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Peter T Chattaway

Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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The funny thing about that Citizen Kane clip is that, if memory serves, Kane is applauding as an act of defiance, even self-defiance, and not because he is convinced that his wife's singing (which is awful) is actually any good. :)

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I've written a few quick thoughts on the film, at Image. Given more space, I would have talked about the improvements in the character of Reepicheep; praised Will Poulter more; complained about the lack of visual imagination; and expressed some confusion and frustration with the busy-ness of the embellished plot.

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Box Office Prophets talks about some of the problems inherent in continuing the series:

(from page 3 of the above link)

The next book in the series, The Silver Chair, doesn't feature any of the characters from the first few books apart from side characters like Aslan, and without that thread running from one film to the next the audience could lose interest. It'd be like making Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest without Captain Jack Sparrow. Some people might be drawn in by franchise recognition, but most people would need a somewhat familiar face to latch onto. It also doesn't help that the stories get less focused as the series goes on, so the studio would either have to change them and risk alienating the more passionate fans, or make films that casual moviegoers might find a bit weird and off-putting. It's an unenviable situation.

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Box Office Prophets talks about some of the problems inherent in continuing the series:

(from page 3 of the above link)

The next book in the series, The Silver Chair, doesn't feature any of the characters from the first few books apart from side characters like Aslan, and without that thread running from one film to the next the audience could lose interest. It'd be like making Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest without Captain Jack Sparrow. Some people might be drawn in by franchise recognition, but most people would need a somewhat familiar face to latch onto. It also doesn't help that the stories get less focused as the series goes on, so the studio would either have to change them and risk alienating the more passionate fans, or make films that casual moviegoers might find a bit weird and off-putting. It's an unenviable situation.

Um ... Will Poulter's taken care of that problem for at least two films. He's about to turn into a hell of lot more than a "side character."

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I understand where Box Office [false] Prophets are coming from, but when I read "side characters like Aslan," I laughed out loud.

It is sad, though apparently proven, that you can gain a fair amount of lowest-common-denominator-return-viewership with an endless string of easily identifiable sequels.

:(

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If he thinks he's playing "generic spiritual leaderâ„¢" that would explain why his performance is so boring.

I liked Neeson's voice in this film. I'm not sure why. I just ... did.

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... Meanwhile, Eugene Novikov @ Cinematical ponders...:

... 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.

After thinking about Novikov's article a little more, I think Beth is right. The thing about magic in Harry Potter is it is just a "sort of neutral force to be used for good or ill like electricity." The thing about magic in the Narnia stories is it is supposed to more closely approximate "magic" in the real world. In other words, it's a power that orginates from either good or evil. The magic in the Narnia stories is more spiritual in that sense, and therefore, more unpredictable (since it's always breaking the laws of nature).

Of course, in Narnia you have some more mythological creatures like naiads and driads or talking stars. But there isn't anything really inherently magical about them, they are just creatures in that particular world. But it's a running them that "magic" either comes from Aslan or it doesn't. The films do not make this as clear as the books do, but that's a fault of the filmmakers, not C.S. Lewis. And even in spite of themselves, they couldn't help but make that distinction in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So, if someone who hasn't read the books (God forbid) watches the films first, as long as they watch the first film before the others, they should still be able to pick up on the theme of good and evil magic (spiritual power).

While it's true that Lewis makes this even more clear in his Space Trilogy series - approximating the magical elements in other worlds to the spiritual warfare elements in our world, the same theme and use of "magic" is in Narnia as well.

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Here's one for the "lines I wish I had written" file ... but that Jeff wishes even more that he had written. :)

I will not try to rate this movie in terms of stars, for stars in Narnia are magnificent living beings, not mere balls of hot gas or marks on a page!

Source.

(Of course, even in our world, balls of hot gas and marks on a page is not what stars are, it is only what they are made of.)

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The thing about magic in Harry Potter is it is just a "sort of neutral force to be used for good or ill like electricity." The thing about magic in the Narnia stories is it is supposed to more closely approximate "magic" in the real world. In other words, it's a power that orginates from either good or evil.

No offense to Rowling, but magic is never explained to my satisfaction in any of the Harry Potter books. There is no meta-narrative for the existence of magic. Magic exists, and some are able to harness it; whereas others, like Squibs and Muggles are not. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It is not like one can predict whether one will have magical or muggle children by doing Punnett squares.

