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Peter T Chattaway

Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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Persiflage wrote:

: Christopher Walken?

Too not-British.

Which reminds me, I was wondering the other day whether there had been any non-Brits in these movies. One of the dwarves in Prince Caspian is played by an American, I believe -- but then, if you're looking for "name" dwarf actors, there are only so many candidates. Oh, and the dwarf who serves the White Witch in the first movie was played by an Indian, I think (though he was born in Kenya, according to the IMDb, so I could be wrong about that; at any rate, he hails from the British Empire/Commonwealth, just like most of the rest of the cast).

Well, and Doug Gresham has his cameos, of course, and he's American, not British, at least by birth.

Anyone else?

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Looking over my notes as I write about the film tonight, I feel compelled to say that if this series continues, I would be just fine if they forego any more "FOR NARNIA!" motivational speeches.

That speech in Dawn Treader - from Caspian this time - feels so obligatory, and falls so flat, that I heard snickering through the audience... and not from the critics. From the fans.

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SDG, when do we get to read your interview with Gresham?

I won't be posting an entire interview, but tomorrow I'll have up a piece that includes interview bits with Gresham, Flaherty and Devin Brown.

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The debut weekend domestic box office is horrible. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opened at #1 with an estimated $24.5 million, far below the predicted $35 to $45 million. That's $30 million below the opening weekend of Prince Caspian, which itself opened $10 million below the opening weekend of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

edit: Whether this is reflective of a lack of interest in the series, or just bad timing of release, I don't know. But I'll be honest... a few years ago, going to the movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a major tradition in our household. But since the economic downturn, and the way it has affected us, we now pass on going to the movies at this time of year, and put the money toward gifts. I wonder how many other families are in the same situation? This is the third year in a row we haven't made plans to see anything - heck, we didn't catch up to Avatar until the August rerelease.

edit 2: The overseas numbers are really good - $81 million.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Baal_T'shuvah wrote:

: The debut weekend box office is horrible. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opened at #1 with an estimated $24.5 million, far below the predicted $35 to $45 million.

Heck, that's also less than the $28 million that was being predicted as recently as Friday.

It's also slightly less than the $25.8 million that The Golden Compass opened to at this time of year back in 2007. On the other hand, it's slightly ahead of the $23.2 million that Eragon opened to at this time of year back in 2006. But only slightly -- despite the box-office boost that Dawn Treader would have had due to 3D surcharges.

Question: Should the producers of The Hobbit be getting nervous right about now?

: The overseas numbers are really good - $81 million.

Maybe this film WILL be able to unseat Knight & Day as Fox's biggest release of the year, then! ($76.4 million domestic + $185 million overseas = $261.4 million worldwide.)

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My sister and I saw it in 3D. I liked it better than I expected to, given the disappointments of the previous 2 movies. The green mist business was a complete bundle of codswallop; they could easily have provided "testing" aplenty without it. As it was, the crew of the Dawn Treader were left with

twenty boatloads of refugees in the middle of the ocean, without rations, and weeks sailing back to the Lone Islands. Good luck with that. I guess we're suppose to figure that Aslan magically transported them all home? He doesn't work like that.

Oh well! The rest of the ending was quite poignantly effective, and Jane and I loved the credits. Purists? Maybe just a bit!

After seeing this film, I would definitely pay to see Will Poulter return as Eustace in The Silver Chair.

There may have been 6-8 other people in the theater for the first matinee of the day, and as far as we could tell, only three of them were children. But those tickets were $10.50 for 3D, and not big-city prices. In this economy, if I had kids, I'd be taking them to 2D matinees, if anything. To be fair, one reason I like this particular theater is that it is a bit off the beaten path and usually not as crowded as more populated areas, so don't take my experience as typical.

Edited by BethR

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edit 2: The overseas numbers are really good - $81 million.

Oh, wow. I had no idea. That's reassuring. I'm not a Walden cheerleader, nor am I a Narnia diehard, but this film deserves better than it received in its first weekend. I'm not going to trumpet it to the masses, but it's decent family entertainment.

