The work of C.S Lewis had entertained generations of children and adults before it was adapted to the small screen. Back in 1988 the BBC’s TV adaptation was a Sunday afternoon classic, sure it’s aged badly and all looks like it was filmed in the back garden, it’s a worthy (if oddly creepy) retelling of the first book in the Narnia chronicles.
After the massive success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it was only a matter of time before Narnia would be the next fantasy epic to be given the franchise treatment. The partnership with Disney appeared like a perfect union, as far as box office was concerned it was a success but the critics and older audience members had a different opinion.
Released in 2005 right around Christmas, there was no mistaking the marketing was very Christmas friendly and promised fantasy and adventure all wrapped up in a big budget blockbuster. To my shame I went to see this on the day of release, and it was just the first of many disappointments that Christmas.
I could nit pick the film apart but I have a lot of love for C.S Lewis’s books, so I won’t insult the author’s achievements. The main trouble however, is this wants so badly to be in the same league as Lord of the Rings, but the sense of epic adventure is simply never there.
The acting ranges from bad to passable, Tilda Swinton is inspired casting but she’s not given much to do. The same can be said of Liam Neeson providing the voice of Aslan, but at least he had the sense to take an off camera role.
It’s an alright adaptation for youngsters, if you’re worried LOTR might be too full on for your child and want to start them off on something lighter then by all means this is the franchise for you. What does pain me is that the Narnia chronicles are every bit as compelling as Tolkien’s work.
2008 brought around the next installment, Prince Caspian is a darker tale and I thought it was a slightly better movie than the first. Sadly audiences disagreed and the film only made $419 million, it feels odd to say it only made this vast sum of money but it did cost $225m to make so plans for a third went on ice.
Disney had no interest in producing any more Narnia films, but Fox saw potential in the brand and bought the rights and with a reduced budget of $155m Voyage of the Dawn Treader was made. Despite the 3D addition and being released at Christmas time, it made about the same money as Prince Caspian
Walden Media no longer own the rights to produce the films, so this puts the franchise back on the market. Personally I would rather see a HBO style TV series than another movie, this way each book could be one series of ten episodes so the full scope of C.S Lewis work could finally be brought to life for the screen. Just imagine a Narnia world produced by the makers of Game of Thrones, come on you know you want that it your life!
What could have been a Christmas classic full of wonder and adventure, turned out to be a missed opportunity that even 2 sequels couldn’t fix. Go read the book instead.