Micheal Flaherty Talks With Big Hollywood About Dawn Treader

Posted December 11, 2010 10:03 am by Tirian

Micheal Flaherty, president of Walden Media, recently posted a fantastic interview with John Nolte of Big Hollywood where he discusses the film at length and also talks about the recent controversial statements made by Liam Neeson and producer Mark Johnson.

For us, the emphasis was always on getting the story right and making sure that the characters on the screen delivered the lines that were delivered in the book and that all of the crew was on board to make a faithful adaptation.  When it comes to lines being delivered in an interview by the cast and crew, that is something that we don’t control.

Lewis’ books have appealed to a broad cross section of readers for over half a century from all different backgrounds and traditions.  Lewis often commented that he was more than fine with people enjoying the stories simply as stories, and that if they didn’t understand the subtext that was fine with him.

We hired Mark [Johnson]because he is one of the best producers in the business and he has produced some of my favorite movies – “The Rookie”, “The Natural,” “My Dog Skip.”  The best way to be faithful to Lewis was to hire the best possible producer, and that was Mark.  He has done a great job with the series and he has given the better part of a decade to making them happen.

The same goes for Liam.  We searched for months to find the right actor who could be authoritative and forgiving and comforting.  He has hit it out of the park for us and I can’t imagine a different actor playing Aslan.  These guys are at the top of their game in film making.  But I don’t think that they are about to get an M Div from Dallas Theological Seminary any time soon.

Micheal goes on to talk about the rationale behind the film in great detail. Click here to read the entire interview.

47 Comments For This Story

  • Swordebrithil12 says:

    Good to see that they are being loyal to Lewis.
    If only he were alive to see what great inspiration his creations delivered….

  • Hwin says:

    Lewis often commented that he was more than fine with people enjoying the stories simply as stories, and that if they didn’t understand the subtext that was fine with him.

    C.S. Lewis is such a great author! I think I might find it hard if I wrote a book to be all right with people just accepting it as a story and not understanding the subtext.

  • Pepper Darcy says:

    just so I get to see SC!! =)

  • HighQueenofNarnia says:

    "The kids are all in Narnia within the first ten minutes, and they are quickly [b/]batting[/b] slave traders…"
    =))

    But, overall, I liked the article.

  • stateofgreen says:

    Subtext does count in making the movie good. I disagree that the story was not watered down. It was. 🙁 At least Mr. Flaherty has been challenged. Thinking about writing a letter to him.

  • JesusChristLIVES! says:

    Does this movie have a good 3D effect? i mean does it really POP OUT?

    • Samuel the Magnificent says:

      No, you definitely have to see this one in 2D. It’s easier to WATCH

      • Teanna says:

        I read a review that suggested the 3D was murky. I found it to be just fine (unlike the perfectly awful, seasick, murky, mistake-ridden Clash of the Titanically Bad 3D). The film has some glorious, gorgeous imagery; excellent in 2D or 3.

  • Not Of This World says:

    Off base, but how do you reed other peoples reviws? I wan’t to read glumPuddles review again 🙂

  • FaunFan says:

    "If you want to meet a group of people who have memorized every line, simply find a homeschool mom and her kids." ROFL! I totally know this to be true. While I’m the only big Narnia fan in my family, I’m more than enough for one household.

  • Warrior 4 Jesus says:

    If you’re going to spend $180 US million on a movie, you better get some much better screenwriters. Oy vey!

  • WarriorOfNarnia says:

    HEY!!!!! I was on the imdb and a new Narnia tv spot was shown (in a corner ad.) It was one of the best!!!!

  • Pepper Darcy says:

    I saw it! I saw it!! I SAW it! I sobbed and I laughed so hard and I had to RESIST cheering at certain parts! OOOOOOOOH!! I wanna scream! I *loved* it! I was so taken back to Narnia! Runs around screaming until falls down… now to recover from the headache I got from watching that really, really intense climax! *gasp* now *that* is a climax! I love that movie!! It stands there beside LotR, How to Train your Dragon, etc!

    • Hwin says:

      Hahaha!!!! This made me laugh SO hard!!!!! I’m glad you liked it, Pepper Darcy!! 😀

    • Noogah says:

      Haha!

      Man, I’m so glad you liked it!

      I was worried that you would be another hater. Can’t wait to read your review.

