Devin Brown’s ‘Dawn Treader’ Review

Lewis scholer Devin Brown has posted his review for Fox/Walden’s film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ enduring classic, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Here is a excerpt from the beginning where, before giving this thoughts on the film, he talks about his adaptation philsophy.

Certainly most Lewis fans have a list of things they would have done differently if they had been brought on as a consultant for the first two Narnia films, and I am no exception. And I am firm believer that a film adaptation cannot be (or at least should not be) just anything the filmmakers want it to be. But is it possible to get beyond mere statements of preference—where one person finds a blemish and another expresses approval, statements which have a way of being uttered as if they were absolute truth? (“Opening with the bombing of London was a total mistake.” “The bombing scene was a brilliant way to begin the film.”)

One way to do this might be to distinguish between thematic changes—Do the films say what the books say?—and cinematic changes, changes made in order to adapt a book to a different medium.

So what did he think? Read on!

You can order Dr. Brown’s book “Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader” here.

42 Responses

  1. Boke_Wyrm says:

    Very thoughtful and compassionate review. Definitely a strong endorsement for the film.

  2. glumPuddle says:

    Not that it matters since I'm seeing it tonight, but that makes me feel better. He's totally right about thematic changes vs. cinematic changes. That being said…

    I feel like whenever the filmmakers say "cinematic," what they really mean is "commercial/marketable." But there is a huge difference. I wonder if that is what Dr. Brown means.

    I'm fine with changes that make the story more cinematic, but I am completely against changes that are just made to make the story more commercial. I feel like they are trying to make a movie that appeals even to the people who wouldn’t like the book. The themes in these books are far more meaningful and will last far longer than any profit Fox or Walden make.

  3. Adelina says:

    This is an Excellent article! The Tolkien quotes were a nice touch 🙂 Its very encouraging that even a Lewis scholar/expert is pleased with the film.

  4. adamie says:

    This is indeed very encouraging. I like his train of thought. And if he likes it, there must be something good in there.

  5. Pepper Darcy says:

    ah! i'm finally getting what ya mean about adaption 🙂 I'd feel that way about MN the way you do about VotDT if they made MN a 'battle' climax verses the awewomse Digory's emotional thoughts vs. Jadis climax…

    So I'm finally understanding what you mean! Wow, talk about slow!

  6. Pepper Darcy says:

    I'm glad he's pleased. I was getting worried about this film… but I guess not. Get to see it Saturday at 4!! 😀 Can't wait. Still a tad nervous, but who knows, I might come out very pleased 🙂 Maybe. I might end up deeply disappointed! 🙂

  7. KingoftheWood says:

    gpuddle, I fully agree with you there mate! Somehow, I think the movie will be a thing that turns out 'good' Not great but good :)) There will probably be things in it I hate (keeping my fingers crossed) but over all I will walk out of the flick house satisfied and perhaps with a grin on my face. This review by Dr. Brown is encouraging….very encouraging actually.

  8. Pepper Darcy says:

    okay, he was like *really* impressed. I think my fears have been dispelled: 'I'll be out of my mind, and you'll be out of ideas pretty soon so let's spend the afternoon in a cold hot air balloon. leave your jaket behind, lean out and touch the treetops over town I can't wait to kiss the ground wherever we touch back down…' *exhausting*

  9. Pepper Darcy says:

    yeah, I confess when I first heard they were doing Narnia as movies I was like 'Disney's just doing it because LotR was so successful..' and that's why disney did it. Let's hope Fox breaks that Disney commerialism! 🙂 We can hope at least… I hope 🙂

  10. I, personally, am trying to not be excited about the movie but that is so hard. I figure if I go in to it expecting the worse then I will either be very surprised and happy or not as upset as I was with Prince Caspian. I do not think it is working though,the Narniac in me is just too excited.

