Was Dawn Treader a Bad Movie? | Talking Beasts | Transcript

The following is a partial transcript of the 12/7/18 episode of Talking Beasts: The Narnia Podcast.

Glumpuddle: Gymfan… we got to talk about something.

Gymfan:What do you want to talk about?

Glumpuddle: Well, you may remember that almost eight years ago there was this little movie coming out called The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Gymfan: Gee, tell me more!

Glumpuddle: According to IMDB, a bit of trivia here, it was based on a book by C.S. Lewis.

Gymfan: Oh okay, interesting, interesting…

Glumpuddle: So, we have alluded to the fact several times over the years that, your initial reaction to the movie was a lot more enthusiastic than mine, to say the least

Gymfan: It wasn’t an instant hatred, I’ll just put it that way.

Glumpuddle: But I don’t know if I’ve ever really told you,. one of the reasons why my first feeling of The Voyage of the Dawn Treadermovie was such a heartbreak was…you. You went to see the media screenings a few weeks before the movie came out. For a few personal reasons, I declined the media screening. And we all remember the “production of the weird”. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader marketing, there just wasn’t much there to be excited to see the movie. So, I was really relieved when I saw your review. And you add a disclaimer saying, “Yeah, there are things in there I didn’t like, but on the whole, especially the ending, it does a good job.” You described it as being more intimate than the other two. So, that was the hope I clung to. I still went in thinking I  probably wouldn’t like it as much as the other two. I know things are going to drive me crazy. I knew it couldn’t possibly live up to the book, but that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t be a pretty good movie.

Gymfan: Right.

Glumpuddle: Now had I not read your positive review, would that have drastically changed my assessment of the movie? No it wouldn’t have, but it would have made it hurt a lot less. Gymfan, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you, but you broke my heart.

Gymfan: Ohh! The sadness!

Glumpuddle: What I wanted to do was get this out of my system…

Gymfan: One final rehash.

Glumpuddle: Gymfan, I mean…just…why?

Gymfan: Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this recently. I had the heads-up on this topic before, so I turned on the movie today and had it playing in the background. It’s probably been a year since I’ve seen it. I was thinking about the movie, and, I’m not going to talk about the actual film right now. When it first came out, I think the difference between you and me when it comes to initial reactions, is possibly that I think it wasn’t just the movie that I was reacting to. It was also the surrounding nostalgia and emotion, being able to see a book that I loved on-screen and in a way it was special. It had its moments. 

Even though there was a lot about it that you inwardly cringe about, the parts that you did see that they emotionally resonated with me in a way that I didn’t hate [the movie], I was still appreciating the parts I did like. It was coloring my whole perspective on the film. Initially I was very positive on it, because there were a lot of factors going into it. It was so good to see it after so many years, the devastation of Disney dropping out after Prince Caspian, whether we would see this film get made…and what not.

It wasn’t until other people started seeing it, and reviews started coming in, I think the thing that was hard for me is when a lot of negative voices started coming out. And the thing I had such a good memory about, it felt like people were stomping on it. As time has gone on, I see all the glaring problems, guys, don’t get me wrong. I see them a lot clearer because of time and you’re emotionally distanced from all of it.

Glumpuddle: You Juno‘d it, basically. Have you heard of that? Juno, when did that come out? It must have been about 2010 with Ellen Paige. There was Oscar buzz, everyone’s talking about it, loved it. And then something happened a couple months later and everyone woke up and said, “That wasn’t that great of a movie.”

Gymfan: But I think a lot has to do with your internal perspective. For me, I tend to get more emotionally attached to certain things, and that tends to cloud my perspective. Whereas other people are more straightforward, more analytical about it.

Glumpuddle: The thing I tend to value the most in a movie is the emotional experience. In my first viewing of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that was the most difficult thing to take. Overall I liked Prince Caspianand these version of the characters, and I felt they were treated very carelessly in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. They were just there to move their story along. It really struck me as something intended for really young kids. Something to put on in the living room to entertain your kids while you take a shower. It didn’t feel like an event. That’s what surprised me the most.

If there’s a kids movie I don’t like, people tell me, “You can’t say, ‘I didn’t like the stories and characters.’” But personally I don’t know how to do anything else but go see a movie and tell you what I think of it. Just because Teletubbies isn’t meant for me doesn’t mean I’ll like it more.

But I was really surprised to see Narnia, never mind the books, that’s a whole other matter, but just as a sequel to the other movies, it was treated really carelessly, a flavor of the week that we weren’t meant to get invested it.

If it tried to do something more ambitious and totally failed, that’s one thing. I would almost prefer it were terrible. It’s not bad enough to be terrible, but I find it so dull and uninspired.

Gymfan: That’s what I feel about the whole green mist addition. It’s not necessarily that I hate it because they added something into the book, because Prince Caspianthe movie added things, and people know I really love that film.

Glumpuddle: On paper, Prince Caspianmade more changes, but with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, just the tone and the feel, the themes, and emotion, is so wildly different.

