The Narnia series has been an odd duck for Walden Media and their respective partners, Disney and then Fox. Blatantly jump-started as a response to the success of the Harry Potter franchise (which was clearly going to be a decade-long source of billions of dollars for Warner Brothers), it must have been exciting to start production on a franchise that would at first glance seem to have all the angles covered- the magic of Potter, the fantasy and scale of LOTR, long-term brand recognition of the books, and a built-in faith-based core audience. While the first was certainly a blockbuster, returns have diminished and a shift from Disney to Fox means that Walden media hasn’t been able to keep much momentum behind the films. The first made three-quarters of a billion wordwide, while the second and third both barely sneaked past $400m worldwide each, costing $225m and $155m respectively. So what’s a studio to do when the last film barely crawled to a respectable worldwide total, and your production cycle is too slow to maintain your repeating cast? Reboot! Kinda…
Speaking with The Christian Post, Walden president Michael Flaherty has indicated that the series will continue, but that The Magician’s Nephew will be the next film produced, rather than the expected Silver Chair. The series will also move to a Christmas season release date, and “not… neglect the faith market.”
Despite being the sixth book published, The Magician’s Nephew is chronologically the first story, and an advantageous choice for the next Narnia film. It gives the filmmakers the “witness the creation of Narnia, and how it all began” angle, instead of the “next adventure of Eustace” which clearly no one gives a fuck about (Silver Chair would be the first to feature no Pevensie children anyway). It’s a slightly more stripped down story as well, taking place as much in real world London as a simple forest in-between world, and features Tilda Swinton and Liam Neeson’s characters prominently. Of all the books it trades most heavily in Christian imagery (well, save maybe for the final novel), yet explores much more accessible and universal themes than the overwrought slog of Dawn Treader. Finally, it gives them the opportunity to reboot the momentum of the series, and start fresh if and when they continue with the later Narnia timeline.
As someone who pretty much has to watch these things as a professional hazard, I’m marginally happier they’re going for the slightly more interesting available story, rather than yet another fairy tale trip through magic land to find some things so they can get to a place and defeat a thing and save a dude. Boring.
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