    • Alambil and Tarvis says:

      LOL finally, someone who was as excited as I was. Honestly, despite the changes, they handled the alterations FAR FAR better than they did in PC. In PC, the changes just came off as incredibly awkward. In VDT, it felt, for the most part, very natural. The "sacrifice to the mist" thing was weird, but other than that, it was AWESOME. WILL POULTER IS MY NEW HERO. Seriously, BEST ACTING EVER. That guy deserves an Oscar, he was so good! And the portrayal of Eustace’s relationship to Reepicheep was SO WELL-DONE. I was tearing up at the end. I love how they spent so much time developing that, because it was really the highlight of the film. Plus, Ben Barnes was just phenomenal as King Caspian–he really pulled off the King bit so well. And Drinian…OMG what can I say? I LOVE GARY SWEET. He was just so EPIC. And his accent!! LOL that made my day. 😀 And ARABELLA MORTON OMG. SHE WAS BRILLIANT!!!! She was like a veteran actor in the few scenes she was in–you’d never know it was her first movie. She’s a complete natural; I was SOOOO impressed and proud of her! 😀 AND THE CINEMATOGRAPHY AND THE EFFECTS BWAAAHHHH SO AMAZINGGG. Especially with the dragon part, and the "I am Eustace" LOLOLOL that was so awesome.

    • Teanna says:

      😉 I like your taste in movies! At last, someone else has seen the very great worth of how To Train Your Dragon! (a friend who went to film school and now works for a local TV station liked it far better than Avatar)(it was quite awesome).
      …er, back to the Dawn Treader; I was worried it would diverge too far from the story, but I was pleased (film and book are two very very different media). Lewis, as someone observed, was using ancient themes and "fairy tale" style, rewriting them for a new audience (circa WWII)…the film has brought it all to yet a newer audience, in a new millenium.

  • RideOn says:

    I found this a rather comforting article. I’ve always been glad Fox picked it up, I was quite nervous as long as The Mouse held the reins. Since when has The Mouse been true to any story? I think Fox did wonders for VODT.
    I’m also glad that they’re distancing themselves from Neeson and Johnson’s comments, it reminds me of those warnings in DVDs, "The views and opinions expressed in the commentary are strictly those of the commentators, and not of (company name here.)" So just because a few people involved in the project say something that sounds bad, doesn’t mean absolutely everyone there thinks that. And I agreed with a lot of what he said, so much from the book was in there, and they hit the important points.

  • Bookwyrm says:

    Apparently the emphasis wasn’t very emphatic. 😛

  • Reepicheep says:

    Liam Neeson saying that Aslan is like Mohammad and Buddha, AARRGGHH! It almost made me boycott him!

  • Mark says:

    Hi everyone! I’m 22 and about to become a teacher… I wanted to contribute to this page a bit with my thoughts on the film. First: as a society, whatever our initial inclinations or concluding thoughts regarding a movie, we should support a film that encourages people of all ages, but especially youth, to strive to become better people and to build a better world. This movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, did just that and should be lauded for such an effort. The inclusion of the green mist, whatever the intention of the cinematic/directorial team, became for me a visual representation of that ever-present force in our lives: temptation. Yet, the purpose of the film centered on our abilities to, through faith, love, and courage, overcome the adversities of temptation. Thus, while you are here, whatever your opinion of the film (or the book), keep in mind its value. Try not to deter others from sharing in this theme of redemption and strength of character. Remember, like this film, we, each of us, can be a single candle in a dark room, lighting the way and dispelling the darkness.
    : )

    • Hwin says:

      Amen 🙂

    • Ionic Bonding Rocks says:

      You speak a lot of sense, Mark! Even if they didn’t make the movie exactly like the book, which most of us would have liked, this movie is so much more decent than other movies out there and if it is successful, perhaps it will encourage other people to make more films that share these values.

  • Narnian says:

    I have heard rumors that VDT have 55mil for weekend, is this true?

  • lysander says:

    I agree with a lot of what Flaherty is saying here; unfortunately most of it doesn’t really register in the movie itself.

  • Rhinestone Suderman says:

    This movie has, effectively, made Aslan into a tame lion.

    Sorry, the original story was watered down; most of Lewis’ "annoying" Christian stuff was left out, or greatly downplayed—hey, who needs that, when you can have some swell swordfights, and nifty special effects! Isn’t that what movies are supposed to be about? /Sarc.

    The moral of the story becomes some namby-pamby, "Be true to yourself" schtick, that will offend absolutely no one. Silly stuff about green mists, shooting stars, seven swords and two new characters who come aboard the Dawn Treader are tossed in to the detriment of the overall plot, and, yah, the White Witch gets dragged in AGAIN!

    Watching all three Narnia films, I’ve noted that they only, really come alive when the producers/writers focus on the WWII era. I suspect they really wanted to make a movie about three troubled, angsty kids, growing up in wartime England, throw in a little razzamatazz about magic swords, creepy mists and stuff, and just chuck Lewis, whose stories they are obviously not comfortable with.