Gymfan: So, it wasn’t that they added in stuff, but that it was just lame. It didn’t make any sense even within the film. Today while I was watching it, it was like, “These seven swords were given to protect…” and I was like, what does that have to do with anything?

Glumpuddle: We can point to all kinds of things that make it a poor adaptation of the book, the seven swords and green mist being an obvious example. In the book, Reepicheep actually says, “We did not set sail to find things useful. We set sail to find honor and adventure.” That sums up the story. 

But let’s try to be fair and judge it as a movie. I think if it was a good movie, I’m not saying I’d be totally fine with it, but it’s a lot easier to take.

Gymfan: Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel about Prince Caspian. It’s a good movie. Great adaptation? There’s debate there. But it’s a good movie, it has intention.

Glumpuddle: At the end of the day, Prince Caspian, I think it’s a good book and I think it’s a good movie. Obviously the book is better. But I don’t care how faithful you are to the books. If you take a good book and turn it into a bad movie, it’s not a good adaptation. How can you call it that when you start out with something good and turn it into something bad.

Gymfan: Or you can take a bad book and make a good movie, which has been done.

Glumpuddle: But all I’m saying is, I would say Blade Runneris a bad adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. But I also think Blade Runneris a really good movie in a lot of ways. So, I think that’s a factor. If you mangle it, change it, but end up with something that is quality, then I’m not going to hate it, probably. I wish they would have stuck with the book, but if the final result is good, I’m not going hate it as an adaptation.

Going through The Voyage of the Dawn Treaderthe second time, and yes, the third time, all I can say is, Rilian and I process grief differently. I think his only viewing of the movie was in theaters, just once. Whereas I had to see it two more times. The second time was to give it another legitimate shot, and try hard to say, “throw away what you know of the book and appreciate it as a movie.” The third was to take notes on it for my four hour rant of it on Youtube. 

At the end of the day, I just don’t like the movie. It’s all the things I don’t like in a movie. It doesn’t take time to savor anything. The acting is really over-the-top. They have payoffs without proper setup, like Caspian’s father. I really can’t think of a single complete scene that was great. There’s little things; the Dawn Treader ship looks cool, the last scene where Eustace hangs the picture on the wall…

Gymfan: I thing the one thing that kills it is how horrible the script is. It’s really bad, guys.

Glumpuddle: That’s another thing I hate in movies is when people say everything out loud. Even when they are seeing their gifts on their ship, like, “Oh, my healing cordial…” and “Aaa-slan!”. I can see that right in front of me! It drives me nuts!

Gymfan: And I don’t think it’s directed very well. There’s so many elements in there that had so much potential, things that could have paid off really well. I loved the design of all of it. The film looks good.

Glumpuddle: Eh…

Gymfan: I think the sets and scenery for the most part, it lines up…

Glumpuddle: Too digital, fake-y for me.

Gymfan: Well, as far as the world they are building, it works for me. It just kills me that they literally cast the perfect person to be Eustace and that’s what he got.

Glumpuddle:Well, let’s go there. I’m going to say something, I warned you. It’s kind of unpopular, but I don’t love Will Poulter as Eustace.

Gymfan: Yeah…

Glumpuddle: Hang on. Don’t go away yet. I was excited when he was cast and I think he did an adequate job. But I don’t think he was amazing I don’t think he was irreplaceable. It’s a very challenging role because, you don’t want to not want to see a character. He’s a character we would not want to be friends with, he has so many negative qualities. But in the book, we still enjoy reading about him, but in the movie it was like, “Gosh, can’t we cut to someone else, please?” But how much was this about the director? I know he’s a great actor, but his role was nothing to write home about.

Gymfan: But what struck me, he was the only character in the movie to actually change. I’m talking of Will’s portrayal of Eustace, there’s a definite shift. I just wished it could have gone a lot deeper and been given a lot more to work with. When I think of Eustace, I think of Will Poulter. Just like lots of different things, it still makes me smile and crack up.

Glumpuddle: Again, I’m just trying to focus on it as a movie. But maybe he’s just a little too over-the-top.

Gymfan: A lot of that is script problems though, like saying things out loud that you don’t need to be saying out loud. That adds to the whole farce of it.

Glumpuddle: Eustace seems like a real person to me in the book. And in the movie, he’s kind of a cartoon character. But he doesn’t seem real. Maybe Will Poulter over-played it a little much.

Gymfan: Possibly. For me, I don’t really see that. It’s pretty much the saving thing for the movie. I get to watch Will Poulter play Eustace, I love this.

Glumpuddle: So many of our listeners on Narniaweb say, “Will Poulter is one of the best things in the Walden trilogy”. And I’ve tended to downplay my opinion, because I was worried no one will take me seriously. “You’re just a hater of this movie if you hate Will Poulter!”

Gymfan: Well, everyone gets their own opinion. I don’t love The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe movie as much as mostly everyone else.

Glumpuddle: And maybe we like Prince Caspianmore than others do. And maybe some people that disliked The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will say, “That last scene was great”. But I don’t really like it. The visual design looks cool; the wave that never breaks, Aslan looks just as good. But it’s forced payoff with no setup. I don’t know why Eustace is crying, I don’t buy that for a second. 

