (perhaps some day I will), but take, for example, the temptation of Lucy. In the movie, Lucy is tempted to say the beautification spell because she wants to be like Susan. Her It's a Wonderful Life moment is well conceived and should hopefully hit home with many young girls struggling through adolescence. However, the message in the book is a bit different. Lucy does not want to be like Susan, but better than she. The temptation is not about not wanting to be herself, but wanting other people to view her favorably—and as more beautiful than any other woman in the world.
If Walden Media had gone the direction the book takes, the reference to Helen of Troy and "the face that launched a thousand ships" would probably have been lost to most young girls watching the film. I, for one, am glad that they "updated" this particular temptation to something that adolescents will probably be able to relate to better.
At Ramadu's Island, King Caspian tells Lilliandil (the name Douglas Gresham gave to Ramandu's daughter, who is also the Blue Star in the movie) that he hopes to see her again. At the end of the movie, Eustace asks Aslan if he will be coming back to Narnia. Aslan replies that Narnia may have need of him again. Many Narnia fans are hoping that Caspian will see Lilliandil again so that their son Prince Rilian will appear in a next movie—The Silver Chair. Whether Eustace will make it back and appear in a fourth movie depends much on how well Dawn Treader does this first week at the box office. So, please go see it! If you have already seen it and are still deciding how well you like it, give it a second chance; "sit back and relax and enjoy what's there instead of trying to pick out what's not."
It is so easy to become a Eustace, who sarcastically says as he drudges along on Dragon Island something like: "Oh, sure. Follow the imaginary Blue Star to the Island of Raman-doo-doo and place on the table of the talking lion the four steak knives of the seven lords." Eustace doesn't like the plot any more than many heart-broken fans out there. I understand. As we have taken this ride over the past year and a half since filming began (the rumors date back even longer), we have often wondered and fumed over what those filmmakers have been doing to "our book." Well, guess what? They haven't taken it away from us; we can always pick it up and read it whenever we want. So, I have decided to enjoy both the movie and the book for what they are. Both have merit, I believe. The book will always be my first love, but I have decided I can love the movie, too.
*The seven swords may not be in the book, but I think they illustrate a lesson that we can all learn. The spell could not be broken until the seven swords were laid at Aslan's Table. There is a conversation where Caspian talks about Edmund giving up his sword. He had to in order to break the spell. So Caspian gives him Peter's sword—the one Peter had entrusted to Caspian. Devin Brown tells us in Inside The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (p. 218) that Lewis once wrote that when we make first things first, God also gives us the second things. Edmund is willing to give up his sword to accomplish a first thing (overcome evil), and is given his brother's sword instead.
It is also interesting to note that many commentators see Aslan's Table as an allusion to the Eucharist (also known as the Lord's Table). Paul told the Corinthians, in his first letter to them, that because they were abusing the Lord's Table, many had "fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 11). While "sleep" for Paul was apparently a euphemism for death, Lewis takes the idea and makes it literal.
The fault of the lords who became the sleepers was similar to one of the faults of the Corinthians, who were still quarreling among themselves when Paul wrote another letter to them (2 Corinthians 10:4). We must learn to lay down our swords—to quit our petty arguments—if we are to "break the spell" of evil and participate in the fellowship of that Table.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Normally by the third movie of any series—like the Chronicles of Narnia—audiences have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But there's still an air of nervous uncertainty hovering around The Voyage of The Dawn Treader.
Part of it stems from the under-performance of 2008's Prince Caspian at the box office, compared to the runaway success of 2006's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The movie series has since changed hands from Disney to Fox, and though previous director Andrew Adamson remains onboard as a producer, he has passed the directing reins to an agnostic, Michael Apted (Amazing Grace). With both previous films, fans have nitpicked about whether the movies have remained true to C. S. Lewis's books.
Such are the challenges of big screen adaptations, and the Narnia series is no exception, especially with its Christian themes and nuances. But Voyage would seem a better fit for a movie treatment than the comparably dull and straightforward plot of Caspian. Call this one a step in the right direction, but a mixed bag nonetheless.
Returning to Narnia are the two youngest Pevensie children from the previous movies, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes). Like the Harry Potter movies, it's a pleasure to see these child actors grow with their characters. They're front and center with cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), an insufferable brat who does nothing but whine and complain both in the real world and in Narnia. He's about to learn some life-changing lessons the hard way. [See our interview with Poulter.]
