Micheal Flaherty talks about Dawn Treader with Big Hollywood

I have been getting some pretty scathing e-mails lately from folks that have told me for one reason or another that, in no uncertain terms, they would not be seeing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  This is the direct result of some comments that were made that don’t even have an effect on the film’s actual content.  Walden Media’s Micheal Flaherty explains, very thoroughly, the situation as well as the film.

Let me start by asking if these comments reflect what we can expect from “Dawn Treader.” Have the allegorical aspects of the film been watered down to make the film less Christian?

MICHAEL FLAHERTY: Not one iota.  While Lewis would argue that Narnia is not an allegory, rather a “supposal”, there are strong Christian themes in the book that were influenced by Lewis’ worldview.  Further, Lewis’ main focus in writing “Dawn Treader” was “the spiritual life.”  While every book encounters some changes from the page to the screen, we wanted to make sure that the themes that were important to Lewis – redemption, temptation, grace, and our yearning for our true home – were not only preserved, but amplified through the changes that we made with the script.   There were a number of lines from the book that were important to preserve verbatim as well.   Most important are Aslan’s lines at the end when he tells Lucy “In your world I have a different name.  You must learn to know me by it.  That is the whole reason you came to Narnia.  By knowing me better here you would know me better there.”

We felt a sacred trust with this scene not only to be faithful to the book, but to be faithful to all of Lewis’ writing.  The topic of longing was a theme in so much of what Lewis wrote.  My favorite passage in all of Lewis’ writing comes from “Mere Christianity,” where he delivers the famous insight that “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  In the Problem of Pain Lewis writes about desiring “something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside.”

Reepicheep is the very embodiment of this longing.  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.  When he finally arrives there at the end, the scenery is breathtaking.  Reep delivers an incredibly moving speech to Aslan about his longing and desire for his country.  I won’t ruin it for you, but it draws heavily upon the passage in “The Problem of Pain” where Lewis writes about something we “were born desiring,” and that even our greatest moments have been but “tantalizing glimpses” of it.  When Reep abandons his sword and bravely sets sail in his little coracle, it will send shivers down the spines of all friends of Narnia.


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.

Read the full interview at Big Hollywood – It is fascinating, and I highly recommend checking it out.

33 Responses to “Micheal Flaherty talks about Dawn Treader with Big Hollywood”

  1. Daniel James says:

    I loved that last line, “But I don’t think that they are about to get an M Div from Dallas Theological Seminary any time soon.” Haha! I liked the rest of the article too.

  2. gn says:

    Yes, as I already commented here and in my review, the interview made me appreciate the movie more. But this is largely because a lot of the points he mentions simply don’t come across on screen, even when I knew in advance his spin on them. It’s nice to know they tried. But somehow, that line sums up all my feelings on the movie.
    I watch “Prince Caspian” again and I’m amazed how grown-up it is. The decision seems to have been deliberately made to render “Treader” juvenile to win back younger audiences. This story was many things, but it was never juvenile.
    I said long ago, when the movie was in doubt, that if they gave me the line at the end about Aslan in our world, the rest was negotiable. I should have remembered the very attitude of Lewis himself – that the story comes first, and nothing else matters unless you tell a good story. This movie simply does not tell a good story. It’s beautiful that they managed to preserve the Christian elements. Unfortunately, the rest of the story is unrecognizable.
    The adventure in the Lone Islands bears no relationship to its source. It was a mini version of everything Lewis said in “That Hideous Strength” and “The Abolition of Man” about the tyrrany of bureaucracy and political pragmatism… all gone. I have seen these kind of changes to an author’s intent in an egg. They call it “going bad” in Narnia.
    The sillyness of the Dufflepuds is gone; the beautiful stupidity, how they made themselves invisible in their vanity and were too cowardly to undo it themselves, is replaced by “I made you invisible to protect you against the Eeevil Green Mist” (Did someone, ANYONE, hear that line and NOT cringe? Seriously?), and the crew being charmed by their silliness, having their spirits lightened, is gone (“Hurry, hurry, hurry, to the next island, 3D is expensive! Oh, look, he’s throwing flowers at the screen! I haven’t seen anything this cool since that annoying guy was bouncing ping-pong balls toward the screen in “House of Wax”, where at least Vincent Price comments on-screen about how stupid and mercenary it is).
    The holiness of Ramandu’s Island is gone, and with it that entire sense toward the end of their voyage that they’re approaching a place of great silence and mystery, worthy of their respect. The beautifully understated infatuation of Caspian for his daughter is gone, replaced by… nothing really. I guess we’re just supposed to guess that he married her, or wait for the next movie (not holding my breath any longer, and it breaks my heart to say that, but I really don’t have any interest in seeing what this bunch will make of “The Silver Chair”). If anything, implying that she’s a fullblood star makes it even less likely that those unfamiliar with the books will think he married her (as Donna said of Doctor Who, “There’s probably laws against it.”), or even that he could marry her, let alone have a son by her.
    I think those of us who know the book so well tend to forget that there’s a lot here that simply doesn’t make any sense unless you realize that they’re obligatorily doing a scene from the books. As my wife said after the Dufflepuds, “What the heck was THAT supposed to be about?”
    And everywhere, they make the SAME MISTAKE as “Prince Caspian”. They have removed Aslan from His own story, taking out virtually all his small but important appearances along the way. One of the great moments in the whole Narnia series was when Aslan appeared to Lucy after she recited the spell: “Did you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
    There were a lot of things that went right with this movie: the characterization (what there was of it), Eustace in particular, Reep obviously, but every single change so obviously came from a different and inferior source that it was jarring, like nothing fit properly. Kind of how Lord of the Rings would go from beautifully worded quotes from Tolkien to nonsense like “It’s the dwarves who go swimming with hairy little women” and “game over”.
    Jonah Goldberg once commented that the problem with “The Phantom Menace” was that there were too many “Somewhere in Time” pennies in it, moments that just suck you right out of the story back into your own world. All of the changes, so obviously not from Lewis’ hand, were one big “Somewhere in Time” penny. The narrative goes Lewis, boring, Lewis, boring, Lewis with depressing predictability.

