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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Aslan and his charges are forces of good in C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."
"We have nothing if not belief," says a character in "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (Fox).

And, indeed, with its youthful protagonists confronting forces of darkness both within themselves and around them, this screen version of the third in C.S. Lewis' classic series of Christian-themed allegorical novels—a mix of live action and animation—keeps the need for faith front and center.

A murky backstory and slightly sketchy plot, though, make director Michael Apted's addition to the franchise—which began with 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and continued with "Prince Caspian" in 2008—somewhat less impressive dramatically than thematically.

The opening scenes, set in World War II-era Britain, find brother and sister Edmund and Lucy Pevensie (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley)—two of the four original human visitors to Narnia—lodging with relatives, including their obnoxious, cynical cousin, Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter).

Resentful at having to share his room with Edmund, Eustace, as the facts-only embodiment of modern rationalism, also sneers at his cousins' tales of travel to a magical kingdom. So it comes as a surprise when a seascape painting hanging on the wall suddenly floods the boys' bedroom, and the tide carries all three children off to Narnia's Eastern Sea.

Saved from drowning by their old friend, Caspian (Ben Barnes), now the king of Narnia, the siblings are delighted to be reunited with him aboard the "Dawn Treader," pride of the kingdom's fleet. They've arrived at an opportune time, since Caspian is in the midst of a quest to vanquish a menacing manifestation of evil that takes the form of a green mist capable of making its victims disappear.

It's here that the exposition in Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Michael Petroni's script begins to feel a little burdensome. Suffice it to say that the siblings—and, more reluctantly, their traveling companion—agree to join Caspian on his mission.

This eventually requires them to bring together at the table of the noble lion Aslan (voice of Liam Neeson)—Narnia's spiritual lord whose redeeming death and resurrection are recounted in Lewis' first volume and in the first film—seven magical swords empowered to protect the land from harm.

During the adventures that ensue, Edmund and Lucy battle temptations ranging from vanity and envy to ambition, greed and cowardice. Meanwhile, helped along by the wisdom of one of Caspian's sidekicks, plucky warrior mouse Reepicheep (voice of Simon Pegg), Eustace endures an unwelcome physical transformation which ultimately leads him down the path toward a far more positive spiritual conversion.

Richly cargoed with Gospel-based moral lessons and Christian overtones, this swashbuckling sequel, despite its occasionally rocky progress through the waves, bears viewers on an enjoyable, and mostly kid-friendly, voyage.

The film contains considerable peril and bloodless violence and a couple of mild bathroom jokes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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