So, about that sea serpent: How did the small children in the audience react to the creature? I heard one kid crying hard several seconds into that sequence, but only one kid. I was mildly terrified by the creature myself and would've thought more kids would have issues with that scene, but I long ago stopped believing that my own ideas about what constitute "too scary" and "too risque" had any correlation with what younger people, or even their parents, think are too scary, risque, etc.

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Christian wrote:

: So, about that sea serpent: How did the small children in the audience react to the creature?

I can't speak for any of the other kids at our screening, but my 4-year-old (turns 5 in February) daughter was fine with it.

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Really? I can't see mine being OK with it for a few years yet. We had problems enough in Toy Story 3.

Matt

PS Oh and I too loved the closing credits. I think it's a symptom of the desire to be faithful to the books, even if that isn't reflected in the freedom of the adaptation.

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: So, about that sea serpent: How did the small children in the audience react to the creature?

I can't speak for any of the other kids at our screening, but my 4-year-old (turns 5 in February) daughter was fine with it.

Same for my crew, including 4-year-old Nathan and 7-year-old Anna.

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MattPage wrote:

: Really? I can't see mine being OK with it for a few years yet. We had problems enough in Toy Story 3.

She was okay with Toy Story 3, too -- though I may have had to reassure her about where things were going there, I can't recall. (I already knew the basic storyline, including the very last scenes, because I had read the colouring book.) The only movie she's seen recently that has disturbed her on any level, as far as I can recall, is The Miracle Maker, because of the crucifixion etc.

: PS Oh and I too loved the closing credits.\

Yeah, I also.

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SDG, when do we get to read your interview with Gresham?

I won't be posting an entire interview, but tomorrow I'll have up a piece that includes interview bits with Gresham, Flaherty and Devin Brown.

Here 'tis. The relevant Gresham bits:

Asked about [the sun/dawn issue], Flaherty acknowledged, "That's a really interesting point. Narnia has an interesting geography: The world is flat. And there is something beckoning about the utter east. That would have been a good shot. … That's an interesting point."

But when I put the question to Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis' stepson, who is involved in the Lewis estate and is a producer on the Narnia films, he said bluntly, "I don't think that's the least bit important, to be honest. That they sail eastward, in Narnia? A flat world, theoretically? I don't think it is, no."

Gresham's dismissiveness may seem startling, but it's not the first time I've gotten such a response from him. When Prince Caspian was released, I asked Gresham about that line change mentioned above, in which Aslan suggests to Lucy that he too is growing, instead of saying that he is not but her perception of him is growing.

When I asked Brown about that line change, he acknowledged that the language in Lewis is significant, but suggested that the movie version was open to interpretation. "I think there's a possible meaningful difference," he conceded. "I understand people's point there. If they'd asked you or me, we would have kept the original line, wouldn't we?"

Gresham, though, professed not to see the significance in Lewis' original choice of words. "I never really considered his size as really of very much importance, except with the fun we could have with it on the screen," he told me at the time. "I think you're probably digging a little too deep and discovering gems that probably aren't there."

Are the gems there or not? If they are, Gresham might be a bit like the landowner in Jesus' parable who sells a field unaware of the hidden treasure buried in it - but not, in this case, to a buyer more interested in the treasure. ...

Flaherty also acknowledged that [the absence of baptism imagery in Eustace's undragoning] was a missed opportunity. "Yeah, and you know, the water was right there," he mused. "There was an idea that when Aslan roars, that knocks him back into the water, and there was a good case to make for that artistically. … You're hitting on a key discussion point that went on for many a day."

Even Gresham acknowledged, "We can't do everything; we can't get everything right." But he also added, "I don't think in today's world baptism imagery would be understood by many people."

That's exactly the opposite of how Lewis thought. Lewis used imagery not primarily for readers who already understood its theological underpinnings, but precisely for those who didn't. He wanted to "baptize the imagination," to provide readers with an imaginative vocabulary that might someday help them make sense of the Christian worldview. Gresham's suggestion that Lewis' images might be dispensed with on the grounds that they wouldn't be "understood" suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of Lewis' whole program.

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SDG, when do we get to read your interview with Gresham?