I don't think it is like electricity at all. Electricity exists regardless of whether someone knows how to use it or not; and once discovered, it can be taught to all comers. Electricity is a meritocracy. The magic of Rowling's world must be mastered by the elect who seemingly possessed it before they exited the womb. The magic of Rowling's world is an oligarchy of the elect. Voldemort makes total sense to me. Rowling's world is snobbish, so its villain should be the ultimate snob.

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Michael Todd wrote:

: Magic exists, and some are able to harness it; whereas others, like Squibs and Muggles are not. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

Kind of like how some people are colour-blind and others are not, perhaps?

For that matter, where's the "rhyme or reason" in terms of who gets access to Narnia and how? It's purely arbitrary, at best.

Interestingly, Lewis tried to "explain" this, sort of, by giving the wardrobe an origin story at the end of The Magician's Nephew... but that doesn't explain all the times when the wardrobe DIDN'T work, and it also doesn't explain the cave that brought the Telmarines into Narnia prior to Prince Caspian, or the painting that brings the kids to Narnia in Dawn Treader, or the door at the school that brings the kids to Narnia in The Silver Chair, or... or...

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For that matter, where's the "rhyme or reason" in terms of who gets access to Narnia and how? It's purely arbitrary, at best.

It's election. The will of Aslan. It's not like electricity.

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Narnia or Harry Potter aren't the half of it ...

... magic was never explained to my logical satisfaction in Enchanted or Kung Fu Panda.

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For that matter, where's the "rhyme or reason" in terms of who gets access to Narnia and how? It's purely arbitrary, at best.

It's election. The will of Aslan. It's not like electricity.

Absolutely. Nothing random about it! "Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?"

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BethR wrote:

: Absolutely. Nothing random about it!

I didn't say "random". I said "arbitrary, at best." (Or, as SDG puts it, "election". To call it "arbitrary" is to imply an arbiter.) "Random" would be "at worst".

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I didn't say "random". I said "arbitrary, at best." (Or, as SDG puts it, "election". To call it "arbitrary" is to imply an arbiter.) "Random" would be "at worst".

Well, true, technically, although in practice I doubt if the term is ever used colloquially without the sense of "random, baseless or unreasonable."

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The fact that this movie is trailing Eragon in terms of attendance makes me sad.

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The magic of Rowling's world must be mastered by the elect who seemingly possessed it before they exited the womb. The magic of Rowling's world is an oligarchy of the elect. Voldemort makes total sense to me. Rowling's world is snobbish, so its villain should be the ultimate snob.

Magic might be better explained in Harry Potter as a talent. Using an imperfect example... artistic talent.

Parent who have little artistic skill can still produce a very skillful artist. Parents who are very artistic can have a child.

In HP, this is similar to the "muggle born" magic users and the children born of magic uses with no magical ability/skill. I fail to see how Narnia and the concept of the Elect is not equally snobbish though.

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I fail to see how Narnia and the concept of the Elect is not equally snobbish though.

It may be equally snobbish, but there is not a force or person behind Harry Potter; in Narnia, one has Aslan.

Also, the thought about artistic talent is good. I will have to play around with it in my mind. Hitler was rejected from art school, and became the leader of a party which was rabidly obsessed with pure race. Voldemort was accepted into his art school, and became the leader of a group which was rabidly obsessed with pure blood.

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SDG wrote:

: Well, true, technically, although in practice I doubt if the term is ever used colloquially without the sense of "random, baseless or unreasonable."

Right, and the will of Aslan or God or whoever has often seemed "random, baseless or unreasonable" to outside observers too (and inside observers!).

But my basic point here is that Lewis, who was content to leave the comings-and-goings basically unexplained in his books (apart from the will of Aslan, or the will of Lewis himself!), suddenly seems to introduce "mechanisms" that might explain these comings-and-goings in The Magician's Nephew -- starting with rings from Atlantis (a mythical land that never segregated science and magic?) that reliably open portals into other worlds, and ending with the revelation that the wardrobe in the very first book had its power because it was made with wood from that parallel universe. But once Lewis introduces such "mechanisms", especially where the existing wardrobe portal is concerned, he basically puts a question mark over all the OTHER portals that we have come across in the books. Where did THOSE portals get their power from?

