Voyage of the Dawn Treader
review by Leticia Velasquez, Catholic Media Review
Life is dreary for Lucy (Georgie Henley) — and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) at the home of their Uncle Scrubb in Cambridge. The rest of their family is in the United States where their father is working on behalf of the war effort. Meanwhile, they are tormented by their spoiled cousin Eustace (Will Poulter) who is not happy that there are there, and mocks them for their talk of Narnia, which they miss more each day. Imagine Eustace’s astonishment, when a painting of a ship in the bedroom begins to leak seawater. Soon the room is flooded and all three children are swimming up towards the ship in the painting, the Dawn Treader. Lucy and Edmund are delighted to resume their lives in Narnia, which they left only three years ago in Narnian years. They are joyfully welcomed by King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and the indomitable Reepicheep (voice by Simon Pegs).
Eustace is still adjusting to the fact that he is aboard a ship in a magical land, and treats Reepicheep as his nemesis. The cheeky little mouse cheerfully accepts the challenge of teaching the little monster how to behave like a proper Narnian knight while Lucy and Edmund learn why Caspian has taken the Dawn Treader out to sea.
Caspian is seeking the seven Lost Lords who disappeared during the reign of his Uncle Miraz. He has heard they fled for the Far Islands and wants to ask them to return now that he has brought peace to Narnia. What they find on the first island is most unsettling; the inhabitants are being sold into slavery to a malevolent dark mist from the Dark Isle. This mist threatens the Dawn Treader’s crew by unlocking their areas of temptation, and threatening their lives. It doesn’t take much temptation to waylay cantankerous Eustace, who easily succumbs to greed and finds himself transformed into a miserable, fire-breathing dragon. Will supercilious Eustace be able to accept help from Aslan? Will Lucy and Edmund allow their weaknesses to overcome their mission to reunite the seven swords of the Lost Lords? The Voyage of the Dawn Treader will be their greatest trial to date.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader continues the theme we encountered in Prince Caspian where Aslan is an omniscient guiding presence, like the Holy Spirit who counsels, convicts and heals the sinner overtaken by temptation. Yet Voyage of the Dawn Treader does so with more conviction than Prince Caspian, and this will delight not only Lewis fans, but the Christian audience who are experiencing the stories for the first time on screen. Lewis himself considered this to be the most spiritual of his books, and Walden Media has leaned the lesson of downplaying the spiritual underpinning of Prince Caspian which was far less popular than the smashingly successful The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This film remains true to the idea that fortitude of Lewis’ characters lies not in their own moral perfection but their reliance on the guidance of Aslan. The Narnia series has regained its spiritual heart, and audiences will be moved by the transformation of even the scaly Eustace into a young man of courage.
This is a film which will resonate deeply with Catholic sensibilities as deeply as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The main complaint which Catholics had with Prince Caspian was the downplaying of Aslan’s role, cutting out much of his role, as Lucy is the only one who is guided by him. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the themes of individuals capitulating to their temptations will be familiar to Catholics, as well as the image of the royal meal (another reference to the Mass?), and the heavenly lady in blue who guides Narnians to victory over evil. Could this be a reference to the Blessed Virgin? Certainly the theme of chivalry throughout the series is drawn from medieval romances of Christendom. The final scene in which Reepacheep’s views heaven as the culmination of his service for Aslan is something which will inspire Catholic audiences. The spiritual content is what lifts a pure fantasy based on Homer’s Odyessy into the realm of allegory of the Christian life.
Fantasy involves extremes of good and evil, heroes and villains. In our politically correct society, where you cannot label anyone an enemy with the possible exception of drug dealers. fantasy provides a vehicle to express the battle between good and evil in all its violent glory. Children have dire need of true heroes, and the behavior of sports figures, actors and singers are blatantly immoral, so they fail to inspire the best in children’s imaginations. Children need to live out their fantasies of what they will achieve in adulthood in an imaginary perfect world, where goodness triumphs and evil meets its just end. Good literary fantasy provides this vehicle.
An attempt to modernize the concept of womanhood in Prince Caspian was not appreciated by book fans. Lewis was aware of the masculine tendencies of modern feminism and roundly rejected them. Narnians did not consider Lucy and Susan any less valiant than their brothers who did the lions share of the fighting. After all, they had the courage to accompany Aslan throughout his torture and death, and were rewarded by being present at his resurrection. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy is tempted by the desire to be as beautiful as she sees her sister Susan, and Aslan tenderly reminds her that she is beautiful as herself. This is an important lesson for girls today who are bombarded with images of artificially created beauty. Voyage of the Dawn Treader will rival The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the role of favorite film in the Narnia series. Perhaps this rivalry will be settled when The Silver Chair is released, as the success I predict for this film will certainly encourage a sequel. Walden has made a good match with 20th Century Fox and Lewis’ nephew Doug Gresham, an advisor to The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, roundly approves of this film and assures us that Lewis would as well.
This film is available in 3D and would be very frightening for younger children; there is a vivid sea monster and frightening, dark images. No suggestive scenes or bad language. Highly recommended for audiences seven and up.