For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.
Once again we revisit the fantasy kingdom of Narnia where Aslan the Lion stands in for Christ, though perhaps not as clearly this second time around. The film begins in Narnia, where 1300 years have passed since the four Pevensie children ruled the kingdom in fairness and love. Narnia’s Golden Age has passed away, and now it is a time of subjugation under the heel of Telmarines, a human nation that does not believe in Aslan, or in the multitude of creatures that once populated the land. The original Narnian creatures—talking animals, dwarfs, centaurs giants, and other wondrous creatures—long ago were driven into the depths of the forest. No longer seen, they are now regarded as mythical. Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes), however, tutored by the wise Cornelius, still believes in them, and in the promise that the four rulers will return when summoned. However, he has to flee because Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), his evil uncle serving as regent is trying to kill him to gain the throne for his just-born son.
Deep in the forest Caspian encounters a talking badger and a grumpy dwarf named Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), the Prince thus finding his beliefs confirmed. Taking the horn once owned by Susan Pevensie, he blows it to summon the four legendary rulers of Narnia and Aslan. The camera jumps to the World War Two era London tube station where the four Pevensie children, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), are waiting for their trains to take them back to their schools. It has been just a year in their world since they returned from. Suddenly they are drawn through the wall and find themselves on a beach, the water proving irresistible as they rush to wade into the surf. Spying ruins on the cliff high above them, they climb up, and begin to realize that this is all that is left of the palace where they had once reigned. After rescuing from two Telmarine soldiers Trumpkin, who had been sent to look for them, they decide to set forth on a mission that again will test their courage and faith.
What direction should they take? Peter, as High King, makes the decision. Lucy’s sights Aslan (later voiced by Liam Neeson) beckoning her to go in the opposite direction. The others, who have not seen him, again doubt her. (The Psalm passage applies best to Lucy at this point.) Edmund is the only one that believes her, which shows how he has matured, as you might recall that his greedy self-centeredness in the first film led to his betrayal and serving the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). Despite this, he joins with the majority in refusing to go the unlikely way that Aslan had revealed to Lucy that they should go. Only gradually do all of them come to see that Aslan is indeed with them again, though this time he requires them to act more on their own. As he tells them, “Things never happen the same way twice.”
For me the film concentrates too much on the final battle scene, necessitating cutting much of the middle section of the novel. In fact an extra one is inserted, perhaps in the belief that a young audience will want more exciting action than is in the novel. The over-emphasis upon the elaborate computer-generated effects diminishes the charm of the original, except for the tender scene in which Lucy relishes being with Aslan again. The filmmakers do better with the many touches of humor they add, and even the slight touch of romance between Susan and Prince Caspian is done with great restraint.
The story does not question our society’s assumptions about violence—Aslan as a Christ figure is gentle with Lucy but also very militant against enemies, closer to the Old Testament than the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount. There is no command to love one’s enemies, the sword the preferred weapon in combating evil, not the turned cheek and prayer. The novel, of course, is an allegory, but with the sights and sounds of a titanic battle in which our heroes thrust swords and shoot arrows into bodies, the message that young viewers derive from the film will be mixed. Let those who nurture and teach children beware.
The film does provide those in charge of children great opportunities to discuss faith, call and obedience, as well as temptation—the episode when our heroes encounter again the White Witch is very effective. The violence is non-gory, suited to its PG rating, so one should not be afraid to take children to see this. But do go with them so as not to miss the discussion opportunity it affords.
Beware: there are spoilers below.
1) If there is a favorite character that you like or identify with, which is it? Why?
2) By starting off with Prince Caspian’s flight from his evil uncle the film begins differently from that of the book. How is this effective in setting up the rest of the story? Why is it that Miraz wants to kill his nephew? (Compare this to The Lion King.) Why is it that the Pevensies are drawn back to Narnia?
3) How has Edmund seemed to mature since we last saw him? Who is it that first sees Aslan? Why do you think it is the youngest person ? How is this in keeping with the Bible’s seeming preference for the youngest or the least? (See the stories of Jacob & Esau; of David; and of Jesus’ teaching about children in Mark 10.)
4) When Lucy is with Aslan again, does he accept her excuse for giving in and going along with the others in the wrong direction? What is he saying that we should do when we are sure we are right and others are wrong? Can “the right” ever be settled by a majority vote?
5) What do you think Aslan means when he says, “Things never happen the same way twice.” How are the children much more on their own this time?
6) What is the temptation scene in the film? What is it that the White Witch does or promises them if they will set her free? How does Edmund do this time? What is it that tempts you at times to do what is not right? What helps you to withstand temptation? What temptation stories do you see in the Bible? (Look up the two great ones in Genesis 3 and Chapter 4 of either Matthew or Luke.)
7) How is the situation in Narnia like that of the Hebrews who were conquered by the Babylonians and who wrote Psalm 137 ( “By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept…” )? Note how Lucy becomes aware of this early on in the following conversation that takes place in the forest: Lucy “It’s so still.” Trumpkin They’re trees. What do you expect?” Lucy: “They used to dance.” How is what she remembers like Isaiah 55:12 and Psalm 148?
8) What do you think of the image of Christ as Aslan the militant Christ? How is this typical of that of the Middle Ages or of some Christians today? Compare this to Isaiah 53 or to the Passion stories in the four gospels. How is the image of the suffering Christ more fully shown in the first Narnia film?
9) How is the awesome scene in which the water, taking the shape of Neptune, destroys the bridge and the Telmarine soldiers like a story in the Hebrew Scriptures? (If you’ve forgotten, check out Exodus 15.)
10) How do you think that Christians should approach the story—as an allegory about the struggle against temptation and evil forces? As suggesting that the sword is a necessary weapon against evil? Any love show toward enemies? Maybe in Peter’s refusal to kill Miraz, showing mercy instead? Other than good entertainment, what do you think you have g
ained from watching the film?