And when they find out they’re not coming back to Narnia, it’s certainly nothing like the book where they are stunned and anguished that they are not coming back, nothing on that level. To me it all felt very forced.

The whole thing with Caspian and his father, “I promise to be a better king,” just comes out of nowhere. He completely pulls a character out of nowhere at the very end, it just completely fell flat. The famous lines of saying, “In your world I have another name,” it’s kind of pointless. Because in the book, they assume they are not coming back, they are heartbroken. Then Aslan says, “Yes, it’s true, you’re not coming back. But you see, in your world, I have another name.” 

So the book kind of ends on a hopeful note, it would seem tragic without it. Here they seem totally cool at the fact they are leaving, where Lucy says, “Hey, this is our last time here, isn’t it. And we better go, because people need us back home.” Aslan’s emotional line doesn’t even seem needed here the way they did it in the film.

Gymfan: I feel like the emotion I felt at the last scene, a lot of it is building up on how you know the previous films, how you know the books, and your own personal connection and emotion to that. In a way, I am probably projecting a bit of my own emotion into my recollection and my liking of that scene, but it is more of a goodbye. It doesn’t have that hopeful moment which the book does have. But, in a way, it is a good closure for those characters and also for the film trilogy. I’m not sure if we had an idea by the time The Voyage of the Dawn Treadercame out that it might be it.

Glumpuddle: I remember there was a discussion, even a couple months before The Voyage of the Dawn Treadercame out, producer Mark Johnson said they weren’t sure if they were going to make The Silver Chairnext or The Magician’s Nephew. There was a feeling that they would probably make one more. It was somewhat of a surprise that it fizzled out.

Gymfan: Remember, what we all went through with Prince Caspian, it didn’t peform well. I remember it was Christmas, and then we got the news…

Glumpuddle: It was Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas Eve, the news came out that Disney was dropping out.

Gymfan: Literally the worst, that was horrible…

Glumpuddle: Always Christmas but no Narnia movie.

Gymfan: The second shot that we got with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and how that process was filled with so much doubt, lots of questions, and the movie ends up okay, but it’s not amazing. Then there’s this closure that’s wrapping up. Like, if this is the goodbye you’re getting, to me, it was a satisfactory goodbye. I was feeling those emotions as well as the characters.

Glumpuddle: It was the opposite for me, I was so disappointed. All this time waiting for this movie, this is it? This is what I’m getting? I’ve softened my position a little bit on the film. I think it’s a watchable movie. As a fan of the book, it’s so painful to watch, you can’t even look at the screen. As a movie, it’s not offensive, it’s more of a, “Whatever.”

Gymfan: I think the most offensive thing for me, as I was watching it today I had it in the background, there was only a handful of times when I turned and was actually watching what was going on. It was just playing and I was listening to it. What had me turn and watch was the beginning, right before they get to the first island.

Glumpuddle: The picture in the bedroom scene isn’t bad

Gymfan: When they first get on the ship, I like that.

Glumpuddle: I’ll end on one positive note here, but I usually pick on the BBC movies so much, but the BBC version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treaderis halfway decent. It’s certainly better than this. But in the other two cases, especially the Walden version of Prince Caspianis better by a mile than the BBC. So, there you go.

And the jury is still out on The Silver Chair. Guess we’ll never know.

Glumpuddle: We’ll see if they do a series out of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It’s such an episodic book, so you see how it could work out really well.

Gymfan: We will see.

Glumpuddle: There’s still reason to hope. Gymfan, if you’re hopeful about it, it’ll be good. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed, because I’ve put my hope in you before. 

Gymfan: Yeah, you’re never going to listen to me again!

Transcript by Skilletdude

Listen to the episode here

4 Responses

  1. Tuelles says:

    Thanks for the transcript. I don't often listen to the podcast because it never seems like I have time to do that. But I took the time read the whole transcript all the way through nearly immediately. Huh…

  2. david white says:

    Dawn Treader bad movie? Yes on so many levels. 1. The film missed out the most important part of Eustace meeting Aslan on Dragon Island that with the 'Eustace. EUSTACE. Follow me' speech 2. There is no mention of the White Witch 3 Eustace taking on the White Witch. What was that all about 4 The first lord was not a prisoner he was still a undercover Lord who bought Caspian from Pug 5. The green mist did not exist. 5. The dark island there was no albertros guiding the Dawn Treader out after Lucy called upon Aslan 6. Dragon Eustace DID NOT pull the Dawn treader when it grounded. Name but a few. In short the film completely changed the book and made it a story of its own. In this way The film makers were sailing dangerously close to copyright.
    In the unlikely event of The Silver Chair stick to the script of the book

    David White

  3. david white says:

    Where was the Albertros that should have been in the dark Island. That was a very important bit in the story. Lucy calls upon Aslan. Aslan either appears as the guide himself or sends the Albertros. Bingo no Dark Island

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