The trio finds itself at sea with Lucy and Edmund's old friends King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and the warrior-mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) on the royal ship The Dawn Treader. Their quest: To explore the eastern ocean in search of seven exiled Lords of Narnia and perhaps sail to the end of the world where the homeland of Aslan is said to be found. Along the way they'll encounter many trials and dangers—slave traders, invisible creatures, cursed treasure, a sea monster … and wait, a malevolent green mist?
The storytelling changes from the book come early on, but not all of them are bad. For all its many strengths, Lewis' Voyage is very episodic—perfect for bedtime stories, but lacking the strong narrative needed to bridge a blockbuster adventure. The filmmakers have shuffled the various island adventures around, shortening some while extending others. For example, the Dufflepuds "appear" much sooner and amount to little more than a cameo, while the dragon storyline arrives later and remains for considerably longer—and quite differently—than in the book.
And then there's that pesky green mist, which steals its victims away to Dark Island, where our darkest nightmares come to life. I just wish the sequence wasn't so reminiscent of Ghostbusters' Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Fans may balk at these changes, but they do help create a better flow on the big screen. The climax is stronger as a result, and many scenes from the book remain intact. It's at least a more interesting movie than Prince Caspian.
But it lacks a sense of the awe and wonder that marked Wardrobe. This time, Lucy and Edmund return to Narnia with some surprise but precious little wonder, and since Eustace hates Narnia on sight, he ends up being a poor entry point for us. It all feels more on autopilot after two movies.
The bigger problem is the script, which relies on predictable dialogue and fantasy contrivances. The Dufflepuds played to mystery and laughs for at least two chapters in the book. Here they're barely a footnote (no pun intended) worth mentioning. Worse, their master Coriakin has zero charisma, existing only to deliver some clunky exposition about defeating the evil mist by finding the seven swords of the seven Lords and laying them at the table of Aslan. Why? To set a goal for the movie, I guess.
The same could be said of the scene at Aslan's table, where Caspian finds a new romantic interest in the form of a living star. It's all discussed and revealed with the interest of a third-rate fairy-tale. Not that Lewis' original story delved much deeper, but the Voyage movie often barrels along as if it has no time for character development or more intelligent plotting. The focus is primarily on the big swashbuckling climax at Dark Island, as if it can't arrive there quick enough. If only filmmakers had taken 15 minutes more to better explore the sights, wonders, and characters of Narnia, we might have a better movie.
It's still certainly watchable with its "what happens next?" quest. The effects are good, though I'd add that the 3-D version adds nothing to the film. It's entertaining enough for its target audience, even if grown-up kids (like me) cry foul over the details.
The Christian ideas are more prominent in this film, playing up the theme of overcoming temptation—Lucy's subplot concerning self-esteem is greatly amplified and generally effective. Eustace's beloved scene of redemption—his "undragoning," as Narnia fans often call it—has been considerably shortened, but it might not have played as well on the big screen as it did in the book. There's something to be said for the altered plot allowing Eustace more time to come to a place of repentance before his restoration, and there are nods to the book in a later exchange in the movie. But the moment of his transformation whisks by so quickly, it's almost a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene. It makes for a cool special effect, but lacks the gravity and meaning made so clear by Lewis's pen. But Aslan remains a strong Christ figure, particularly in the closing scenes when he mentions "his other name" in our world.
These themes seemed to resonate with the primarily Christian audience I viewed it with; a post-screening discussion confirmed that. But there are bound to be disgruntled fans, and both perspectives have a point. The film is merely okay at best, and that's disappointing. With such strong source material and the future of the franchise uncertain, this fairly good Voyage should have been much better.
For more articles and resources about this movie, see our Voyage of the Dawn Treader special section.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Narnia: Coming to a Mall Near You!
'Ice Palace' to magically appear in 16 shopping centers for holiday season
Georgie Henley (who plays Lucy) and Will Poulter (Eustace) will give Narnia fans a look at the upcoming film with a live, streaming broadcast from LA's Beverly Center mall at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. The palaces will be available at 16 Taubman shopping centers nationwide from November 12 through December 24.
