I went to see the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie over the weekend. I liked it. I thought Will Poulter, the boy who played Eustace Scrubb, was brilliant. I would go so far as to say his Eustace Scrubb is better than the Eustace Scrubb in my head when I read the book. He will henceforth be the Eustace Scrubb in my imagination in a way that, say, the Prince Caspian (or, for that matter, the Reepicheep) from the movie won’t be.
The things I love most about Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader are things that simply don’t translate to film. I’ve always loved the fact that for all the outward splendor of the story and for all the conflict and potential for conflict, the most interesting action happens within the characters. So, for instance, in the battle with the sea serpent, Eustace strikes a blow that makes absolutely no difference in the outcome of the battle, but it’s hugely significant insofar as he doesn’t run from the battle but enters in–and we know we have a whole new Eustace. Or consider Lucy’s inner struggle when she reads the spell for surpassing beauty in Coriakin’s book of incantations. I love that scene in the book, but I don’t know how it could be conveyed in a movie. And, for the most part, I don’t much like movies that are about people’s inner states. I’ll read a book if that’s what I want. Certain scenes felt “messed up” to me, but once I thought about why they didn’t feel right, I couldn’t make any suggestions as to how they might be fixed.

Like a lot of Narnia fans, I was disappointed in the “un-dragoning” of Eustace. It seemed to have been stripped of much of its spiritual significance. If I didn’t have to get ready for a Christmas party, I would get into it. I will say, however, that if I had taken my six-year-old to a movie and she saw somebody getting his skin peeled off, I would have been barking about that too.

So to summarize: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie is good. There were some things I didn’t like, but for the most part those things simply come down to the fact that movies are different from books. I’m stating the obvious here. I hope you’ll forgive me.

  • Breann
    3:25 PM, 21 December 2010

    The thing that bothered me most about Eustace’s de-dragoning in the movie was that it was delayed until after he had proven himself (like he somehow earned the right to become a boy again).

  • Michelle R. Wood
    5:44 PM, 21 December 2010

    You might be interested in the debate ranging over at Speculative Faith about the movie thus far, where Rebecca Miller makes similar comments about the difference in books and movies.

  • Hannah
    11:29 PM, 21 December 2010

    I completely agree with this review! I read a review on the Narnia movies the other day, which totally tore them apart, but you put it simply and beautifully. Movies are different than books. If the movie was just like the book, it would probably be lame. I would say it would be really hard to do the ‘de-dragoning’ in a way that was ‘more like the book.’ Somethings work out wonderfully in your mind, but to actually explain it, let alone portray it in a movie, might ruin it. Good movie, good review.

  • Jess
    11:45 PM, 21 December 2010

    Eustace/William really did do an amazing job. I will remain mostly silent about it because I don’t have enough words to say how incredible a job he did, without it sounding like a cheesy gush of silliness. Michelle, I peeked over at the link you gave and… it’s great stuff 🙂 I loved the four points Rebecca gave (partly because those were all exactly what I thought before, during, and after the movie. I even was going to read the book again. Soon).

  • Heather Ivester
    3:18 AM, 22 December 2010

    I loved Eustace Scrubb in the movie as well. I could listen to him talk all day. The best thing about these Narnia movies is that they’re getting a whole new generation of kids interested in the books.
    The President of Walden Media makes some good points in this interview about the difficulty of translating the books into film:

  • Sondorik
    5:57 AM, 22 December 2010

    Thanks for this review and the link to Speculative Faith. It puts into words the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head since I saw this film.
    Positively brilliant is also how I would describe Will Poulter as peevish Eustace. As I was immersed in his onscreen character, I thought of the earlier post you wrote, Jonathan. “For Eustace, the chief danger of the voyage is neither dragon nor sea serpent, neither storm nor slave trader, but his own self-absorption. His soul is in constant peril of being smothered underneath his petty self-regard. He suffers the affliction of the thoroughly selfish: in all his self-centeredness, he has lost track of himself. His only hope of finding himself is in self-forgetfulness.” The way this was portrayed was both amusing and convicting. How do my own selfish attitudes and blind insolence affect those around me? Christ words also came to mind: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

    Also, I agree that the Prince Caspian actor does nothing for me. But Reepicheep? I’m curious. Besides the fact that he’s digitally animated, why does his movie character stray so far from the picture in your imagination?

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