My oldest child, Christopher, has always been more of a doer than a reader. He wants to explore his own world rather than read about the worlds of others.
But “Narnia” was a rare exception when he was in elementary school. I recall reading to and with him from C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series — and the excitement we shared each time we finished one and got to hit the bookstore for another.
We always bought the hard cover editions with gorgeous cover art, and regarded them as real treasures that would transport us on adventures of the mind and imagination.
Recently we enjoyed an advance screening of the latest “Narnia” movie — titled “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” I was eager to see it because I quite enjoyed “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” when it was in theaters several years ago. (As a Colorado native transplanted to Arizona, I was especially fond of the forest scenes and snowy settings.)
“Dawn Treader” has less snow, but more sea. The movie was filmed in a few places, but none more stunning than Australia. It’s a visually pleasing work with or without the 3-D experience. Plenty of scenes take place aboard a ship, so it’s a fab flick for pirate lovers and seafaring souls.
Who knew one could enjoy a swashbuckling adventure in the absence of Johnny (originally a “Christopher”) Depp? This was true revelation. (Of course, there’s always the new movie “The Tourist” for those of you desperately in need of a Depp fix.)
I typically balk when I hear assertions like “there’s nothing new under the Sun” or “no idea is a truly new idea.” But I am starting to develop an annoying habit of finding oodles of other movies in every new movie I see. “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” was no exception.
Picture “Indiana Jones” meets “Pirates of the Caribbean” — then add a touch of “Ghostbusters,” “Harry Potter,” and final scenes of Disney’s “Enchanted.” Even echos of the television series “Lost.” Happily, it works. And that’s all that matters.
“Return of the Dawn Treader” is a sort of swashbuckling story meets theological treatise — with emphasis, luckily, on the storytelling. The religious views of C.S. Lewis, original author of the “Narnia” tales, inform much of his work — as do prevailing issues of the day. What’s the balance of destiny and free will? What gives the dark side of man its power?
I tend to view such films as gateways to analysis and dialogue. What was the historical context when C.S. Lewis wrote these works? What about the time period in which the action supposedly takes place? How does art reflect life in Lewis’ work? And what value are books and film in naming and critiquing individual values and cultural mores?
Then again, you can just wing it with the flying dragon vibe. No theological study needed to embrace the humor of the movie’s fencing mouse — or the other land, sea and air creatures the children encounter in their quest to save “Narnia.” (The creatures who bounce playfully on a single large foot are my favorites.)
If you favor thinking of the lion Aslan as a diety, then go for it. If you’re happy to leave his lionhood at that, you’ll still enjoy the tale. But either way you’ll notice religious and ethical concepts, such as the power and necessity of belief, throughout.
My one frustration with attending the UltraLuxe Scottsdale theater was that they have yet to work out a few of the kinks.
Clearly the person who designed this venue, despite its lush decor, wasn’t mother to a preschooler who needed a shelf in the bathroom stall, a super speedy concessions line or a cup holder that squared with the large size drink.
Take note theater folk: The truest test of a family-friendly venue is the ease of using it for the parents whose patronage you seek. Because this cinema has some nifty parent and child-friendly programs, I hope they’ll make some more strides in these areas.
Still, two out of my three “kids” have experienced this theater now — and they both give it high praise. The seats are comfy, the sound is excellent, and the staff are friendly and courteous.
But check it out yourself — and let me know both what you think of the luxury cinema atmosphere and what you think of some of the new movies out there this holiday season.
Note: Click here to learn more about C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) from HarperCollins Publishers. And be sure to stay as the movie’s credits roll to enjoy delightful drawings by original illustrator Pauline Baynes (1922-2008) and the new Carrie Underwood song titled “There’s a Place for Us.”
Coming up: James Bond meets 39 Steps