The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Voyage of discovery
When C S Lewis wrote The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he couldn’t have dreamt that 55 years later Reepicheep, his talking mouse, would be brought to life in CGI and leap off the screen in vivid 3D. But he would be pleased.
Of all the Narnia books Dawn Treader was my favourite as I grew up. I loved the idea of being on board this fantastical boat filled with its magical characters, exploring new lands. Especially with a cheeky friend like Reepicheep to keep me company. So it was that I entered the cinema with already heightened expectations.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was enjoyable but the follow-up, Prince Caspian, suffered from clunky action pieces and dire acting. As a result, I was a little apprehensive. The first two films were made by Disney, but having grown unsure about the future of the series, it was keen to pass it on.
In stepped Twentieth Century Fox, a studio which has an entire division dedicated to Christian media – Fox Faith. Since Dawn Treader was overtly Christian, I was curious to see if they would water any of it down.
I needn’t have worried.
Dawn Treader kicks off with Lucy and Edmund living in wartime England, but dreaming of their other lives in Narnia. The elder siblings, Peter and Susan, are all grown up and out of the house. Their only real company is in the form of their annoying cousin, Eustace, who is convinced they are utter loons. Of course it’s only a matter of minutes before a magical painting becomes a watery doorway and all three of them are being pulled out of the ocean onto the deck of the Dawn Treader – a Narnian ship sailed by none other than Prince Caspian.
Caspian is on a mission to find the seven lords who supported his father but then fled to the easterly islands. Beyond these islands are unknown waters, rumours of sea serpents and possibly Aslan’s country.
While Edmund and Lucy are delirious at being back, Eustace is convinced he is a part of some mass delusion – The Narnia Delusion, perhaps. He sets about irritating crew and companions alike with his plea for the British consul and desire to seek a logical explanation for what is going on. Back in England he is pictured as being a keen rationalist and collector of beetles – a not-so-subtle dig at over-confident scientists, perhaps?
Of course, not even Eustace can resist the exhilaration of adventure – especially in his encounter with Reepicheep, who begins as his adversary but soon charms him with his cheeky swordplay and brotherly loyalty. Eustace’s role as the Doubting Thomas was the key reason I liked the original story. His transformation from sceptic to passionate believer, coupled with a loving encounter with grace (involving a dragon of course) was what I could relate to.
Whether in the Narnia books or in his more serious works, C S Lewis was always a dab hand at weaving the heart of Christ’s message into his storytelling. Stories like Eustace’s or Caspian’s quest to help his people are pure classics of love, good and evil. As a result, Lewis’s stories will surely be around for a long time.
The Dawn Treader does not have the teenage darkness of Potter or the political scale of The Lord of the Rings, but it does exude a joy in life and a love of hopeful possibility which is infectious whether you’re a child or adult. And this is coming from a man who likes the movies of David Fincher and Lars von Trier.
Look, the film is primarily aimed at families and long-time fans so don’t expect edgy dialogue or disturbing sub-plots. It zips along with great verve, the pace never slackening as it did in the most recent Potter film. I think Lewis would be proud of this film. As a long-time fan of this book in particular, I certainly was.