According to a press release from Fox and Taubman, the exhibits "feature a color changing 30-foot Ice Palace, encircled with a series of majestic arches and smaller globes that appear to be carved from ice. . . . [G]uests will encounter life-like figures portraying scenes from the film and movie footage integrated in an exciting video show. When visitors enter the Ice Palace's largest dome, they will be greeted with falling snow and a captivating light show."
And if that weren't enough, even Santa -- 16 versions of him! -- will be on hand for pictures when you sit on the Ice Palace throne "that's cool to the touch," according to the press release. Santa in Narnia? Well, we'll just pretend he's Father Christmas.
The exhibits will be at the following shopping centers:
The Narnia Ice Palace will be available the following Taubman shopping centers:
> California: Beverly Center (Los Angeles), Sunvalley (Concord)
> Colorado: Cherry Creek (Denver)
> Connecticut: Westfarms (Farmington)
> Florida: Dolphin Mall (Miami), International Plaza (Tampa), The Mall at Wellington Green (Wellington)
> Illinois: Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg)
> Michigan: Fairlane Town Center (Dearborn), Great Lakes Crossing Outlets (Auburn Hills), Twelve Oaks (Novi)
> New Jersey: The Mall at Short Hills (Short Hills)
> North Carolina: Northlake (Charlotte)
> Texas: The Shops at Willow Bend (Plano)
> Virginia: Fair Oaks Mall (Fairfax), MacArthur Center (Norfolk)
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Narnia Film To Premiere At Biola Media Conference
The next film in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, will make its West Coast debut when the president of Walden Media, Micheal Flaherty, unveils clips from the upcoming film at the Biola Media Conference on Saturday, May 1, 2010 at CBS Studios in Studio City, CA. The film is scheduled for release on December 10, 2010 in partnership with 20th Century Fox. “We are beyond thrilled to have Micheal Flaherty give us an advance look at Voyage of the Dawn Treader, noted Jack Hafer, producer of the award-winning film To End All Wars and Chair of Biola University’s nationally acclaimed Cinema and Media Arts program. “As the co-founder and president of Walden Media, he has a unique and visionary perspective on the latest installment of this extraordinary franchise. And for anyone who’s a Narnia fan, this is a not-to-be-missed event.” In addition to the Narnia series, Walden has financed and produced such films as Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, I Am David, Amazing Grace and their latest film release, Tooth Fairy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This years’ “WORLDS COLLIDE” theme will explore how technology and the current economic crisis have set the stage for the collision of traditional models and new digital possibilities today. Noting that in periods of dramatic change, often the worst economic times become catalysts for our greatest innovations. “With studios narrowing their releases to “tent pole” films and distribution outlets tightening – we have, on the other hand, the collision of smartphones and new devices like netbooks and iPad on the scene, making film production more streamlined, economical and portable than ever,” noted Phil Cooke who will moderate the event. “BMC workshops such as, “Producing Projects in the 21st Century; Using Tools and Technologies Available Within the Last 12 Months,” will deliver a career enhancing tech-tutorial by showing the latest innovations in portable production that could change your ability to affect both the quality and the bottom line of your production.” The Biola Media Conference, sponsored by Biola University and part of the FrontGate Media group, attracts over 600 attendees – making it the largest event in the country for people of faith working in the entertainment industry. It is known for its intimate and practical conversations with leading Hollywood professionals, with industry training and instruction from some of the most influential individuals in Film, TV, PR, Media Marketing, Management and Digital Media. Conference topics cover every aspect of media related careers, technologies, and ministries from the creative, to the financial, to the production process. “This not-to-be-missed event compacts into one day an opportunity like no other,” notes Hafer. “It’s a chance to discover concrete direction for your career and put you in touch with the people and resources anyone serious about a career in entertainment or media needs to know.” The Biola Media Conference has extended the early DISCOUNTED rate. Take advantage of the Early Admission price of $135 until March 26; $150 General Admission from March 27 – April 27; and $180 at the door. Lunch and coffee bar provided.
For more information or to register online, visit:
Thursday, May 14, 2009
ComingSoon.net has a fantastic interview with Ben Barnes about his role in Easy Virtue. Be sure to read the whole thing there. In the interview, though, the questions turn to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Ben reveals… nothing about the movie! However, he is very excited to finally film the movie, which was supposed to start shooting twice in the last two years. We concur with that excitement.