I won't be posting an entire interview, but tomorrow I'll have up a piece that includes interview bits with Gresham, Flaherty and Devin Brown.

Here 'tis. The relevant Gresham bits:

Asked about [the sun/dawn issue], Flaherty acknowledged, "That's a really interesting point. Narnia has an interesting geography: The world is flat. And there is something beckoning about the utter east. That would have been a good shot. … That's an interesting point."

But when I put the question to Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis' stepson, who is involved in the Lewis estate and is a producer on the Narnia films, he said bluntly, "I don't think that's the least bit important, to be honest. That they sail eastward, in Narnia? A flat world, theoretically? I don't think it is, no."

Gresham's dismissiveness may seem startling, but it's not the first time I've gotten such a response from him. When Prince Caspian was released, I asked Gresham about that line change mentioned above, in which Aslan suggests to Lucy that he too is growing, instead of saying that he is not but her perception of him is growing.

When I asked [Lewis scholar Devin] Brown about that line change, he acknowledged that the language in Lewis is significant, but suggested that the movie version was open to interpretation. "I think there's a possible meaningful difference," he conceded. "I understand people's point there. If they'd asked you or me, we would have kept the original line, wouldn't we?"

Gresham, though, professed not to see the significance in Lewis' original choice of words. "I never really considered his size as really of very much importance, except with the fun we could have with it on the screen," he told me at the time. "I think you're probably digging a little too deep and discovering gems that probably aren't there."

Are the gems there or not? If they are, Gresham might be a bit like the landowner in Jesus' parable who sells a field unaware of the hidden treasure buried in it - but not, in this case, to a buyer more interested in the treasure. ...

Flaherty also acknowledged that [the absence of baptism imagery in Eustace's undragoning] was a missed opportunity. "Yeah, and you know, the water was right there," he mused. "There was an idea that when Aslan roars, that knocks him back into the water, and there was a good case to make for that artistically. … You're hitting on a key discussion point that went on for many a day."

Even Gresham acknowledged, "We can't do everything; we can't get everything right." But he also added, "I don't think in today's world baptism imagery would be understood by many people."

That's exactly the opposite of how Lewis thought. Lewis used imagery not primarily for readers who already understood its theological underpinnings, but precisely for those who didn't. He wanted to "baptize the imagination," to provide readers with an imaginative vocabulary that might someday help them make sense of the Christian worldview. Gresham's suggestion that Lewis' images might be dispensed with on the grounds that they wouldn't be "understood" suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of Lewis' whole program.

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Apparently, Douglas Gresham has written an introduction to The C.S. Lewis Bible. I'm not sure I want to know what that says. Considering his ways of dismissing thoughtful interpretations of Narnia, I can't imagine what his approach to the scriptures would be like.

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Re: the sea serpent

My wife posted this status on a friend's facebook page: "My 4-year-old was pretty much unphased by the sea serpent..... but I had to turn my eyes!"

lol

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: Gresham . . . added, "I don't think in today's world baptism imagery would be understood by many people."

This is reminding me of how the writers on Prince Caspian said they left out Bacchus and the Maenads etc. because nobody today is familiar with Greek mythology. Like, c'mon, dudes, that's the whole POINT of Lewis's novel: the Narnians have forgotten their mythic past, just as people living in the post-Enlightenment West have forgotten it, so one of the main points of the book is to kindle an interest in that stuff and to try to bring it back!

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The debut weekend domestic box office is horrible ... Whether this is reflective of a lack of interest in the series, or just bad timing of release, I don't know. But I'll be honest... a few years ago, going to the movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a major tradition in our household. But since the economic downturn, and the way it has affected us, we now pass on going to the movies at this time of year, and put the money toward gifts. I wonder how many other families are in the same situation? This is the third year in a row we haven't made plans to see anything - heck, we didn't catch up to Avatar until the August rerelease.

You know, come to think of it, I blame Prince Caspian for this - what we need is good word-of-mouth for it now. On Friday, Tron is going to compete for the #1 spot, but hopefully the Dawn Treader can kick Yogi Bear's ass.