David Smedberg wrote:

: The fact that this movie is trailing Eragon in terms of attendance makes me sad.

FWIW, Dawn Treader had a better second week than The Golden Compass and Eragon did. Dollar-wise, that is. Attendance-wise, I don't know how things would pan out after we take inflation and 3D surcharges into account.

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But my basic point here is that Lewis, who was content to leave the comings-and-goings basically unexplained in his books (apart from the will of Aslan, or the will of Lewis himself!), suddenly seems to introduce "mechanisms" that might explain these comings-and-goings in The Magician's Nephew -- starting with rings from Atlantis (a mythical land that never segregated science and magic?) that reliably open portals into other worlds, and ending with the revelation that the wardrobe in the very first book had its power because it was made with wood from that parallel universe. But once Lewis introduces such "mechanisms", especially where the existing wardrobe portal is concerned, he basically puts a question mark over all the OTHER portals that we have come across in the books. Where did THOSE portals get their power from?

That's a fascinating question. Let's see.

  • In Prince Caspian there is no "portal" per se; the children are summoned by Queen Susan's magic horn, which comes from Father Christmas. So that answers that. However, it is also revealed that the Telmarines are descendants of pirates from our world who arrived in the Narnian world through an unexplained portal, and Aslan creates another portal (a portal of convenience) to send back those who wish to return.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader probably has the most conspicuous "portal" other than the wardrobe: the painting of the ship. Although we never learn the genesis of the painting, it seems to be uncanny from the get-go: Edmund and Lucy recognize the ship as "very Narnian" in look. It's also interesting that the painting is hanging in a small back room because Aunt Alberta doesn't like it, but can't get rid of it because it was a wedding present from someone she doesn't want to offend. That Aunt Alberta doesn't like it is proof of the painting's goodness, of course. And since Lewis tells us that she didn't want to offend the giver but not that she liked the giver, it's possible that the giver also possessed the sort of goodness that Eustace's parents disliked. However, AFAIK Lewis offers no clue who this mysterious gift-giver was and what connection he or she might have had to Narnia.
  • In The Silver Chair Eustace and Jill get into Narnia via a prayer to Aslan, which Aslan later reveals was itself an effect of Aslan calling to them. There's also a door, but it's just a portal of convenience, as it were.
  • The Horse and His Boy has no special comings or goings between our world and the Narnian world (it's set during the reign of the Pevensies, during their wardrobe adventures). However, the obvious Middle-easternness of the Calormenes raises the obvious possibility that Calormen was colonized by visitors from the Middle East entering through a portal like the one by which Telmar was colonized.
  • In The Magician's Nephew the comings and goings are managed by magic rings which are bound up with Atlantean and Arthurian magic. These adventures, as you note, provide the basis for the wardrobe-magic of the first book. (The Magician's Nephew also offers a possible explanation for the status of English as the language spoken throughout the Narnian world, since Narnia was governed from the start by Englishmen and indeed by Christians. Jadis would presumably speak English by magic, in the same way that Digory and Polly can read the inscription on the bell that awakens her by magic, even though it is not in English.)
  • In The Last Battle there is some business about attempting to recover the magic rings, but Aslan calls the children into Narnia without any special portal.

So, discounting special acts of Aslan, there are the rings, the wardrobe, the painting, and one or possibly two mystery portals by which settlers arrived in the Narnian world from our world.

The rings explain the wardrobe. The painting is unexplained, but likely has some unknown otherworldly connection. The one or two mystery portals, like the Atlantean dust that gives rise to the rings, may be fringe phenomena of some kind, a ripple effect from some other plan of how the world was meant to be.

Very broadly, it might be possible to speak of "baptized" and "unbaptized" avenues to Narnia. The Atlantean dust, the magic rings, and the mystery portals seem to me "unbaptized." The wardrobe, the painting, and of course special acts of Aslan are all "baptized."

: Well, true, technically, although in practice I doubt if the term is ever used colloquially without the sense of "random, baseless or unreasonable."

Right, and the will of Aslan or God or whoever has often seemed "random, baseless or unreasonable" to outside observers too (and inside observers!).

In fact, however, God's will and sovereign choices reflect His perfect Wisdom.

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