Sunday, January 30, 2011

voyage of the dawn treader

i almost didn't post an article this month. I'll be talking a bit about religious symbolism because I think it's one of the more interesting facets of this series where analysis and criticism is concerned. You'll be fine.

i was really excited for this movie. I loved the first one, but I saw it on almost no pretense. It's just a movie I decided to go see one day with a friend, and that probably made it a lot better. I was familiar with the book, because it was read to me in elementary school on two separate occasions, but I never read it myself. The second one was a letdown, though. I can't even really explain why it was a letdown, but I can probably say that it didn't have any of the interesting plot turns or emotional impact that the first movie did. Anyways, before I go into movie 3, let's talk about number 1.

A good book. I think. 

Overtly religious whatnots usually bother me. I have no problem with religion, but I would have guessed that a thinly (SO thinly) veiled symbolism for Jesus, the devil, sinners, saints, and conversion would be something I wouldn't be into. The problem is not the subject matter, it's the pure fact that it's hard to do that and do it well, and what's more difficult is to do that well and make it please everyone. I hate thinly-veiled attempts to prove that there is no god just as much (probably more), to be fair. Anyways, what I really liked about this movie was how well it did said veil. It's so obviously religious symbolism, but somehow it's done with incredible class. The Edmund character and his story arc are so incredibly well done and accurately follows the elements of Christianity I listed, yet somehow it never feels like I'm being beaten over the head with a Bible. Symbolism aside, it uses those elements to tell a story about loyalty to friends and family, deception, humility, inequity, and courage. The second movie somehow didn't manage to bring that. It was more like that Return to Oz movie, where it's been a long time since the visitor characters (our heroes) have seen the fantasy world, and everything's all messed up and they have to fix it. Or that Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie. 


The third movie, however, did bring it back. However the awesomeness of the first was lost in the second, it was somehow found again for the third. And I didn't know this: Apparently Disney was canning the project (and series) because the second failed, but then Fox picked up the license and there will be more. You wouldn't know that the license changed production companies. This movie has that "something" that the first had, and thankfully all of the original cast and whatnot carried over. No Maggie Gyllenhaal situation here. The movie begins with Edmund and Lucy, the two youngest of the original cast, getting "sucked in" to Narnia with their cousin through a painting on said cousin's wall. His name is Eustace, and he'll be your comic relief and resident "sinner" the way Edmund was in the first. Eh, that's not a way to put it. You know what I mean, though, right? Where Edmund struggled with the prospect of being pampered at the cost of his siblings, Eustace's is with an almost absolute lack of courage and reliance on science. Throughout the whole movie he whines and is convinced that the ship he's sailing on is run by people who are delusional. He's a brand of character that hasn't been seen in this series before, one who uses intelligence and data to deal with his problems, which prove useless in Narnia. It's a probable nod to people who try to use SCIENCE! to disprove the existence of a god, or only believe what they can "see". I'm probably making it sound more "heavy" than it really is, but as I watched it, that was what I thought. All I'm saying is that's probably what it is -- as far as it's impact on the movie, it's almost always played out in a funny way, with Eustace trying to study this or that, and journaling about the shared hallucination everyone on the boat seems to be having.

The movie follows a relatively standard fantasy plot (not a bad thing) about collecting swords and bringing them together on a mystical table. Throughout, the characters struggle with this foe or that, this test or that, and this obstacle or that. It's kind of like a Greek epic now that I think about it. The story culminates with everyone on the boat sailing through the movie's watery version of Mt. Doom, and dealing with all of their personal demons as well as the "final boss" which if I remember correctly was a sea serpent. Eustace is given a power about halfway through the film and uses it to chip in to the battle, but is injured and has to retreat, when he meets Aslan and is [spoiler] changed back to a human. Like with Edmund in the first movie, Eustace mentions an emphasis on how he "couldn't do it alone". Edmund never actually mentions anything like that in the first movie, but if you're paying attention at all, you know that's kind of the point. Overall, a positive element in the movie, but it was handled with a little less finesse here. In the first movie it's pretty much the plot where here it's kind of tacked on.

Overall, I was very pleased. There's a lot of emotional weight in this series, something I think is really lacked in cinema these days. This is a big budget project full of CGI, but somehow this has more "heart" and honest character than anything I've seen recently. As far as keeping it accessible, there's enough references to cultures and religions other than the obvious references to Christianity, and even though it's more obvious than almost anything it's somehow never facepalm-worthy. I never felt preached to or talked down to. It uses those kinds of symbolisms to tell its story, but at the end of the day it's all really universal. It's dressed up enough to make it accessible to just about anyone. I say this despite the fact that this is the movie that deliberately states that Aslan is Jesus. It's no longer metaphorical -- they outright state that Aslan's real-world equivalent is Jesus. Where I would usually have problems with the metaphor being "broken" and be concerned about keeping the story non-denominational in order to have it "please everyone", somehow this part of it simply never hurt the movie for me. It's just ..... handled well. I don't know how they did that, but somehow they did. That's some really talented filmmaking when you can do something like that and not really alienate anyone, whine-prone people like me included.

See it. 


  1. dang, good to see another article man! In hindsight I can't believe I didn't write an article on this movie. I really loved it and basically all my other friends that saw it hated it (mind, they're all atheists... and the kind that can't think beyond how "cool" it is to be atheist). I believe I told you about how I didn't quite dig the way they watered down the stone table element in LWW, but I loved the way they handled it in VDT. I'd highly reccomend you read the books. I've been meaning to re-read them. Magicians Nephew being my favorite (and probably the last to be made into a movie because it's a prequel). C.S. Lewis really is an incredible author and has written some of the most powerful pieces of literature I've ever read, namely "A Grief Observed" "The Space Trilogy" "Mere Christianity" (for Apologetics) and my all time favorite "Till We Have Faces" Lewis has a particular charm to his writing that is evident in all of these. His work can move from heart warming to heart wrenching in a matter of sentences, but it never feels odd or out of place.

    Also, love the new background! I need a background and logo...

  2. ...and now I have a background and logo! heh heh... yeah I totally stole your idea


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