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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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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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