For: a warped representation of evil, humanism, spiritual confusion, and moral confusion and foolish behavior
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader gives its young heroes five charges: Believe in yourself. Embrace your individuality. Overcome your fears. Find the seven magic swords before it’s too late. Avoid the swirling green mist of doom, which can read your mind and is planning to take over Narnia. In addition to being bizarre, cliche, underdeveloped and predictable, The Dawn Treader’s voyage off the deep end goes just far enough to have completely lost sight of biblical Christianity.
Note: This review contains content from and comments on the film version, not the book series by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’ own purposes for the story and its themes were not necessarily consulted by the writers of the movie, and it would therefore be unwise to review the film as if it were Lewis’ creation.
A Warped Representation of Evil
The central quest of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the movie, is built on a concept of evil—both in its spiritual sense and its physical manifestation—that is unbiblical, impossible, and itself spiritually warped.
Throughout The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, evil is described as an isolated entity—a concrete rather than an abstract noun.1 In the movie, “Evil” is the enemy, not evil people. “Evil” has set up headquarters on an uninhabited island, has intentions and schemes, and grows in power without influencing people to do or think bad things. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the primary concern is that “Evil” will take over the physical realm. Biblically, however, evil only takes over physically where it has already taken over in terms of a people’s spiritual life.
The protagonists are told that they can “stop” Evil by breaking “its spell” through a magical ritual involving seven mystic swords. They are also told that, “Until you lay down the seventh sword, Evil has the upper hand,” and that, if they do not break the spell soon, “the Evil will be unstoppable.” Invisible people are, however, at least temporarily protected from “the Evil”.
The movie’s plan to defeat “the Evil” does require some moral resistance, but only briefly. Ultimately, “Evil” can be (and is) defeated only physically, through the dual offensives of physical combat and magic ritual. Biblically, evil can only be resisted ultimately by spiritual means, through the power of God.2
Characters’ temporary fall into greed and violence is explained as a result of the external power of Evil. They are told that their physical location has “tempted” and “bewitched” them, and that they can each escape “the darkness inside yourself” by leaving. This and other temptations are always preceded by the swirling green mist, the physical manifestation of “the Evil”. Temptation in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader never originates within the individual.
“Aslan’s country” is apparently a place where people go when they die, if they have been “deserving”, making it the humanist version of heaven. Characters talk of hoping to “earn the right” to go there, and Aslan’s country having been made for “noble” people. This completely humanist perspective on the afterlife persists through some of the final scenes, and is affirmed by Aslan.
The humans’ ability to resist temptation by “Evil” is found in themselves. Also, after vanquishing “Evil”, Edmund and Lucy start to say, “We did it!”, and then add, “It wasn’t just us.” This turns out to be merely a reference to another human, implying that their claim to having destroyed “Evil” in their own power would be accurate as long as they included the other human character in it.
Characters make statements in the “We have nothing, if not belief,” and “You just have to have faith about these things,” vein, which equate “belief” and “faith” with wishful thinking.
Lucy “promise[s]” that something completely outside of her (or anyone else’s) control will come to pass. This is positively portrayed, but unbiblical.3
A (portrayed as good) magic spell states as an aside that “the truth in theology” is hidden like “invisible ink”.
The movie explicitly equates wishing to be like someone else with wishing to be that person. Aslan states that if Lucy could magically wish herself to be as beautiful as her older sister, she would in fact become her older sister, and wish herself away.
A character portrayed as wise states that “Extraordinary things only happen to extraordinary people.” This assurance, meant to be comforting, is simply not true.
Moral Confusion and Foolish Behavior
Lucy steals private property. This is not resolved.
Edmund attempts to enlist in the armed forces using stolen identification and false information. This is not resolved.
A character with a “noble heart”, “deserving” of the Narnian imitation of heaven, tells an anecdote about being “with a band of pirates.”
Someone portrayed as wise explains that some friends were put into a magical sleep because they threatened each other with violence at Aslan’s table, and “violence is forbidden at the table of Aslan.” Biblically, violence of that sort is forbidden anywhere.4
When someone suggests that a dangerous expedition might have been better saved for in the morning, rather than at dusk, a positively-portrayed character rebukes him with, “There is no honor in turning away from adventure.” The statement is not true, and the sentiment is unbiblical.5
1 “Evil”, like the related concepts of wickedness or sin, is a characteristic, not a character. A logical (or illogical) equivalent of the movie’s twisted perspective would be taking the abstract nouns “inability” or “maturity” and claiming that they have physical borders, can move from one place to another, and can even overpower people without their consent.
2 See Ephesians 6:10-13
3 See James 4:13-16
4 See Psalm 11:5, Proverbs 3:31 and Galatians 5:19-21
5 See Proverbs 22:3, for example.