A previous post on the symbolism in the the Voyage of the Dawn Treader book can be found here. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I thought that I would provide some additional comments.
The movie hit all of the major scenes found in the book, but it intermingled the themes and embellished others. The major difference between the book and the movie is that the movie attempted to bring more cohesion to the story line. The book was more a series of distinct episodes, where the Dawn Treader went from scene to scene. Here’s a few ways that the movie added a more defined plot:
- The green mist was a representation of evil that was not found in the book. It was an easy visual cue that evil was present. The mist took the guesswork away and clearly identified aspects that were intended to be evil.
- While the book was loosely arranged around the search for the seven high lords, the movie added the element of collecting the swords and placing them on Aslan’s table. This was a more defined goal. When the swords were collected, Aslan’s power would defeat the evil spells that had been cast.
- The book had definite aspects of internal conflict in the characters with evil desires, but the movie played this up much more. The movie stated its premise in one part: “We must defeat the evil inside all of us if we are to defeat the evil out there” (this is a quote from memory so it could be slightly different). This inner turmoil with evil desire was seen in several instances. 1) Lucy’s desire to be pretty was a momentary comment in the book, but it was a recurring theme in the movie. In the movie, Lucy wanted to be pretty like her sister. There’s even a scene where her existence is erased when she becomes her sister. 2) The movie created more of a rivalry between Edmund and Caspian; Edmund continually struggled with the desire for power. 3) The movie really extended Eustace’s time as the dragon. Instead of a single episode, it spanned several scenes in the movie. The actor who played Eustace did a brilliant job of portraying the annoying cousin, by the way.
- There were several direct references to faith, which seemed conspicuous in the movie. It seems like I remember a couple of times where the characters stated, “You just have to believe” and “You just have to have faith.” The analogy is much more hidden within the story of the book. Again, the movie tries to make things more explicit and obvious.
All in all, I thought it was a good movie, but a Narnian purist may have a valid complaint. The movie had a slightly different feel even though it covered all the scenes. As is the case with Western culture (and even Western Christianity), the movie places great emphasis on the individual.
Maybe I’m wrong, but the movie seemed to have morphed a bit into a more generic spirituality. By making things more explicit, the movie had to go in a certain direction, and that direction seems well suited to a broader audience. The “end of the world” was more heavily emphasized in the book, and the connection to heaven seemed obvious. However, in the movie the connection seemed less apparent. I will say, though, that Eustace’s transformation from dragon to human still had heavy Christian overtones.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s worth seeing. Enjoy!