    • Paul Martin says:

      Wow, that comment is ridiculously long. I just wanted to point out a problem with your comments:
      “This story was many things, but it was never juvenile.”
      It is a Children’s Book. Of COURSE it is juvenile.
      You quote many great Lewis texts but never think that the green mist could be something out of The Screwtape Letters. I think Lewis would have seen the Green Mist as a Wormwood type of character, tempting people along the way.

      Either way, I think you’re being much too harsh toward it. I would like to respond to your comments one by one, but there just isn’t the time. I would end up writing a 50 page book.

      • Katy in AL says:

        Plus, saying that the story wasn’t good is strictly a matter of preference. I happened to LOVE the story, and to me, it felt just like the book in condensed form.

        • DawnTreader3 says:

          I totaly agree. While I have not personaly seen the movie yet I have heard about the changes that were made to the story and I don’t have a problem with them at all. In reality, it would be imposible for the movie makers to put every detail that was in the book into the movie. If they did that, the movie would be 5 hours long and people would complain that it was too long. (Not to mention that their posteriors went numb from sitting in the theatre seat for so long!)

      • gn says:

        Juvenile was perhaps ill-chosen. “Childish” might be unnecessarily harsh but make the point better. I didn’t intend to get into a semantic war. Are you trying to understand my concerns, or trying to score cheap debating points? The fact is, as far as the movies go, “Treader” is obviously going for a younger audience, and “Caspian” an older one. But the books definitely work the other way: “Prince Caspian” is a far more primitive work than “Treader”, a comparatively straightforward adventure story. Lewis seems to have put a great many more the adult themes dear to his heart into “Treader” – the Sehnsucht that haunted him his whole life, joy and longing for one’s true country, the commentary on contemporary England (as mentioned above; it must be said that Gresham’s politics are far removed from Lewis’, for what that’s worth), Coriakin as expressing the frustration God must feel toward his beloved, self-destructive, foolish people, and so forth.
        Lewis seemed to write his books for progressively older audiences. This is why the chronological order never made any sense to me, and to see this regression on film is especially jarring for audiences, if they can put their disappointment into words. But I would say that it’s a fair statement that the writers of “Caspian” (and even to some extent LWW) took the material and made it more mature and sophisticated, while the writers of “Treader” went to great pains to go in the opposite direction. This was very obviously a deliberate choice and one which (in so many words) they’ve bragged about.
        There seem to me to be two issues here. One is regarding a (faithful, or at least valid) adaptation of the material. The point that the producers seem to miss is that in a series of this sort, there has to be some kind of consistency of tone. Despite the darker tone, I had a feeling that “Caspian” took place in the same universe as LLW and was a logical outgrowth of it, a more mature world for more mature children, or rather say, we viewers were seeing more of its depth and sophistication than before. I had no feeling that this movie took place in the same universe. The accent thing is a minor point (though if the other Telmarines had had accents, it would have been a way of linking the movies without any real downside). But why would Aslan give magic swords to Telmarines to protect Narnia? Why would they deliberately take them out of Narnia? Why would Caspian’s father, of all people, believe in Aslan and the old ways (especially since movie Miraz went out of his way to point out that Caspian IX was a typical Telmarine)? Yes, I can make up answers (Miraz the unreliable narrator, etc). But it a jarring inconsistency of style. Apart from the re-use of actors, there’s little sense that this is a continuation of the world of “Prince Caspian” as previously seen.
        I’m sorry if my posts ares too long for your taste. I was attempting to provoke some intelligent discussion… perhaps even get through to the writers so that they don’t make the same mistakes on “Chair”, if there is a “Chair”, if there is a Prince Rilian, and if he has a mother of some sort. (This is all part of the same point, really. One can almost hear the writers muttering, “Cooties!” at the thought of a hint of a Caspian/R’sD romance. Would a scene after the credits have killed them, instead of a Jill Pole shoutout that pretty much sabotages the first few minutes of “Silver Chair”?)
        If not, it would be pretty ironic that a C.S. Lewis site doesn’t welcome intelligent, even boisterous discussion, and (I hope) thought-provoking criticism. I didn’t mean to offend anyone, but I presume that those Inklings meetings got pretty rowdy at times too. But then, not being interested in the intentions of C.S. Lewis would again be rather apropos under the circumstances.

