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Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Friday, December 10, 2010
Some frightening images and sequences of fantasy action.
Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter
Michael Petroni, Richard LaGravanese
In the enchanted land of Narnia, Edmund and Lucy join King Caspian on a sworn mission to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia. So begins a perilous new quest that takes them to the farthest edge of the Eastern world on board the mighty Dawn Treader. Sailing uncharted seas, the old friends must survive a terrible storm, encounters with sea serpents, dragons and invisible enemies to reach lands where magicians weave mysterious spells and nightmares come true. They need every ounce of courage and the help of the great lion Aslan to triumph in their most hazardous adventure of all.
Chronicles of Narnia, The: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) | Review
Defeat the Darkness Inside
The first two adaptations of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series were disappointments to some viewers. That is probably true for any well loved stories. Some Christians who view the Narnia stories as their own felt this disappointment keenly. The stories were, after all, written by a Christian apologist who tied into Christian themes in writing the stories. Those Christians who were upset took issue with any change that they saw as diluting the Christian connection and thus damning to the film. Personally, I found the films to be clearly tied to Lewis's beliefs, even if they were not quite as forceful as the books. Lewis wrote these books with a strong sense of metaphor—often bordering on allegory. That will probably never be translatable to a film that needs to draw a wide audience.
Purists may have trouble with plot changes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but for Christians looking for those themes that reflect the Gospel, this film may represent the clearest connection with the Christian message from the Narnia series. At times it is even a bit heavy handed in that regard, but then so too was the book. The prime example of this is when Aslan tells Lucy that he is known in her world by another name and she must get to know him in that way.
There were times that it seemed as though scenes that were almost designed to be used as the basis for proclamation of Christian ideals. No doubt some will be using these scenes as sermon illustrations. For example, after Aslan releases Eustace from the curse of being a dragon, Eustace tells the others, "No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do it myself." This is very close to the Apostle Paul's understanding of the place of Christ in justification. As we watch Reepicheep lay down his sword to travel to Alsan's land, we know that he is headed to a heavenly realm. My favorite scene in terms of its obvious theological tie in, is when Lilliandil tells those at Aslan's Table that there is enough to feed everyone—always. A wonderful Eucharistic metaphor.
But for me the best part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is not how obvious the allusions are (indeed, I find that a weakness), but the way in which the theme of temptation is dealt with. The engine that drives the plot is the temptations that each of the main characters must deal with. Lucy is tempted with envy, Edmund with pride, Eustace by greed. Other deadly sins come into play at times: gluttony, sloth, wrath. Even though evil has a physical manifestation in the film—and that manifestation is seen manipulating the temptations—the film portrays the struggle with the temptations as a struggle with self. The travelers are told, "To defeat the darkness out there you must first defeat the darkness inside yourself."
Whether or not we believe in a personified evil, the battle against temptation eventually comes down to a battle with self. The characters in Dawn Treader prevail over the temptation by being willing to struggle against the temptation, even if they need Aslan's help to fully conquer the trials. The success of the voyage depends on each character being able to master the "darkness within." Like the characters in Narnia, we face ongoing struggles with such darkness. It is a confrontation we must bring our all too. And the Christian hope is that there is one who struggles beside us and for us that we might overcome.
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