LA Times -

The domestic opening of "Dawn Treader" was less than half that of the previous two "Narnia" movies, 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and 2008's "Prince Caspian," even though the new movie played in 3-D and thus benefited from higher ticket prices.Fox executives were prepared for a weak start as many fans were left with a sour taste by the poorly received "Prince Caspian, though they had hoped it would at least top $30 million,. The studio picked up the "Narnia" series after Disney dropped it following "Caspian" and produced and marketed "Dawn Treader" in line with "Wardrobe" in hopes of recapturing at least some of that original movie's success, particularly with Christian audiences. Together with co-financier Walden Media, it spent $155 million to produce the film.

In good news, those who went to the new "Narnia" gave it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. With good word-of-mouth, the movie could easily sail to a little more than $100 million by the end of the year, a so-so run for such a costly picture. But the early foreign results indicate it could generate more than $250 million overseas, where 3-D family films are very popular, making for a hit on a worldwide basis.

Good to hear Fox was expecting a weak start here. I'd say if it passes the $100 mark domestically, put together with what it makes overseas, we should still get The Silver Chair eventually.

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Persiflage wrote:

: In good news, those who went to the new "Narnia" gave it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

Audiences gave the same rating to Prince Caspian, and it didn't help THAT film's word-of-mouth.

: I'd say if it passes the $100 mark domestically, put together with what it makes overseas, we should still get The Silver Chair eventually.

Perhaps. The Golden Compass grossed about $70 million in North America, as did Eragon, so that is what The Dawn Treader can presumably hope to make domestically -- but The Golden Compass also grossed about $300 million overseas, for a combined $370 million worldwide, and that still wasn't enough to greenlight the next movie. Then again, matters were complicated there by the fact that New Line took in only the domestic revenues, having pre-sold the foreign distribution to other companies (such as Alliance-Atlantis here in Canada), whereas Fox presumably owns the distribution rights to Dawn Treader worldwide and can therefore count on foreign revenues to offset any domestic losses.

Meanwhile, Eugene Novikov @ Cinematical ponders...:

I want to suggest that the 'Narnia' films, the third one in particular, fail as works of fantasy. They don't know what to do with magic, which is, after all, Narnia's defining characteristic. To see why this is, it's useful to compare 'Narnia' to 'Harry Potter', a more recent classic that has spawned a far better and more successful movie series.

In 'Harry Potter', magic is hard. It's both an art and a science. The characters spend years training to master it and bend it to their will; some never succeed. There are rules. Things go wrong: spells don't work as expected; potions have flaws and unpleasant side effects. In this universe, magic is more than a series of impossible things happening at the random behest of the plot. It means something; it has structure, and it gives the movies structure too. . . .

In Narnia, by contrast, there are no rules. In this "magical" place, anything can happen at any time. Prince Caspian actually says so at one point in 'Dawn Treader'. A good example is the section of the third film where Lucy, Edmond, Eustace, Caspian, and the rest of the Dawn Treader's crew land on the island of the Duffers – random and useless little creatures who appear out of nowhere, make a bunch of noise, and go away never to be seen by us again. The Duffers kidnap Lucy Pevensie and instruct her to enter an invisible mansion where she is presented with a Book of Incantations. We have never seen this book before, and neither has Lucy. Nonetheless, she opens it, and starts reading spells, which are written out in plain English ("a forgetting spell," " a spell that cureth toothache," etc.). Immediately stuff starts happening – first, snow starts falling; then Lucy is transformed into an image of her beautiful older sister. It's magic.

This is essentially the problem with the whole franchise. Magic exists here to show off fancy effects and teach easy lessons. There's nothing to it. The point of the scene is for Lucy to rise above her low self-esteem and abandon her unhealthy envy of her older sister – so the movie manufactures some magic to quickly make it so, and then just moves on to something else equally arbitrary. Later someone randomly turns into a dragon, a star falls from the heavens to tell the characters what to do, and Aslan finally shows up to deliver the requisite Christian undertones.

C.S. Lewis' novels weren't great in this regard either, but they were a little better – the Book of Incantations, at least, does show up elsewhere in the saga. The movies are shameless. The notion of "magic" is not carte blanche to do whatever you want. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'Narnia' fails. It's all in the magic.

