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Narnia Back on the Big Screen?

So it was announced last week, The Chronicles of Narnia may be back on film! Isn’t that great? According to his twitter, David Magee the screenwriter of Finding Neverland and Life of Pi has completed a screenplay of The Silver Chair, the fourth published (but sixth chronological) instalment in C.S. Lewis’ series. Which is great! But as to the previous Narnia film franchise, it’s been six years since Voyage of the Dawn Treader disappointed at the box office enough to kill the series. This new film is then going to be a reboot, relaunching Narnia as a film series. And I have to ask the question, why?
The last two Narnia films did not do well at the box office so the demand for this is a little in question. But then again, The Chronicles of Narnia are a rich series of books with lots of good material. Having read all the books as a kid I’d love to see them adapted. As would many. But of course this is very much the Spider-Man situation, in that it’s a reboot less than a decade after the last film. And unlike Spider-Man where any stories can be done (remember that, new Spider-Man movie!), this is a series of books that has an already laid out story. And one with returning characters and a chronology, so the order in which you make the films is very important.
And that accounts for the problem of where they’re starting. The Silver Chair is the sixth Narnia book. Out of seven. If a studio wanted to make this film as a one-off that’d be fine, but it sounds like their gambling on a series. But where’s the logic in starting a series at the second from last instalment. It’d be like auctioning Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as the first Harry Potter movie. I understand why they want to reboot. Even if they wanted to continue from where they left on, there’s one returning character from a previous Narnia story: Eustace Scrubb. And while Will Poulter knocked it out of the park and was one of the best things of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for me, he’s much too old now to reprise his role. And he’s appearing in movies like The Revenant so things are going great for him! In doing The Silver Chair, they’ll have to cast the character with an actor who will somehow be younger when they get to Voyage again. And starting in the middle of the story would be very confusing for movie-going audiences.
If you’re going to reboot Narnia you have to start from a more introductory vantage point. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first written and is by far the best known of the series. You can start there, but we did just see that story in 2005. If you want to play it safe and make a standalone movie, there’s also The Horse and his Boy which is pretty much the Narnia series’ equivalent of an anthology film. But even though the characters and story are new without much if any effect on the other novels, it doesn’t set up the context of the world and is set entirely therein. The best option would be to start the series on a Narnia book that both introduces the world but can also stand on its own in case it fails to increase interest in a series. The Magician’s Nephew is the perfect way to go. Not only is it the first chronologically in the series but shows the creation of Narnia (yeah this series has a lot of Biblical allegories), while at the same time being an independent story. Very little of what takes place feeds into the other stories apart from giving a bit of context to a few aspects of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And also The Magician’s Nephew is just a great fantasy book. Though I prefer Voyage and yes, The Silver Chair, The Magician’s Nephew has a tone and sense of imagination that sets it apart. There are environments we don’t get in the other Narnia series while still having the right sense of corniness. It’s the perfect place to reboot the Narnia series, offering a new adventure with new characters and setting up the world adequately while not being dependant on follow-up films.
And if you don’t think The Magician’s Nephew will work, don’t even try. At least not on a big budget live-action film. Hell this may be a series that would work better in animation. Like Harry Potter I’d be very curious to see The Chronicles of Narnia done by Studio Ghibli or some anime studio. But trying to restart a franchise right in the middle isn’t a good idea. Especially when it’s of a series that hasn’t been all that financially successful in over a decade. I’d love to see more Narnia films; the imagination, stories, and characters are rich enough that I’d love to see them on the big screen! But The Silver Chair as much I like it, is not the place to start a rebooted series and probably isn’t going to work out if attempted.
Let’s try again in a decade and I’ll be first in line for The Magician’s Nephew

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