  11. The Movie came out in England today on the 9th and I went to see it.

    Not cool! So dissapointing. First the CG is AWFUL! Second the story line changes are AWFUL! Third the acting in comparason to the first and second film is AWFUL! I have Just seen it so here is my own little review.
    MY THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER REVIEW: Well what can I say. The movie started of OK but was let down by the visual effects of the painting. No they weren't too bad but still they could have done better but I liked how the scene went even though they didn't get sucked into the panting.
    When the get to the Lone Islands nobody is in sight and when they get into the bell tower, which is not a tower, just a room full of bells, they find a book with names in and some of them are crossed out. The suspention was building. Then from ropes came slave traders. Edmund and Caspian were put in the dungen and Eustace and Lucy were to be sold. In the dungen was Lord Bern which was a good change because Lord Burn was supposed to by him and then they would make their plan to over through the Govener. Then a boat of slaves was pushed out to sea where the green mist consumed them. How dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Gael's Mother was inthe boat and Gael's father is Rince who gets on the Dawn Treader to find his wife.
    The second island the go to is the Magician's Island. I'd rather it wasn't the second island purely because it isn't they only put it there so that Coriakin could tell them more of the mist. The Dufflepuds looked wierd and were made invisible because Coriakin though they'd be safer from the mist not they made themselfs invisable.
    The Goldwater Island/ Dragon Island was kept pretty much the same…cool!
    The less about Ramandu's Island the better. You don't see Ramandu which is stupid. The Dark Island is a silly idea to make it the climax of the movie although the way Lord Rhoop is plaged is fantastic. He is mad as you would be living in that island. OK I have basicly told the most of the story so no more! My review has turned more into an analysis! It's not that bad.
    I'd give it ** (two stars).

  12. headstrong says:

    19 day left to watch this movie YAY!

  13. faunforaslan says:

    Going to see it tonight and very excited! No negative reviews can change my attitude! This review was very encouraging!

  14. Louloudi the Centaur says:

    I am a bit upset with the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. It only has a 56% approval rate. 🙁 I hope there will be some more positive reviews in the US tomorrow.

  15. Defender of the King says:

    I haven't seen the movie yet, so I probably don't have too much room to talk, but I don't appreciate your saying that it was "dumb, dumb, dumb". Surely, there is a kinder way to express your feelings. By calling the movie names, you're actually calling everyone who worked on and liked the movie "dumb". So, please, no insulting comments.

  16. Samuel the Magnificent says:

    I have nothing to say to you.

  17. Jon Turner says:

    Not too likely. The approval rate has dropped since then, right down to 50%. It seems that the film critics are really being nasty to this film, and I really don't understand why. I loved the first two films (LWW especially) and I DO want to see the rest of the books made just as much as everyone here does. But I'm also prepared to accept the fact that VDT could be very well NARNIA's swan song. I just don't want to be too disappointed if the film's financial takings fall short.

  18. Jon Turner says:

    Comments like that are the last I'd ever find helpful. Especially when they're that vicious.

  19. He speaks sense. Directors should listen to what other people say about making a book into a movie.

  20. Louloudi the Centaur says:

    Just remember this: Alice in Wonderland received mixed reviews, but grossed $1 billion at the box office.

  21. GlimGlum says:

    Good points. Will find out tomorrow. 🙂

  22. Jon Turner says:


    Yeah, I was aware of ALICE. Although that was a very well known literary classic. VDT seems like a big gamble, although if the fans are any indication, they'll definitely support this movie all they can. I just am worried that it may not be enough.

  23. Ionic Bonding Rocks says:

    I very much strongly disagree with you there. I thought that VDT was a brilliant movie! Yes, the plot changes were annoying, and somewhat unoriginal. But everything else was absolutely wonderful! The special effects were breathtaking, especially the water. Anybody who didn't know would have thought that the film was actually shot in the ocean. The characters were absolutely lovely too, and the friendships they form by the end of the movie are really sweet. People, don't be put off by negative reviews. All of them are just other people's opinions, and while they are entitled to their opinions, you are entitled to yours, as well. I was almost dreading the movie coming out, but I came out of the cinema very pleasantly surprised. I hope you all will too. 🙂

  24. Duffleglum says:

    I honestly don't think that you can put "cinematic" in a box of "marketable" when movie producers say it, glumPuddle.

    I agree with you that that marketability should not be their concern, but please understand that 'cinematic' often refers to a more incredible story as well as visuals.

  25. Daughter_of_Eve18 says:

    I completely agree…I want to be really excited about it because it's my favorite but at the same time, I've heard so many negatives that I fear being completely heartbroken. So, in essence, I'm trying to go about it very neutrally…which is, as you mentioned, not exactly working for me 🙁 Drats!

  26. stateofgreen says:

    Thanks for posting this review. It makes me feel better too about the film. I was sort of slightly bummed by some of the changes but this just confirms the silver lining to be that kids who never read the books will be introduced to them for the first time through this movie!

  27. jag says:

    I must also disagree. I get the feeling you might be a bit of a PURE PURIST? I mean the adaption was fantastic, there were noticable changes to make themovie flow, unlike the book (which would not work at all if put straight onto thescreen)But nothing important was tampered with! the themes, messages, it was all there… I was very VERY impressed with the film, an what they did on much smaler budget than the first two, oh and the CG was brilliant! perhaps u saw a different movie? kidding… but it seems to me that 90% of narnia fans that have seen the movie are thrilled with it! and comment like this will do no one any good!

