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What To Pack For ‘The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader,’ Part 2

Suddenly sci-fi nerd-ism is cool again. Today it’s on the front of my local newspaper (?) and last week a toy Enterprise graced covers of Newsweek (which turned the feature into a total sycophantic suckup piece glorifying Barack Obama™). Yet […]
| May 7, 2009 | No comments |

Suddenly sci-fi nerd-ism is cool again. Today it’s on the front of my local newspaper (?) and last week a toy Enterprise graced covers of Newsweek (which turned the feature into a total sycophantic suckup piece glorifying Barack Obama™).

Yet even I, who have seen all the films and almost all the series, and even have some action figures, have gotten a little tired of all the Star Trek movie hype. And it hasn’t even really started yet. I’m keeping my expectations just average; and I’ll likely see the film early next month anyway. It seems I have my good reasons for the delay …

Naturally I’m out of step with the rest of geekdom by offering the second and last part of my suggestions for the Fox / Walden adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. While the Disney / Walden release last year of Prince Caspian is good, it didn’t quite achieve the magic of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which itself was more than little problematic already. But now, with a new distributor, new director, writers and composers, Narnia fans can hope the magic of the Voyage is enhanced even better.

In my last column I said the story must focus better on Aslan, and not mega-battle climaxes, portray the redemption of Eustace Scrubb pretty much just as it was in the book, and imbue better musical themes. Others in response quickly pointed out that Aslan’s country, and Aslan’s final words in the story to Edmund and Lucy, simply must be preserved. I have said much the same at the last of this column, though it is certainly a vital — if not the vital — story element.

5. Improve movie marketing.

This isn’t Pirates of the Caribbean 4: Only This Time with Narnia. Don’t market big battles (see suggestion 1), don’t glorify stupid mush (see suggestion 6, below) and don’t even promote cute talking animals. Instead, show audiences that this is a Family Friendly High-Seas Adventure.

Yes, it is plotted well, cohesive and our heroes are on a mission to Find the Lost Seven Lords, but overall the idea is daringly random: the crew of a ship visits various islands and learns their secrets. Along the way, they learn many things not only about their world — such as finding its very edge! — but themselves. Eustace: his own sinfulness and need to shed his beastly skin only with Aslan’s help. Lucy: her envy of others and inclinations toward vanity. Edmund and Caspian: their lingering desires for glory at the expense of what Aslan wants. Reepicheep: a long-held dream to see the end of the world and discover where Aslan’s actual country lies.

Present these to audiences. Concentrate on the characters and their personal voyages, not just the title’s capital-letter Voyage. A Voyage of Discovery, a magical world, and their very selves. And so on. The marketing doesn’t need to be too deep. But by Aslan’s mane, let’s not have any more of this eye-rollingly vague PC-style “All that you know is about to change” stuff.

6. Cut non-canon mush.

Even Adolf Hitler, according to this reliable reenactment, was outraged over the half-hearted “romance” between Susan and Caspian in the second Narnia film. It made no sense, both in Susan’s character development and even objectively as a story. They had barely flirted during the film, so just exactly wheretheheck did a climactic kiss-o-rama come from in the first place?

Don’t do that in Voyage. No, really. Don’t. Really. Don’t. No need exists for Lucy — our only female lead this time — to start Learning About Boys or any of this nonsense. Keep the snogging to Harry Potter, where at least it’s canonical. Caspian is attracted to Ramandu’s daughter on the last island the ship reaches, and that’s all. In Lewis’s Voyage, this is given a clear acknowledgment, and few will complain if that is made more clear in the film. So if we absolutely must have a Climactic Smooch, an epilogue scene could show them kissing.

7. Forget “Star Girl.”

That brings me to my second-to-last point. The “Star Girl” idea may have been vastly entertaining to the members of NarniaWeb’s Labor Day weekend Midwest Mod Moot last year (insert personal shout-out), but in the film her presence would be absolutely appalling.

What I mean is this: a very early Dawn Treader script included the way wacky idea of having Ramandu’s daughter, a blue star-like humanoid, present earlier in the film than in the real story, guiding the Dawn Treader ship on its voyage until they wind up at the island. Here and there she appears to Caspian and others in some kind of visions. That would be disgusting. That would detract from Aslan (see suggestion 1) and that would be disgusting. Don’t. Do. It.

8. Toward Aslan’s Country …

Make it incredible. Make it wonderful. Spend only $2 million on the rest of the film’s effects and save $38 million for Aslan’s Country — a vision of Heaven, a spellbinding sight of luscious green mountains, valleys and waterfalls, all behind a translucent layer of sky and solid wave of water constantly rising beyond the end of the world.

And I dare even to pray this next: please, Lord, let them cut nothing from Aslan’s words to the children at the very end. The great Lion tells Edmund and Lucy they will not be returning to Narnia, yet he tells the children he is present in their real world as well. “[T]here I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason you why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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