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Yes, I’m aware that I promised to post my review of Dawn Treader, which I haven’t done. The short story is this: Better than Caspian, better than I expected, the green mist was goofy and the Eustace actor was surprisingly great.

But after seeing the movie, I started looking at the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes (a resource I’m glad for) and started noticing the difficulties that many of the reviewers had with the religious aspects of the movie.

Now, most newspaper movie critics aren’t evangelicals, and they don’t take kindly to heavy handed religious messages in movies. This is to be expected. What I found to be interesting is how differently they expressed what they didn’t like about these parts of the movie.

So I started compiling them and I am posting many of them here.

For the most part, unless they were very interesting comments, I have kept this to (1) Major American new sources (i.e. Not Timmy Tompsons Online Movie Reviews) with (2) negative reviews.


Ken Hanke – Mountain Express

OK, once again I should clarify that the source books were not a part of my childhood, and I find the whole crypto-Christian aspect tiresome, simplistic and of dubious theological value. . . .

What’s it all in the service of—apart from setting up the next entry? Well, I’m not entirely clear on that. When Aslan (Christ as a CGI lion) shows up at the climax, he tells Lucy that the whole reason for all this is so that she will understand that in her world he is “known by another name.” If that’s what this was all about, there must have been an easier—certainly less lengthy—way to convey it


Amy Biancolli – Houston Chronicle

Theologians and C.S. Lewis devotees can discuss the many Christian parallels in The Chronicles of Narnia until the nymphs come home, but the series has always been — for me, anyway – a luminous view of childhood as its own secret country.


Connie Ogle – Miami Herald

. . . overly obvious Christian message . . .


Jeff Meyers – Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

The swords are little more than narrative props and too easily found, and Jesus … er … I mean, Aslan helps Eustace break free of a magical curse that should’ve offered dramatic rewards. . . . the film offers an interminable coda that pounds away at Lewis’ heavy-handed religious metaphors. In the end, it’s hard to tell whether Disney is paying homage to the author here or cynically securing an audience that’s so desperate to have its faith validated that they’ll accept a second-rate adaptation of his work.

Elizabeth Weitzman – New York Daily News

. . . they’re required to prioritize generic, faith-based messages whose blandness can’t be disguised by Liam Neeson’s emphatic turn as the Christ-like lion, Aslan.

Kids, of course, are unlikely to get the religious allusions. All they’ll see is a decent family adventure, perfectly suited to a cold Saturday morning — and likely to be forgotten by Sunday.

Bill Gibron –

Of course, when we get to the finale and a visit to Aslan’s Island, we’re bogged down by the Bible once again.

And then, at the very end, the lion we’ve all been waiting for makes his full-fledged return; however, the arrival of Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) this time marks the clunkiest semi-sermon about Christian values, converting stuffy, science-minded skeptics, and reaching heaven. As I understand it, Lewis himself included as much in the books, but so far as the films go, this one is the least subtle in its underlying message.

Colin Covert – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Eustace doesn’t believe in faith and fairy tales. He spends his time reading, as he sneers, “books with facts.” He isn’t actually wearing a sign on his back saying, “Kick me, I’m an atheist,” but he might as well be.

Glenn Kenny – MSN Movies

Aslan, the awe-inspiring yet adorable talking lion who, in the religious-allegory scheme of things in the Lewis oeuvre, is a stand-in for, well, Jesus Christ himself. I haven’t read the “Narnia” books, so I don’t know exactly what Aslan’s trip was in them, but in the films, Aslan’s not so much about helping poor people and being mindful of casting the first stone as he is about Manichean moral assessments and achieving adolescent self-esteem within the yellow lines (as it were) of said assessments.


Richard Corliss – TIME Magazine

The holy lion Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson) mixes the gentle wisdom of Jesus with the Old Testament God’s gravitas; but so do Gandalf and Dumbledore from secular literature. And when you hear the line, “We have nothing if not belief,” you are forgiven if you think of Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell, who required the faith of the little ones to restore her to life.


Josh Bell – Las Vegas Weekly

Lewis’ religious message, underplayed in the previous films, gets its most obvious push here, and it feels a little jarring.


Andrew O’Hehir –

Once upon a time, the Narnia books constituted a beloved children’s fantasy with strong spiritual overtones for those who sought them; Lewis insisted he began writing the series with no Christian symbology in mind, and “that element pushed itself in of its own accord.” Now, unhappily enough, this half-successful film series — ditched by Disney, and since picked up by Fox — has become both a casualty and an instrument in America’s culture wars, and Narnia is widely understood as mainly or exclusively a Christian realm (although it remains too heterodox for some believers).

As my friend and colleague Laura Miller (author of the “The Magician’s Book,” an affectionate, skeptical rereading of Lewis) observes, the Adamson-Apted Narnia movies have been significantly Christianized, in the sense that 21st-century American Christianity is a much different animal from the high-Anglican, early-20th-century version Lewis was preaching. This retelling of “Dawn Treader” is relentlessly goal-oriented — our heroes must collect seven swords, and free a bunch of people imprisoned in mysterious green mist — in a way Lewis’ book simply isn’t. It’s also prodigiously sentimental about the sanctity of the nuclear family, an article of American faith that would have seemed totally mysterious to Lewis and his age, when middle-class or upper-class English children grew up barely acquainted with their own parents. While appearing to argue the unchanging verities of faith, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” illustrates how much our ideas about God are shaped by culture.

Killer Movie Reviews – Andrea Chase

Director Michael Apted has injected a greater sense of adventure in this installment, though the references to having faith do little to prevent much of the dialogue from sounding very much like a Sunday sermon without the actual references to specifically Christian names.

. . .

The denouement brings the sermon home, with Aslan slyly revealing to Lucy that he is known by another name in her world, and that she must seek him out there. A ponderous moment, and one that subtracts from the genuinely bittersweet decision Reepicheep makes for himself.


Tim Brayton – Antogony & Ecstasy

But even so, Dawn Treader is a dreary, meandering, and largely pointless exercise in shuffling from one event to the next, with the religious symbolism that was Lewis’s primary motivation in writing the novels – and Walden Media’s chief reason for producing the movies – largely buffed out, and robbing most of the film’s theme in the process (it’s a weird feeling for me to watch a movie and complain, “There’s not enough Jesus in this”; but at least that’s something). The book’s potent baptism imagery, one of the finest explicitly Christian elements in any of the seven novels, is entirely gone; only at the very end, when the Christ-analogue lion Aslan (voiced, as ever, by Liam Neeson, an uncommonly good choice to play a Christlike animal) explains some rules to the children, does the film lurch towards apologetics, which makes it even worse.


Diva Velez – The Diva Review

Awkward Narnia moment number 300 takes place when Lucy is having her last goodbyes with Aslan, who then comforts her by telling her that he is in her world under another name and she must learn it to know him there. So he’s incognito? A giant talking lion? Actually, in the Lewis book, there are very strong hints as to what that name is, but try getting a pro-Christian reference into a children’s movie these days and see what you get.

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February 2011