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Smug? Moi?
A long time ago, I prophesied that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was going to be a pig to adapt to the screen, because of the episodic nature of the plot and the lack of a strong narrative.


I have yet to see the movie, but listening to Mark Kermode reviewing it yesterday I felt a creeping smugness. Mark's description suggested that they have had to add a 'collect the tokens' plot to give the structure a spine. Also, he complained about the movie's episodic nature and lack of narrative drive.

I shall be interested to see how they've tackled the problems, and how well they've actually succeeded.

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It was a 'road trip' book with a bit of growing up thrown in. Go somewhere do something, grow up a bit, move on.

There have been a lot of sucessful films that have followed that format, but its a long way from the 'quest' fantasy films that have become the norm.

Which is to say that satisfying audience expectations are probably more of a problem than making a good film.

Dramas have to be dramatic. Road movies are only ultimately successful when the incident is liked together by a narrative that moves plot and characterisation forward.

Heh... just read your earlier post about PC and TLTWATW...

I'll beg to differ, with all respect, as I adore TVOTDT and find TSC my least favourite of the seven books. Each to their own, hey? For me, the sense of wonder and numinousness in Dawn Treader remains utterly lovely.

I can't actually read Lewis any longer, because the didactic purpose irritates me no end. (Particularly the 'forget reason, just have faith' message

I admire The Silver Chair primarily because it doesn't meander. Every scene is to the main purpose.

Wow, I had no idea they were still making these films.

Three years and a switch of studios since the last one.

I always liked this book but as you say, it is a bit meandering. My favourites were The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy - I suspect the pretty and romantic young men in danger may have added to my early adolescent affection for them. They are also, to my mind, the least didactic. I also suspect that Lewis's "faith above reason" backfired dramatically with me as I recall spending Quite A Lot of Time ruminating about this at about the age of twelve or thirteen and struggling with the concept. As I formally decided I was an atheist at about fourteen I think I rejected most of his arguments as Just Plain Dumb and recognised many of those arguments in christain apologetics and from peddlars of various forms of woo so, if anything, I think it added to and strengthened what called my "bullshit detector".

I do remember vividly the point (at about twelve) when I figured out Lewis's heavy handed Christ metaphor in TLTWATW. I remember being fairly annoyed about it...

That should have read "what Sagan called my "bullshit detector". Blame the traditional retail Xmas cold...

I also think I liked the fact Rillian was tied to a chair. Partly because he was rescued by a girl (OK, a girl, a marshwiggle and a boy...) but also - handsome young man tied to a chair? What's not to like? Although I doubt I could have articulated that at the time. There's some kinky subtext to TSC!

I never got on well with the Narnia books, possibly because Alan Garner got to me first? But if I recall, The Horse and His Boy was my favourite.


The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy were my favourites. steamshovelmama has now got me wondering if having Rillian tied to a chair wasn't one of my own reasons for liking SC too.

Ah, subtext, subtext.

I have to say that I'm actually very fond of the episodic nature of the book of Voyage of the Dawn Treader (it's my favourite of all the books, in fact!), so if that is preserved in the film (even if only to a certain extent), I suspect it shan't bother me all that much. In fact, I'd probably be more disappointed if it had entirely disappeared!

However, objectively I can see that kind of structure is hard to get right in a movie, and that it may not be to everybody's taste...

Quite simply, films and books are two very different things, and if you adapt a book, you have to change things, sometimes slightly, more often extensively. It's getting the balance right that's the problem, but you will never please both the fans of the original material and the majority (and it is the majority even in the case of LotR and Harry Potter) who haven't read the books and couldn't care about accuracy.

This relates more to the link post, but this is what I came up with in terms of the ur texts for the books:

The Magician's Nephew: Genesis
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Crucifixion
The Horse and His Boy: poem, Footprints in the Sand
The Dawn Treader: The Search for the Holy Grail
The Silver Chair: Pilgrim's Progress
The Last Battle: Revelations

Many people have made versions of Arthur, but never successful ones of the grail quest for the point is the search, not the finding.

Though to be fair to Lewis, it was a case with him of "write what you know." He didn't sent out to write Christian allegory - at least, he says he didn't and we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

As for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it is only a Grail quest if you take it from Reepicheep's point of view. Might I suggest Brenden's voyages as another possible source, and also the Odyssey.

And a ps,

The Dawn Treader would work fine as a movie if we still shared the values of the movie, but we don't, so its ending lacks emotional punch for us.

I don't agree. Drama has a very different structure to the novel form, particularly allegory. In order to make a good movie, there has to be some sort of linear structure. A series of basically unconnected incidents does not make for good drama. There has to be a theme. In this case, they have gone for "collect the tokens/swords" to link the serial incidents together.

It is why no-one ever makes The Lost World as it was written (a series of incidents.)

And why every single dramatic version of The Man in the Iron Mask has Phillipe take Louis's place, which does not happen in the book. Every single one. This is because Dumas's version (which has other interests) is not as dramatically satisfying. Why bother, the obnoxious Louis is to remain in place.

Edited at 2010-12-11 08:45 pm (UTC)

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