        • AravisKenobi says:

          Um, in case you weren’t aware, Aslan isn’t in the book all that much either, so your little comment about Aslan being removed from his own story is not only wrong, but far off center.

          • Ailena of Narnia says:

            AravisKenobi, Aslan might not physically be present in much of the book. But he pervades everything. He IS there.

            I have not yet seen the movie, but when I do, I am 98% sure I’m going to agree with gn.

          • Paul Martin says:

            Ailena, Aslan is as much a spiritual presence in the film when he’s not physically present as he is in the book.

    • Ailena of Narnia says:



      (Even though I haven’t seen the movie yet. But I’m dead certain I’m going to agree.)

    • Mark says:

      Love CS Lewis’s works.

      Loved the movie. Rich, beautiful produced, filled with Lewis’s Christian symbolism.

      Hack away but you prove only the foolish devour their young. I applaud everyone involved with this good film and encourage them to keep making films like this rather than the constant deluge of trash coming from Hollywood etal.

  3. James says:

    I went and saw this movie with a number of my friends who tend to be rather critical of things they read/watch in general. They had be the ones to say, ‘Oh, they changed Prince Caspian too much and ruined it…’ (Looking back they’ve changed their mind a bit) In any case, we watched the movie and were very pleased.

    I enjoyed Reepicheep in the movie more than the book in fact. In the book, I can’t wait for him to leave, because he’s always right and always looking before he leaps. In this, he becomes a mentor to Eustace.

    There were many other things too I could say, and though I wish there could have been a little of this and a little of that, suffice it to say that I was very pleased with the direction it took, and the way it was focused on our identity. I would/am highly recommending seeing it to everyone I’ve run it.

    For those who love the books word for word, Awesome.
    I know it’s different, but it’s still great.

  4. josh says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to agree with gn…on some things. Dawn Treader technically was a children’s story. Yes, it was dark in some places and could have been made very eerie on screen, but it’s still a children’s story. I agree completely about the way that many of the small but memorable moments from the book have been lost. There were many lines throughout the movie where I cringed. The scene with the Dufflepuds made me upset, as well as Aslan not getting his part with Lucy at the spell book. I also wondered how they intend to marry Caspian and Lilliandil seeing that she is a star, and how they will interpret the witch killing her in The Silver Chair. This movie could have been beautifully done. It was a very entertaining movie, and I enjoyed it. I just know it could have been better had they taken the time to really go with the book on everything. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of the very few movies that did an excellent job at following the book. Prince Caspian did a really good job, only added things. Even what was added still fit into the storyline without changing anything. The Green Mist was absurd. I’m sorry. I went into Dawn Treader wanting to love it. I didn’t and it is as simple as that. I hope Andrew Adamson will be hired to take on The Silver Chair.

    • Ailena of Narnia says:

      I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I loooove spoilers.

      “Aslan not getting his part with Lucy at the spell book.”

      My literal reaction to that was to yell “WHAAAAAAT?!?!”

      Plus, I just got the email that my review of PC was approved. This is well and and good, but when did I post it?

      May 19, 2008.

      Care to be a little more prompt, mods?

      • Paul Martin says:

        Haha… don’t worry… Aslan’s very much present with the spell book, and it is paid off a little later to good effect.

