Monday, September 15, 2008

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 56 years old

On this day - September 15 - in 1952, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was first published. The third published volume in the Chronicles of Narnia series, this will also be the third film released by Walden Media, currently scheduled for May 2010.

The book introduces the interesting character of Eustace Clarence Scrubb, cousin to the Pevensie children. Eustace is sort of the new Edmund - what Edmund used to be like, at any rate.

Lewis once described the main theme of Dawn Treader as having to do with the "spiritual life," especially in the character of the mouse Reepicheep.

The book also contains a fairly clear reference to Christianity near the end. It will be interesting to see how this turns out on film.


Adam D said...

looking forward to this movie, especially to see how a new director handles the material. Lewis' Narnia books were so important in my formative years (having read the books literally a dozen times apiece in elementary school) and much of Lewis' other works (essay and fiction) have been so important in my adult life as well, that the adaptation of these books to the big screen was quite exciting. Alas, in too many important respects, Adamson blew it with #1 and I'm waiting on #2 to come to dvd but find descriptions of his approach disheartening. Steven Greydanus ( expresses sentiments identical to my own and more eloquently and concisely than I probably could.

curious to know your thoughts on the first couple films, if you've seen them.

Robert Velarde said...

Adam, thanks for the comments. I too have read the Narnia books multiple times over the course of many years. I always find them delightful and challenging in new ways. Incidentally, my book The Heart of Narnia remains the only one to cover all seven Narnia books from the perspective of the ethics of the series.

I was not too impressed with the adaptation of Prince Caspian to the big screen, but enjoyed it overall nonetheless. See my short review/comments on that film in my post, "Caspian: Visual Feast, Story Suffers."

The adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was better at least in the sense of being truer to the original source material, but it lacked the numinous awe and wonder that Lewis so carefully crafts in the book, particularly in his building up of Aslan - a literary technique, by the way, that is ruined for those who read The Magician's Nephew first. Don't read that book first!

Any book that is made into a motion picture is essentially being adapted from a couple of hundred pages to ninety minutes of a largely visual and auditory medium. Given such a scenario, coupled with audience expectations of what a "fantasy" film should be, there's always going to be some compromises in adapting books to screens. For those who love the books, no film will satisfy completely, but it may provide glimpses of what we may have had in mind now and then.

I've had many people suggest that my book Conversations with C.S. Lewis should be made into a film, including Lewis scholar Peter Kreeft who endorsed my book. Whenever I hear this remark, I simultaneously cringe and am elated at the prospect. There's potential, but there's also potential disaster. This applies, I think, to any book-to-movie process.

The Narnia films are helpful in at least creating greater awareness in a mainstream medium of the works of C.S. Lewis.