December 10, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As the third installment of the Narnia Chronicles, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, hits theaters in North America today, C.S. Lewis’ stepson says his fundamental goal for the film series is the same as Lewis’ was for the books: evangelization.
Douglas Gresham, the film’s executive producer and Lewis’ adoptive son, who describes himself as a “card-carrying Narnian Christian,” told Relevant Magazine that the purpose is for readers and viewers to come to know Christ through the character of Aslan.
“When you read the Narnia Chronicles, you should be able to get to know Aslan very well throughout the seven books,” he said. “If that happens, as it should happen and does happen, you’ll then know his new name, his different name here in this world as a result of having known him as Aslan in Narnia.”
“That’s also what I want to accomplish with the movies: to know Aslan there, so you can know him better here,” he added.
The influence of Lewis’ faith on his writings is “quite discernible to those of us who have committed our lives to Christ,” Gresham told the magazine. “The Holy Spirit of God really was the author of the works; Jack was the co-author through which they came, particularly the Narnia Chronicles.”
Gresham told Family Life that a key part of his work on the films was to ensure that they are faithful to the books, in particular their core Christian message. “I try to make sure that everything that appears on the screen in Narnia is Narnian and it fits in that environment,” he said. “Also I try to make sure that the messages that Jack wrote into the book get onto the screen.”
Though there have been some compromises in details due to the challenge of adapting the books for the silver screen, he told Relevant Magazine that “it’s always, for me, the deep theological meanings Jack wrote that I think are essential.”
“I think the world probably needs these movies now more than ever before,” he told Family Life, explaining that he hopes the movies will inspire people to read the books.
“I think we need to get back into our lives, into our classrooms, into our families the great concepts that the 19th century lived by and we’ve forgotten or put aside on the grounds that they’re out-moded or old-fashioned,” he continued. “Things like courtesy, … personal commitment, personal responsibility, chivalry, courage, duty.”
Because we have rejected these ideals, he added, “our civilization is falling down around our ears. … We need to get them back, and of course they’re epitomized in Narnia.”
Michael O’Brien, a highly-respected Christian commentator on children’s literature and fantasy, agreed that Lewis had a “fundamental evangelical purpose,” saying he aimed “to show through a fictional form, a fantasy form, that life itself, the whole journey of salvation history, is the greatest adventure of all.”
O’Brien, who is the author of Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Child’s Mind, praised the Narnia series because it “retains the sense of the hierarchical cosmos, the sense of authority in creation.” The books are clear, he said, about “the moral principles in creation” and “the spiritual warfare in creation.”
While he told LifeSiteNews he has not seen the latest film, O’Brien expressed a hope that the movie will be “faithful to the spiritual meaning of the work, and above all the moral foundation behind it.”
He said the movie series is “a very worthy enterprise in that it may point a whole new generation to the books themselves.”
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as Lewis wrote it, he said, is “in a sense, a kind of Homeric Odyssey for young readers, but with the light of revelation. Basically, Lewis is showing us in this story that the voyage, to be successful, must combat many, many kinds of deceptions, illusions, visible and invisible enemies, and also the interior temptations of the central characters who take the voyage.”
“All the human qualities must come to the fore,” he said. “In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader you see courage, you see heroism. You see our weakness, our vulnerability to deception. You see that the world is vast, rich, complex, fascinating, and that the voyage is never a simple track from point A to point B.”
“It is fraught with moral difficulties. It is fraught with the challenge to sort out illusion from reality, from lies, from falsehood,” he continued. “And as is the case in The Odyssey, this is the way that man comes home in the end.”
O’Brien did admit that given our culture’s consumeristic approach to entertainment, there is a possibility that film versions of great Christian works like the Narnia Chronicles could make them merely one more “item on a banqueting table.”
“However, I think the power of the story itself, the power of the characters and the symbolism, has an inherent power that can’t fail to do some kind of work in the hearts of those viewing the film,” he explained.
Family Life’s podcast with Gresham can be found here.
Relevant Magazine’s interview with Gresham can be found here on pages 66-68.