    I wish they had. Maybe it would make them more money than the Harry Potter franchise. At least, it would have kept them from messing up Narnia.

  • Rhinestone Suderman says:

    Two final quibbles: shouldn’t the Second World War be over by the time "Dawn Treader"? In the book, Lewis says that it is. But, hey, who needs Lewis’ silly old book as a guide, right?

    Secondly, while I can understand why they might have hesitated to use the Calormenes as the slave dealers (Islamic, based on the Arabian Nights, etc.) it would have been nice if they hadn’t made the slave dealers look like Biblica era Jews, instead!

    • Winged says:

      The war is not necessarily over by the time VDT takes place. If you take a look at the Narnian Timeline, VDT happens right in the middle of the war (not, of course, that the timeline is always the best source).

      Also, while the book says near the beginning that "these four children had had wonderful adventures long ago in the war years", the "long ago" could be in the point of view of the writer/reader, and not the Pevensies. Meaning their first adventure had also happened in the war years, as opposed to saying that this one is after.

      • Rhinestone Suderman says:

        Well, seeing as part of the Pevensie family has been able to cross the Atlantic safely to America, and without anyone worrying about their possibly getting caught in a battle, and the fact that it does refer to the "war years" as something in the past—I’d say yes, VDT does indicate that the war is over.

        Dragging the war into the VDT movie was a quibble, anyway, as I said; what actually grabs me about it is that the scenes set in WWII England, in both VDT and the Prince Caspian movie, are really the only times those films seem to come alive, which indicates their makers were less interested in Narnia than they were in teenage angst, and Nazis, everybody’s favorite villains. In one, very confusing scene, Lucy even has a vision of herself-as-her-sister-Susan, at a very period-looking, lively WWII party—a scene which is dragged in, kicking and screaming, practically, since it doesn’t really make sense, and isn’t at all what happens in the book!
        Nothing wrong with doing a movie about teens, WWII, magic swords, green smog and the like—but it isn’t "Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

      • Rhinestone Suderman says:

        Even in the first movie—the best of the three movies, in my opinon—we get a long sequence of the song, "Oh, Johnny, Oh!" as the children begin their game of hide-and-go-seek through the house; cute, but doesn’t add much to the overall story.

        I got the impression that they actually would have loved to do something like "Narnia battles the Nazis", and put the whole thing in WWII England, but they didn’t quite feel they could get away with that; maybe they’ll put it in "Silver Chair?"

        Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder if Narnia, or any good Christian-themed movie, can be made in the current Hollywood climate? Hollywood, at this moment in time, just seems too opposed to, and too uncomfortable with, Christianity. I know some are grateful for even tiny shreds of Christianity Hollywood deigns to give us; I feel that’s settling for far too little, and giving Hollywood way, WAY too much credit! (And it’s certainly not in the miracle business!)
        I’d actually rather there be no Christian themes at all in films (It is possible to find Christianity in other places, after all) than see it reduced to, "You must find your true self!" and "Accept yourself as you really are!" mush! (Which is pop-psychology, not Christianity.)

  • Travis Deans says:

    Folks, you can’t expect people who aren’t Christians to value (or to say) the same things as Christians. I wasn’t surprised or shocked at all by what Liam Neeson or Mark Johnson said. If Douglas Gresham had said those things, I would be worried and upset. I’m just glad these books are being made into films and I’m glad that they are respectful of the source material. The spiritual material is there – but don’t expect unbelievers to see it the way that we do.

  • glumPuddle says:

    MF: "At the beginning of the film, we hear Reep reciting his lullaby. He then talks to Lucy about his hope and desire to make it to Aslan’s country."

    In the movie, Reep talks about Aslan’s Country like its Disney World. Just a cool place to go. In the book, he has had a deep, unbearable, desperate longing for AC his entire life. "The spell of [the verse] has been on me all my life" was changed to "I only hope I shall get to see [AC] someday."

    Think about this famous Reep quote from Chapter 14: "While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia."

    …There are no scenes in the film where Reep conveys that level of longing and desire to sail to the world’s end. Rather, AC is just a cool place to go. So when he finally gets there, there is no emotional impact.

  • glumPuddle says:

    MF: "Later in the film Eustace recounts the episode and says ‘No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t do it myself. It hurt – but it was a good hurt. Like pulling a thorn out of your foot.’"

    The reason that dialogue was necessary was that those ideas did not come through in the story at all. It was necessary for Eustace to pull us aside and explain it all.