        As for the PC review, sorry about that. I got a little burned out at the time because of all of the typos in fan reviews (I was correcting spelling). This time around, most reviews are better than the ones for LWW and PC in that regard.

    • Mark says:

      Green mist was absurd? But Reepicheep wasn’t? Welcome to fantasy.

      Much better than the first or second films in staying true to the overt Christian themes.

      Loved it from start to finish.

      Life is always “compared to what.” Compare this to 99% of Hollywood films and you’ll come up pleased with the job of film adaptation that the makers of this film did. But, compared to the film in your mind, it may fall short, but, then again, you didn’t pay the price to make the film.

      • josh says:

        Reepicheep was done perfectly. And yes, you are correct in that making a film and keeping those Christian values is excellent and amazingly important, but the film was not well made. It was a B movie. I love Narnia. I have read all of the books at least three times and have grown up loving it before Disney started with it. I’m not against the film franchise. I am strictly saying that the first two films were excellently made and that this one was not. It is as simple as that.

  5. AravisKenobi says:

    The Green Mist aside, I thought the movie was well done. I don’t see where people get the absurd notion of the White Witch obsession, nor do I see how it is far off base of the book. The Lone Islands was probably the greatest deviation in terms of story, but really nothing else was that far off. And I’ve read the book about 5 times, so don’t say that I don’t know anything about the book as I’ve been accused in the past.

  6. josh says:

    I guess I just feel like the film was rushed. It didnt feel like the film makers were telling a story. It felt like they were showing off a movie, if you get what I mean. I don’t think anyone was trying to offend anyone, gn. This is supposed to be for calm discussion. 🙂

    • gn says:

      Yes, rushed is exactly the word, josh. Every important scene felt like it was cut short somehow and important dialogue missing. It went by fast, but was that the stone knife on the table, and did someone mention it in passing? A lot of things of this nature. I’m expecting a recognition scene with Berne and Caspian, but if you blink, you miss it, hurry on to something else. I just wished this movie would have slowed down a little.
      I don’t know what was filmed and what wasn’t, what would require massive new CGI work, etc., but an extended cut could save this movie. All of the changes, etc. wouldn’t be that bad if they would just slow down and put back in about 20% more dialogue into all the important scenes where it was obviously cut.

      • gn says:

        What I’m trying to say is that more than anything, this movie just felt very badly edited. I’ve been trying to put it into words, but that’s it exactly. You see this occasionally in movies, where the scenes just miss somehow, because things have obviously been cut out and it just doesn’t flow properly.
        I have the feeling that there was a great movie here once, before Prima decided to make it 3D and Secunda pointed out that 3D is expensive and Tertia replied that it was going to have to be substantially cut down.

        • Paul Martin says:

          You should join my quest to have an extended edition produced. I’ve tweeted to @20thcenturyfox that is what I want to see, and had others do the same. Let’s turn the negatives that you see into positives, or at least make an attempt.

          • gn says:

            I would dearly love to see that, if it could be done. But I don’t know how feasible it is to, for instance, put back in scenes with Reepicheep, which would require massive new CGI work.
            I get the impression that FOX seems to be committed to regarding this movie as a success, unlike Disney, which seemed to be looking for excuses to dump it. So perhaps they might actually go for it. It seems clear to me that the 3D fad caused this movie to be edited to death. But DVD sales are where the real money is, and as far as I can see, the 3D fad is pretty much sabotaging that end of the business. I would love to see Treader as a test case generally for restoring these movies to some semblance of what they were intended to be, pre-“post-3D-conversion”.
            Somewhere, there may even be a watchable version of the mess that was “Clash of the Titans.”

          • josh says:

            I think an extended version of the film would greatly improve the sense of a rushed film. A few added lines, some scenic shots to help slow it down, some cgi work, and FOR GOODNESS SAKE SOME OPENING CREDITS would help alot. 🙂

  7. Deanna says:

    As a purist, I appreciate the sentiments of the critics. However, I understand that to include the entire book would have stretched the movie out an additional hour (to the already nearly 2-hour long movie) at least. I saw the condensing as a necessary evil to fit the story into a movie. So yes, I was saddened to see the Lone Island and Dufflepuds condensed, I was saddened to see the first of the lords encountered to be a prisoner rather than a nobelman, I was saddened to see Edmund being the one who craved riches out of the gold water rather than Caspian, and the like. However, I understand these were adjustments made to fit the story into a movie.

    My perspective of the green mist and the swords was an attempt to bring a thread of continuity to the adventures and add a dramatic goal to work towards in a way that the original story lacked. To the purist, I know such things are not needed. But for an engaging movie, such things need to be interwoven in. Bouncing along hap-hazard adventures does not sit well with the general movie audience.

