In thinking about the film version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I couldn’t help but recall a review I read some years ago of the film Shadowlands. The author said, “I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just wish it had been about C. S. Lewis.” I see some parallels in this most recent adaptation from The Chronicles of Narnia.
Is it a good movie? That is, was it well made? On the whole, yes. Does it reflect something of the deeper realities of life? Or, another way of putting it, is it true? On the whole, yes. Would I see it again, recommend it to others, and buy the DVD when it comes out? Yes, yes, and yes.
Does it stick to the original story? Well, if by that you mean every depiction, line, and event then no. But if you are referring to the theme of the original, its heart and core, I would say it does pretty well. Those of you who are familiar with the book should recall that one of the predominant themes is that of temptation – most especially as pertaining to Lucy. Another is that of conversion – most especially as pertaining to Eustace. Both of those come out quite clearly in the film – though the second not as strongly as I was hoping for. There are also some key lines that are integrated beautifully. For instance, my heart was genuinely moved to not only hear but see Aslan speak the words to Lucy and Edmund as they were about to return home, “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
As far as sticking to the original story goes, I think you have to judge this film on its own merit. That is, assess it separately from the book itself. With The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – looking at the book and the film as separate works – I would personally put them both up pretty high. With Prince Caspian, I would go so far as to say the film was in some ways an improvement over the book. (Gasp! He speaks heresy!) And with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, at least after one viewing, I would say the book is better. But the film is still fun.
Now I realize that there are some Narnia purists out there for whom this just isn’t enough. They have their britches pretty bunched up at this point. Or perhaps they sat on Reepicheep’s sword. To them I would say, “Let’s be glad it’s as good as it is, buy the tickets, hope that more of these will be made, look for opportunities to discuss this with friends, and pray that it encourages folks to read (and reread) the books!“