  • glumPuddle says:

    MF: "So, as you see, we not only went to great pains to make sure that we had the themes from the book right, but we did our fair share of cross-referencing with Lewis’ other great writings."

    I really think they tried. But failed. The essential themes and emotional core of Lewis’ VDT are, at best, just hinted at in Walden’s film.

  • Rhinestone Suderman says:

    Myself, I don’t think they really tried at all.

  • Alambil and Tarvis says:

    Okay, I’m going to contend with all the haters here and say that I thought the themes came off pretty well in the film.

    Obviously, we can’t compare them with LWW, because aside from LB, Lewis’ Christian themes are strongest in that one just because of the Stone Table scene. I think the mistake a lot of fans make with the films is trying to measure everything in respect to LWW, which, IMO was very theologically solid as a film (Focus on the Family probably had the most to say about that movie out of all the three, by the way), despite the few changes they made. Therefore, it really is hard to measure up to that because you don’t have Aslan sacrificing himself in every story following because he’s already done that.

    Whoever said that Reepicheep referred to Aslan’s Country like it was "Disney World," I HIGHLY disagree. First of all, may I point out that Reepicheep was, along with Eustace, the MOST WELL-DONE character in the entire movie. I had just re-read the book before seeing the film, and yes, he was EXACTLY like his book self. Now, I will say that I think they could’ve conveyed more of that longing to see AC, but that one scene where he talks to Lucy about it was touching, and there was something in the way Simon Pegg portrayed his voice there that had the sense of a thrill greater than "ooh look I’m going to a cool place!" It was watered down, but not enough that it diminished Reep’s character or his fervor or the impact of the final scene.

    Now, if they had just left AC at that scene and not referred to it again at all, I indeed would’ve been upset. However, TPTB had the brilliant idea of making Caspian wonder about it too in regards to seeing his dead father. It was a nice addition, especially for me, having recently lost two loved ones, because it hit at our common human longing to see the ones we love again. That’s probably the context in which we most think about heaven, to be quite honest, and it worked well in the film.

    Also, in terms of the temptation theme, it could’ve been done better, but I don’t think it was horrible. It kind of mirrored how in order to get to what we know as "Aslan’s Country," we are inevitably going to be faced with temptation that, if given into, will hold us back from reaching our final destination. Although how DT reaches the edge of AC at the end of the movie is different from how it reaches it in the book, in both, they are unable to get there without passing through a "valley of darkness," to quote Psalm 23. Also, they are unable to get through said darkness without divine assistance. I was actually VERY surprised that TPTB left in the Albatross scene in the movie, when Lucy asks Aslan to help them, and the Albatross (which is a blatant reference to Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ in which the Albatross that leads the ship out of the fog in the poem is meant to represent Christ) appears to guide them. Also, the fact that, in the film, they can’t defeat the darkness completely until Eustace’s conversion was interesting, because it kind of hit at the whole team aspect of things. Oftentimes we need the help of others to overcome temptation, and oftentimes we are held back by others. If we are all in this journey together, then we need to help each other overcome the obstacles. It reminds me of something I heard on the FotF radio station once, about how our faith life is like baseball. We’re not just in it to get ourselves home, we’re in it to bring the rest of the teammates on base home too. Plus, on Lucy’s temptation, I really loved how they worked with that. Honestly, it was nice to hear that line, "You doubt your value" because girls these days NEED that. The affirmation of that theme with Lucy telling Gael that when she grows up, she should be just like herself was nice too. They could have kept it on a Disney cliche’ level, but the fact that Aslan mentioned to Lucy that she "wished herself away" and that without her, her siblings never would’ve have discovered Narnia took it up a notch, and I was quite happy to see that.

    Honestly, to sum that all up, I would advise people to be glad that they even tried to put in just a bit of Lewis’ themes at all. They could’ve completely extracted them, but they didn’t, even though they were toned down a bit. Coming from Hollywood, that is a HUGE accomplishment. It’s rare that you find even the SLIGHTEST bit of "ooh scary" Christian themes in films, and to have even the tiniest bit of those themes show up in the Narnia films is a BLESSING, and I think we should all be MORE GRATEFUL for what we’ve been given. As Caspian said at the end of the film (another favorite line of mine), "I’ve been focused too much on what was taken away from me than on what has been given." Let’s be thankful for what we have, because it’s a lot more than what we could’ve had, and it’s a miracle that we have what we do.

  • Godzilla says:

    I am not by any means a Christian, but I just want to say that I still believe that the films should be faithfully adapted from the source material – Christian themes and all. That’s obviously what Lewis intended when he wrote the books, and believe it or not, there are fans of the series who do not believe in Christianity and still love the books, allegory and all.

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