What does Netflix plan for The Chronicles of Narnia?
A remake of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? So soon?
Netflix accomplished something wonderful yesterday: with the release of season 3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events, it has adapted all 13 books in that series, 14 years after the film series stalled with just one entry — covering the first three books — out of the gate. The streaming service has many more adaptations of beloved books in the works, including films and series based on The Chronicles of Narnia — which has never been filmed in its entirety.
Here’s a reminder of C.S. Lewis’s whole saga and how far filmmakers have got:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950): The original, following the four Pevensie children as they discover a portal in Professor Kirke’s home that leads to a world where it’s always winter and never Christmas. As the first and most beloved book, it has been filmed multiple times, first for ITV in 1967, then as a BBC miniseries in 1988, and then as a Disney/Walden Media film in 2005. (An animated version was also made for CBS in 1979.)
- Prince Caspian (1951): The sequel, where the Pevensies return to Narnia a thousand years later and find the land ruled by the Telmarines, whose heir apparent Caspian has been forced into exile by his evil uncle. The BBC adapted this as a second miniseries in 1989, and Disney released an adaptation of Prince Caspian in May 2008, but the film underperformed after being released between (future Disney stalwarts) Iron Man and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952): Two of the Pevensies and their annoying cousin Eustace Scrubb find themselves swept onto King Caspian’s ship, which is on a voyage of discovery to Aslan’s Country. The BBC adapted the book with Prince Caspian in 1989, while Fox (another future Disney property) distributed Walden’s take in 2010, which also underperformed.
- The Silver Chair (1953): Eustace and his school friend Jill Pole are summoned by Aslan to help find Caspian’s missing son Rilian. This was the last book filmed by the BBC (in 1990). Before the Netflix deal last year, producer Mark Gordon was planning for the Silver Chair movie to be distributed by Tristar and directed by Joe Johnston.
The remaining three books have never been filmed:
- The Horse and His Boy (1954): Set during The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’s denouement, this follows a pair of children and two talking horses as they flee north to Narnia from the Calormen Empire.
- The Magician’s Nephew (1955): This prequel, set during Professor Kirke’s childhood in Victorian London, reveals why his wardrobe is a door to Narnia…
- The Last Battle (1956): The final chronicle sees events turn absolutely apocalyptic as Narnia descends into war with Calormen, a false Aslan appears, and the friends of Narnia from our world are reunited.
Despite the past insistence on getting a Silver Chair movie off the ground, I always felt Magician’s Nephew was the better option for reviving the Narnia film series, because as a prequel, it is a literal new beginning for the story. There are two ways to read the books, chronologically or in the order of publication, and given Wardrobe has been filmed so many times, that just reinforces starting anew with Magician’s Nephew.
In any case, Netflix won’t want to revive the series by continuing where Disney, Fox and Walden left off, as they’re trying to build their own library to compete with the new Disney+ streaming service (the one Disney bought Fox to help build). They want their own version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that can stay on their site forever.
Whichever book Netflix starts over with, they’ll have to overcome a great degree of skepticism about another version of Wardrobe, which they can do if they start with a great version of Magician’s Nephew that gets everyone talking about what the new creative team can do with the older book. Alternatively, they can start afresh with animated versions of the whole series, similar to their planned Roald Dahl adaptations, which would be easier given there’s only been one previous attempt at that. But since Netflix’s announcement made no mention of animation, it’s clear they want to finish what Disney started in that respect at least.
Now, let us pray Aslan blesses whoever’s up for the challenge…