  28. sasha says:

    All our family loves this book. And if you reed it well you'll notice that it is about LITTLE kids ,as soon as they grow up they can't get into Narnja,very PG,and my child is 5 years old and she loves first two parts and we will go to see the Voyage today,and I'm sure we will love it,it is for families. As much as I loved Harry Potter,but it is dark story for those who are older than 14-15…about twist in plot…name one book that was not changed in the movie? We all love Disney's movies but not one of them is even close to original what? It just make you read more to find out the true plot…so it is a win-win situation. Enjoy the movie and read more with your family.

  29. I am sorry if my comments came across as vivious or uncalled for but I did not call the film 'dumb, dumb, dumb' I called th green mist that consumes peole 'dumb, dumb, dumb' and you might be taking it a bit over the top by saying I am calling the people who worked on the film and liked the film dumb because I am not. I take back all coments found sharp tongued.

  30. I am very sorry if you did like what I said.

  31. Sorry. Not all the film was shot in the ocean. I personally found the film a bit of a let down but I did not expect to get so many complaints. Sorry.

  32. Sorry. I don't believe the changes were unnoticable and I don't believe it was a good adaptation. I am not alone in this just watch Glumpuddle's video called 'Midnight'. I am sorry for my comment and wish I could remove it.

  33. To all thoughs who saw my comment I assume a lot have not seen the film at the time you posted. Sorry to all people who found it mean.

  34. Also please excuse my spelling mistakes.

  35. shoyha says:

    like your characteristic in your movies

  36. thank u so much, Mr. Brown, for saying what you said!

  37. Doug says:

    "These words—written by J. R. R. Tolkien in the Foreword to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings—remind us that when it comes to individual preferences, there is no pleasing (or displeasing) everyone. What one person really likes, another will insist was a flaw."
    Thanks for illustrating Dr. Brown's perceptive review so well – especially when it comes to unperceptive "fans". So, Dr. Brown thinks the CGI is "brilliant" and you think it's "awful"? Your labeling of cinematic changes as "stupid" without giving any reasons why you think so? The best way to sum up your "review", to use my 13-year old daughter's favorite expression?

  38. Dr. Brown's review is spot on. Perhaps the most balanced and insightful I have yet read. Please feel free to check out my review as well.

  39. Reepicheep says:

    He obviously put a lot of thought into this.

  40. Nate says:

    I saw the movie this morning … and I also read Dr. Brown's review.

    Loved Eustace … awesome acting/portrayal.
    The Dufflepuds were funny and fantastic.
    The opening sequence of going into the painting was fantastic.
    The Dawn Treader looked every bit as majestic as I imagined her to be.
    The ending was good and very true to the book.

    The Negatives:
    The lacking centrality/gravitas of Aslan — I have had this problem with it in each of the movies (LWW-The Battle seemed to take more importance than the stone table sacrifice, PC – The Battle being more important than Aslan's involvement in the story, VOTDT-The appearance of the Albatross at the Dark Island was of no significance at all because of the Battle. The changes to the story may be fine and well to you, but when they take away from those all important moments with Aslan, I really do not care for them. Aslan is the central character of the books. He should be the central character of the movies, but alas, he is not. He feels as though he is an important side character. The kids are absolutely the central characters of the movies.
    Small differences with big theological importance–Why did they have to row on the way to the dark island in the book? Why was the wind not with them? The implication is that that great emperor beyond the sea and/or Aslan did not want them to go there (at least that is my interpretation), because he controls the wind, and the wind was not with them. Why was the wind not with them in the movie? Because the evil forces did not want them to get the 7th sword back. But who controls the wind and the waves? I believe that the whole book reeks of the emperor's/Aslan's guidance … the wind of the Holy Spirit in the sails, I guess you could say. The movies do not. What happened in the book to Eustace when he was transformed from a dragon? He was thrown into the water (a symbol of baptism). Did Eustace grow to enjoy being a dragon in the book? No, he loathed it, much more than he did in the movie. Why did Eustace want to be undragoned so badly in the book? Because of the arm band that was cutting into his arm that he could not remove (i.e. his sin/greed that he could not remove). Only one being could do this, and His name was not Lucy. Aslan removed it. I believe that Lewis was very intentional with each time he used Aslan … the things he did and said. To change those things is to change what Lewis was saying about his theology and ultimately about Jesus.

    That is why I don't think Lewis would appreciate the movies, and it is why I will continue to stick with the books. Lewis has an amazing way with words that pictures truly cannot capture.

    As a popcorn flick it was OK. I will take my kids to see it in a couple of weeks when school is out. 2 1/2 stars. It was definitely better than Prince Caspian.

  41. Alambil and Tarvis says:

    That was a beautiful review.

    I am done with worrying about negative commenters.