The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will always be the best Narnia story, because it's the original. But Voyage of the Dawn Treader has long been my favorite, due to a seamless blend of mysterious adventure and thought-provoking morality. With its episodic island-hopping, Dawn Treader always seemed the most cinematic book of the series, although I think it would make an even better single season of television.

Similar to the film version of Prince Caspian, Dawn Treader largely fails to capture the book's true spirit, which is the main element I ask for in an adaptation. By adding a singular theme of good and evil, the movie does drive forward more easily, but inserting the layer of intentionality ends up depriving the story of its wide-eyed adventure, particularly when the climax doesn't match the buildup. In trying to make Dawn Treader a more conventional tale, the filmmakers neutered too much of the narrative's soul.

Traces of the book's heart do shine through occasionally in small but thrilling moments involving Lucy's smiles, a dragon's tears, Reepicheep's valor and Aslan's words. Even filmmakers who don't truly understand the book can't screw up these remarkable moments, which make the movie worthwhile for Narnia lovers. Perhaps the best part was the credits, which featured colorized versions of the book's original drawings. Those were fantastic.

I suspect that those unfamiliar with the book will still enjoy the movie, perhaps even moreso. Dawn Treader isn't a bad watch. Frankly, it was about what I expected, though less than I hoped. 6 of 10.

One other side note...

I can usually understand why changes are made to source material, even extreme changes like those in Dawn Treader. I get that they wanted a more substantive antagonist. Fine. Reepicheep should have had darker fur...but maybe a lighter color looks better on film. Caspian should be blond...I guess he looked better as a brunette. I can even accept bigger things like Ray Liotta batting from the wrong side as Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams; he was the perfect actor for the part otherwise. Okay, I get it. What I'll never understand is why small things are changed. For example, in the book Eustace puts the bracelet on his left arm, not his right, as he does in the movie. In HP4, why is Hermione's dress pink instead of blue? Why can't filmmakers get simple facts correct? What legitimate reason could there possibly be for changing those things? Maybe it's just laziness or apathy, but that inattention to detail is too often a microcosm of what frequently separates movies like these from phenomena like The Lord of the Rings.

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