How the New ‘Narnia’ Underestimates Christianity

Josh Larsen

December 13, 2010

Two questions:

1. It's been a while since I've read the book, but is the vagueness present in the book? Or did the movie water down a more specific message?

2. If there is a deeper allegory in "Dawn Treader," what is it? At first I thought that the seven deadly sins (echoed in the seven swords and seven lords) were going to tempt the characters--and sure enough, Lucy envies her sister's good looks, and Edmund and Eustace are tempted by greed for the gold. But this allegory falls apart, as the other sins aren't really represented. So what is the allegory (if there is one)?

Brandon Lovelace
December 13, 2010

Interesting thoughts, and I see your point. But there are no examples from the movie to back up your ideas. Sounds like you may jumping to conclusions.

There were elements of the Gospel in this new segment of the Narnia series that were pretty clear and though-provoking. Take the example of Eustace being transformed back into a human. He very clearly states something like... "I tried everything I could to not be a dragon, but I couldn't do it on my own. He [Aslan] had to come to me." As with all Narnia stories, take out Aslan and insert God. Now we have what I believe to be a clear presentation of the Gospel.

Don't totally write off Voyage of the Dawn Treader as lowering itself to morals only.

December 14, 2010

I have yet to see the movie, so my comment is directed more to the books. I know that in reading them, some of the stories had a more obvious link to Christian faith than others. "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" was one that seemed to have less obvious connections to our faith story.

"The Magician's Nephew," "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", and "The Last Battle" have pretty obvious connections to biblical stories - the others less so.

I am not surprised that the film may seem to be lacking - because the book was less obviously connected. It's also worth keeping in mind that Lewis didn't necessarily write these stories in order to retell the bible, though he didn't shy away from making those connections. According to interviews I've read, he started the Narnia chronicles in order to entertain some children he came to know during the war.

Josh Larsen
December 14, 2010

It's been a while since I read the book too. My problem with the movie isn't that it veers from the book, but that it gives you nothing to chew on (as the other films did).

Josh Larsen
December 14, 2010

I'll concede that the scene you mention, taken on its own, has some deeper theological implications. What I appreciated about the first two films, though, is they way they wove such implications into the larger narrative. In Dawn Treader (the movie), the larger narrative is all about a generic sense of morality, which I found less interesting.

Brittani Bradford
December 14, 2010

Everyone seems to be disliking this movie, I liked it a lot. I see your point about it being watered down, but it was still there, I mean...I had to explain it to my mom, which I found kind of funny...but I thought the movie was great. The first one will always be my favorite, and the books are fantastic, but it's been so long since I've read them, maybe I should read them again, but I definitely don't think the movie isn't as disappointing as everyone is making it out to be...

December 15, 2010

Perhaps, as with many series and sequels, the author and also the film-maker lacked the impact, the clarity, and the passion of first story. Are we all expecting too much from subsequent efforts?
Hearing mixed reviews, I almost dread seeing the film (Prince Caspian: the film was disappointing to me, but then again, I have favorites among the book series also); I also dread the thought of all 7 of Lewis' books being made into films--enough bad or lack-luster films will detract from the good ones, if they do get made. What I did appreciate about Lewis' series is that he created new characters beyond the originals; that originality may have kept his stories from being a fantastic Bobbsey Twins serial.
I would like to see filmmakers attempt his space trilogy, or at least _Out of the Silent Planet. That series would definitely provide more depth of story and less danger of "moralistic allegory."

January 6, 2011

I didn't think "Dawn Treader" gave its audience enough credit. Much of the book dealt with the inner workings of temptation. It's always easier to portray a tangible battle with a visible villain than it is to do a movie about internal struggles. They rushed Eustace's explanation of how he stopped being a dragon but they did include the idea that Aslan had to be the one who changes him.

The end of the book delves into a spiritual realm in which hot coals are delivered to the mouths of stars who sing in the dawn. There is an amazing, elevating beauty to the book that the movie misses in trying to translate everything into some sort cohesive action & plot.

January 7, 2011

I would have said many of the same things about Prince Caspian as are said here about Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Although I thought better of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, after getting back to the book, I realized that the movie had been more deficient than I noticed. In all three films, the directors are determined to present An Epic Of Mammoth Proportions. Lewis didn't write like that. The battles were, relatively speaking, rather small, localized, among thinly populated adversaries. Even enemies were a bit chummy with each other.

But, I never thought I would accuse Hollywood of a banal sort of MORALIZING where C.S. Lewis did no such thing. The "Dawn Treader" movie replaced a series of small, almost disconnected adventures with A Quest, and further, a quest against Pure Evil Incarnate. The closest Lewis came to A Quest was in The Silver Chair, and that was not a spiritual scavenger hunt for a prescribed number of magic implements, but a search for a missing person, a very important missing person. Nor did Lewis, in the Narnia series, present Evil as a coherent entity. The White Witch was an evil individual, in a very different way, so was Miraz, ditto the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Ape in The Last Battle, the Magician who sent his nephew off into other worlds.

Hollywood has taken the magic out of Narnia, replacing it with pyrotechnics. Perhaps there wasn't time in a movie to present the complete reclamation of Eustace from the dragon body, with the symbolic "You must let me undress you." But the movie didn't have to replace the simplicity of a sea monster too stupid to know what it was doing, evaded with some effort by slipping the Dawn Treader out from between its tightening coils, with a titanic battle no wooden ship would have survived two minutes without a dedicated script writer on its side.

The visit to the Lone Islands was robbed of all its significance. Instead of the slow, almost unnoticed evils of an indifferent bureaucratic ruler, we got a flashy battle with a pack of slave traders. Instead of an adept ally aiding Caspian in recovering his position, we got a wierd old man, and the timely arrival of a back-up squad from the ship. The people of the Lone Islands remained virtual spectators.

For those anxious that Christian syllogisms be preserved in the movie, yes, they did keep Aslan's admonition 'I am known by another name in your world, you must learn to know me by it.' The movie also adhered to Lewis's effective subtlety in not coming right out and giving the Name. But Lewis got his perspective across, all through each story, in the same indirect way, allowing events to teach, rather than preaching. "The Blue Star" was also a disappointing distortion. Coriakin had been a star, which is different from saying that his daughter WAS a star. And I missed the simplicity of Aslan telling Lucy "you made me visible." (Aslan, how could I do that?) "Do you think I would fail to obey my own rules?"

But, all that said, it was a reasonably engaging movie, with an effective closing that brought a few tears, especially when the partly-enslaved families were reunited. It just wasn't the magic of C.S. Lewis.

Kendall Hook
April 4, 2011

Hey Narnia fans, don't forget that Dawn Treader comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on April 8!

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