The magic translation of Harry Potter from book to screen did not go unnoticed in Hollywood. Production companies bought the rights to children’s and YA books that kept the promise of mega-media franchises.
But it is not so easy to capture that box magic, no matter how loved or read the source material is. For each Twilightthere is The Golden Compass.
The last 20 years have seen more YA franchises fail than succeed. Try as Lemony Snickets a series of unfortunate eventsthat Alex Rider series, and His dark materials have found more luck on the small screen. Others are just too big to give up.
Filming of Chronicles of Narnia were not the worst attempts to translate side-by-side magic into live-action success. The franchise returned a healthy $ 1.5 billion over three films. The last film, Dawn Treaders journeyeven knocked Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 from the top spot at the box office in its first week after release.
But then the franchise stalled five years after its first release, with four books unfilmed. Bringing Narnia to the screen proved to be a challenge. But even if the sequence remains incomplete, it’s worth catching up on the spectacular adaptations, as it seems very possible, true to the books, that the magical land will soon reappear.
The author, the books and the adaptations
Written by CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia the series has a good claim to be the definitive YA fantasy book series. Over seven volumes, it established the world of Narnia, a magical land packed with ice queens, talking animals, magical creatures, and ancient prophecies that led to epic battles.
The books have been translated into 47 languages and sold over 100 million copies. No wonder cartoon and TV adaptations led to movies. But when the series was released between 1950 and 1956, there was no such thing as a YA market. By creating a series that appealed to children and adults, Lewis drew on a wide range of influences.
The academic author drew inspiration from his biography (boarding schools and the wartime evacuation of his goddaughter from London) and broader aspects of mythology and religion. He fused Celtic literature and classical folklore with elements of Christianity and astrology across the series. It’s a world where faunas and giants (almost) rub shoulders with talking beavers and Santa Claus. It was too much for JRR Tolkien – a master at building deep fantasy mythology – who was apparently not keen on the random mix of legends. But he and his friend Lewis enjoyed making fun of each other’s works.
Along with its broad influences, the chronology of the book sequence posed a challenge for a film franchise. Only five of the seven books have a straightforward narrative. The correct location of The magician’s nephew and The horse and his boy has been the subject of debate for over 60 years. It did not help that the series was not released in the order in which it was written. It took a decade for Lewis’ first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, to be published after he began working on it. The magician’s nephew, published next to last, was the last part to be written. Located at the end that creates a cycle through the character of Professor Digory Church, but the sequence is generally considered to end with The last blow.
The overall timeline of the Narnia books is a strength. The seven little novels span the entire history of Narnia, from creation to destruction. It can be related as in all but one of the books (The horse and his boy), we join children on a journey from our world to that fantasy land. It has bound us to Narnia’s fate for decades and changed the reputation of wardrobes forever.
This is how you look Narnia movies in sequence
There have been three live-action film adaptations of Chronicles of Narnia. They follow the running order of the novels, connected by Pevensie siblings.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
1. The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe
In the first of the sequence, the four Pevensie siblings enter through a wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. In the extraordinary land, they join the fight against the White Witch’s icy and heartless grip. Can the four arrivals help the Lions’ Aslan armies recapture the land from eternal winter? The film starred Liam Neeson as Aslan, Tilda Swinton as the white witch and James McAvoy as the faun Mr. Tumnus.
2. Prince Caspian
In the Narnia era, it is over a millennium ago that the Pevensies fought the white witch, but that is only a year for siblings who are back in the magical land. This time, they help Prince Caspian take the throne from his evil uncle. Ben Barnes appeared in the film as Prince Caspian along with Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin.
3. Dawn Treaders journey
In the third film, World War II is still raging when the two younger Pevensie children once again arrive in Narnia, this time with their disgusting cousin Eustace. They join Caspain three years after he ascended the throne on a sea voyage to reverse his uncle’s rule and rescue the lost lords of Narnia. Will Poulter joined the cast as Eustace Scrubb, and Simon Pegg took on vocal roles for the overwhelming mouse Reepicheep.
With three Narnia adventures reaching the cinemas, there are four volumes left. But the story stopped in 2010 …
What’s next for Narnia?
Planning to adapt the fourth book in a row, The silver chairstalled after Dawn Treaders journey‘s release. Walden Media, which had produced the three films, lost the film rights in 2011. For the next half decade, there were various plans to bring The silver chair to the screen fought before The CS Lewis Company announced a game-changing deal in 2018.
While the franchise was already looking at a creative reboot after a long gap, the new deal promised a multimedia approach. Netflix took the rights with the aim of establishing a new film and television universe around the novels. It’s all been quiet for the last two years, though the signs are that plans for this new franchise are still underway. COVID-19 is probably responsible for the delayed project, but if the books teach us anything, Aslan and Narnia will rise again.
Even if it is when we least expect it, Narnia is likely to reappear in the future.