    Despite the alterations, I found the movie to maintain the spirit of the book better than Prince Caspian did. And kudos to the portrayal of Reepecheep, which I believe to be closer to the real Reepecheep than the Prince Caspian version (the only thing missing was the high-pitched voice). And thank-you all for keeping Aslan’s statement at the end as it was. Of all things, that was my biggest fear of elements to be altered. (Now just to pray for Liam….)

    • DawnTreader3 says:

      Deanna, I want to echo your statement at the end of your post. I too am extremely thankful that they kept Aslan’s statement at the end the same as it was in the book. I was very afraid that they would change it and was encouraged to hear that they left it alone. (I will also pray for Liam)

  8. Wildheart says:

    Let me start this by saying that every war in history I can think of, both the just and the stupid, were started by people freaking out about something. Therefore, I would say, if you are going to freak out about something, in better be something worth freaking out over. Now I ask this: is it a good idea to boycott a movie because an actor shared a belief? Are we Christians so so self-righteous that we cannot even bear to hear the words of those who we’re meant to shine our lights upon? I’ll say what I think flat out: I think we’re being hypocritical here. Liam Neeson didn’t say that Aslan represents Allah or anything like that. If he did, then he would be dead wrong because we know what Lewis intended Aslan to be. What Neeson said was that for HIMSELF Aslan represented more. People have that right to interpret things how they choose. Are we to criticize them? No! Are we to boycott a movie just because it has an actor who has a different belief then we do? You apparently didn’t know that the man who did the voice of Reep in PC is a crossdressor. Jesus came to earth to save the lost! It was the sinners he hung around and the Pharsees which he criticized, for a reason. We have a movie with good effects, characters we love, and most amazingly in this time has Christian themes. We should be enjoying it, not getting into a “politically incorrect” argument! I truly believe, that as this debate continues, so the His Dark Materials fans are laughing at us because with every time something like this happens, so we are proving Philip Pullman right. I am sorry if I offend anyone, but I speak to Christians and Proverbs 9:8-9: Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you: rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser.

    • Deanna says:

      Well spoken, Wildheart. There are times we need to recognize that the “positives” outweigh the “negatives”, and in this case I see the greater positive. May there be seekers who find Jesus through this movie.

    • Mark says:

      Well said. Amazing how unChristian some Christians can be. They devour their young.

  9. Max says:

    let me start by saying I do not know the book, I never read it, and the purists will hate me for it but I don’t mind that. I am also a Christian and also an actor, as well as one of my best friends being an important cast member in this film. (I was even concidered for a role, but I went to see it even though they didn’t hire me).

    I have seen the film… and I have no problems seeing the film, it is a christian story with good themes and Lucy’s temtation is one of the most important messages that I have seen main media tackle ever!

    I took my daughter to see the film (she is 11) and she doesn’t know the book. We both loved the film. As far as the message goes, its fantastic, how many films can christians see that has a good story good themes and is a good base for teaching of morality and good descision making, or to begin a conversation about a film with someone and actually have a spiritual base to talk about.

    I hate (yes a strong word for a christian), I HATE that christian are boycotting this film because it might have a few things changed. We are only ruining the chance for them to make another film which someone might watch and see something spiritual it. I know and understand this industry, and it is not easy to get things perfect and it is a tough ballance to try to make the film apeal to all audiences.

    Go and see the film. As coments like “I haven’t seen the film but I totally agree” are you passing judgement before you even experience it. imagine if I said that the apple that I ate with breakfast tasted discusting… would you agree??? because without the personal experience you simply have no idea. you may hold the same ideas, but you as an individual may feel that they got the mix right.

    I thought it was a great film… it was no Star Wars but if I expected that experience every time I went to the cinema I would have depression.

    My friend on the cast says that in the book they all stand on the boat in the end and push the serpant off the boat, well purist that sounds like the least climactic battle in the history of film… yes including the early star trek films.

    I understand that everyone has a different take on these things, but I can not stand how closed off christians can be to the idea of telling a christian story.

    Four thumbs up here. Two from me and two from my daughter.
    but see it for yourself then let me know what you think.

    • Paul Martin says:

      Your comments about the serpent scene in the book are exactly my thoughts. Not to mention, they push it over the tail, if I remember correctly. Something that would be very difficult considering it’s a huge snake coiled around the ship. Pushing the thing over the tail would be insane. Not to mention, the serpent happens much earlier in the story, so it would have been this epic battle, with next to nothing toward the end, save for the Dark Island, which would have been anti-climactic itself.

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