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...

Meanwhile, Eugene Novikov @ Cinematical ponders...:

...

This is essentially the problem with the whole franchise. Magic exists here to show off fancy effects and teach easy lessons. There's nothing to it. The point of the scene is for Lucy to rise above her low self-esteem and abandon her unhealthy envy of her older sister – so the movie manufactures some magic to quickly make it so, and then just moves on to something else equally arbitrary. Later someone randomly turns into a dragon, a star falls from the heavens to tell the characters what to do, and Aslan finally shows up to deliver the requisite Christian undertones.

C.S. Lewis' novels weren't great in this regard either, but they were a little better – the Book of Incantations, at least, does show up elsewhere in the saga. The movies are shameless. The notion of "magic" is not carte blanche to do whatever you want. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'Narnia' fails. It's all in the magic.

I grant he has some points regarding the movies, and I'd say a lot of these problems are not so much inherent in the books as they come from the film producers being unwilling to explore such things--fear of exposition (OMG--there'll be dialogue and storytelling rather than BATTLES and EXPLOSIONS? We can't have that!). Eustace's dragoning in the film is not random, but the explanation is tossed in pretty quickly and easy to miss; still, it doesn't have nearly the depth of the book's version.

But the two book franchises do view magic differently at base: in HP, magic is a sort of neutral force to be used for good or ill like electricity; learning magic skills (and making moral choices associated with them) is foundational.

In Narnia, most sentient beings and animals don't "use" magic at all; they're just ordinary, by Narnian standards, which happens to mean talking animals, living trees, etc. Some things look magical to humans, because they wouldn't/couldn't happen in our world--like the consequences of sleeping on a dragon's hoard. There's very little of the spellcasting sort of magic in the books, and it's almost always associated with things you don't want; even Coriakin, though benign, is not to be played with. Uncle Andrew plays with forces he doesn't understand; all the witches, who use spells, wands, and "deplorable words," etc., are evil.

But what is this about:

C.S. Lewis' novels weren't great in this regard either, but they were a little better – the Book of Incantations, at least, does show up elsewhere in the saga

What in the world [of Narnia] is he talking about? The Giants' cookbook in The Silver Chair?

Edited by BethR

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Meanwhile, Eugene Novikov @ Cinematical ponders...:

The notion of "magic" is not carte blanche to do whatever you want. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'Narnia' fails. It's all in the magic.

Eugene Novikov:

"In the Odyssey, by contrast, there are no rules. In this "magical" place, anything can happen at any time. Odysseus lands on an Island, there is a Cyclops. Odysseus goes away. There is a bag of winds. There is a witch named Circe who turns all the men into pigs. (What kind of cliché is that?) There are sirens. There is a six-headed monster. Stuff just happens: things which we have never heard of before appear in the story, and then disappear, never to be heard of again, only to be replaced by something equally arbitrary. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'The Odyssey' fails. It's all in the magic."

I am always highly skeptical whenever somebody starts talking about what fantasy, or any other form of literature "should" do. There is more than one purpose to a story and more than one way to go about it. If The Voyage of the Dawn Treader doesn't succeed, it isn't because it isn't following some rule-book as to what good fantasy should be, it is because what it IS trying to do isn't worth doing, or because it isn't doing it well enough. Novikov's criticism is, I think, at this level, worthless.

Edited by bowen

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Meanwhile, Eugene Novikov @ Cinematical ponders...:

The notion of "magic" is not carte blanche to do whatever you want. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'Narnia' fails. It's all in the magic.

Eugene Novikov:

"In the Odyssey, by contrast, there are no rules. In this "magical" place, anything can happen at any time. Odysseus lands on an Island, there is a Cyclops. Odysseus goes away. There is a bag of winds. There is a witch named Circe who turns all the men into pigs. (What kind of cliché is that?) There are sirens. There is a six-headed monster. Stuff just happens: things which we have never heard of before appear in the story, and then disappear, never to be heard of again, only to be replaced by something equally arbitrary. Fantasy should build coherent worlds and tell coherent stories. This is where 'Harry Potter' succeeds and 'The Odyssey' fails. It's all in the magic."

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