CS: Of course, you’re going to go shoot “Dawn Treader” very soon. Have you read a script or started training or anything for it yet? Obviously, it was pushed back six or seven months.
Barnes: Twice. It was supposed to go the January before last, that was the original plan.
CS: You’ve known for a long time that you were going to do the movie eventually.
Barnes: But yeah, I know nothing about it. I know as much as anyone who has read the “Dawn Treader” book. Literally, that’s how much I know.
CS: Is there anything in the book you’re excited about doing?
Barnes: Yeah, there’s a lot of it! Obviously, I’m hoping Ramandu’s daughter is hot… there’s the beginning where he dives in and saves Lucy, there’s all the cool stuff with the golden pawn. I think the Lucy stuff, and the monopods where she goes to the Professor’s room and sees her past, that’ll be cool. The sea serpent and the mermaids and mermen will be cool.
CS: A lot of that stuff is visual FX though.
Barnes: It’s all very fantastical though, and I think just to be a part of that will be exciting. Make it a bit younger again and more fantasy world like the first one, more kind of discovery.
CS: Have you met with Michael Apted again since the first time?
Barnes: I met him on the set of “Prince Caspian” and I met him once after that.
CS: So they’ve just been off doing their own thing preparing.
Barnes: Yeah, I assume they’ve been working hard on it. I just don’t really know. I don’t have any information for you, I’m afraid, because I’m in the dark myself. I WISH I was one of those people who knew everything and were still like, “I’m afraid I can’t tell you.” I wish I was that guy.
CS: Well, I’m assuming that it’s basically the book.
Barnes: Yeah, but I’m still very intrigued and anxious about what stuff they’re going to leave… because “Dawn Treader” is such an episodic book. Read a chapter and that’s a kid’s book, and it doesn’t link together as a story. Apart from the fact they’re on this voyage, but you need motivation in a film, so the way they sew it together is going to be the interesting thing.
CS: Do you have your sea legs together to be able to do a lot of stuff on water? Or are you just going to have to…
Barnes: (shaking head) Wing it. I swim a lot. I swim most days. So no, I like that.
Read the full interview at ComingSoon.net, the site that doesn’t sleep
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Fox Picks Up Next Narnia Film
One month after Disney bailed out of the franchise, Fox agrees to co-finance 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader'
That question was answered Wednesday when several publications--Variety, the LA Times, and the Hollywood Reporter--all ran stories saying that 20th Century Fox will pick up the tab to co-finance the third Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Variety reports that Fox and Walden "are still working out budget and script issues, but the hope is to shoot the film at the end of summer for a holiday 2010 release through the Fox Walden label." (Fox and Walden have partnered on most of Walden's other releases; only the Narnia films--The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian--were released through Disney.)
The Variety article also notes that while Caspian didn't earn nearly as much money as LWW, Caspian is also "considered the least commercially appealing of the seven C.S. Lewis Narnia novels" but nonetheless "ranked No. 10 in global box office performance last year. Dawn Treader is considered to be a more family film-friendly book, and the goal is to get back to the magical aspects present in the first Narnia pic but mostly absent from Prince Caspian."
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
3rd film relocates production from New Zealand
Production of the first two pics -- "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian" -- was largely based in New Zealand because of government tax incentives. Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, which created most of the films' effects and props, also are based in that country.
But producers of the new pic, "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," to be directed by Michael Apted, needed several large soundstages plus a massive water tank. Title of the film refers to the ship that serves as a major set piece.
Basing the pic mainly in one location also will cut costs, sources close to the production said.
Location shots in Australia will still be filmed as planned.
Production originally was slated to start in October, but will now likely begin in January.
"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" shot mostly in New Zealand, while "Prince Caspian" also lensed in Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Soundstages were used in Prague.
Lack of studio space has long plagued New Zealand's film council, and officials have attempted to raise public and private funds to build more.
Country will take a financial hit because of "Narnia's" move. First pic ponied up $134 million, while "Prince Caspian" shelled out $52 million there, government officials have said.
Despite disappointment with the B.O. performance of "Prince Caspian," Disney and Walden are not attributing the move to Mexico to that film's haul.
Pic has earned $138 million domestically and another $178 million overseas so far, giving it a cume of $316 million. "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe" earned $745 million worldwide.