There’s another Narnia movie coming. Walden Media is already talking to Fox about it, and the Christian Post says if they make it, the film will be based on The Magician’s Nephew. For those of you still paying attention to this franchise, that is not the chronological order followed by the books. The last movie was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and that means The Silver Chair should be next. In fact Magician’s Nephew is really just a straight up prequel, with little connection to the stories we’ve already seen, which I guess sort of makes this the Narnian version of a reboot.
Magician’s Nephew is also one of the least interesting of C.S. Lewis’s stories and probably the one that’s most heavy-handed with all the religious symbolism. It involves two kids we’ve never seen before, who are accidentally transported to other worlds, and happen to be on hand when Aslan creates Narnia out of thin air, Old Testament style. If the movies we’ve already seen are the New Testament, then that makes Magician’s Nephew the book of Genesis. There’s even a garden and an apple. It probably wouldn’t be much of a stretch to work in a talking snake.
The real question here isn’t whether they can make a good movie out of this, they probably can’t, but why in the world anyone would want to make it. Americans are pretty disinterested in the whole Narnia thing and I could probably prove that by citing box office numbers, but first I’ll use an anecdote which I think sums the whole thing up pretty well, while also being all about me. More me.
I’ve read every book in the Narnia series repeatedly, even the bad ones like Magician’s Nephew. As a kid my fantasy obsession was spread rather equally between Narnia and Lord of the Rings, and when Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe first came out I was first in line to see it. I liked it a lot. I saw the next movie too, and really enjoyed that one though, for reasons I can’t explain, never felt all that enthusiastic about liking it. The third movie was based on what is my favorite book in the series, Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The novel’s a great piece of writing and should have been incredibly easy to turn into a phenomenal movie. I tried to be interested in the movie, but somehow, even though I love Narnia and most of all love Voyage of the Dawn Treader, never actually got around to see it. If someone put the DVD in front of me right now I’d probably push it aside and click over to Netflix, hoping that they’ve made the old BBC version available on instant watch.
I feel confident that my attitude is similar to that of most Americans, actually I’m probably far more enthusiastic about the thing since I’m a fan of the books. Just imagine how disinterested people who haven’t read them must be. So why would Fox ever agree to make another one of these Narnia movies? Because overseas, those people, they’ll watch just about anything. The last Narnia movie only made $104 million domestically, and struggled to do that. It also received pretty lukewarm to terrible reviews from the critics who bothered to see it. In other countries though, people showed up like crazy. The movie made $299 million in international box office proving once again that even though Americans are dumb, everyone else is even dumber.
These days you’d be hard pressed to find any movie which didn’t make a killing overseas, which leaves us to wonder why they’d bother with all the money to make another Narnia movie when they could probably achieve the same results by slapping a poster with a lion on it outside the theater and showing an old print of The Ghost and the Darkness instead. That’s a mystery which we’ll get together and unravel some other time, maybe after I finally get around to watching Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is to say we’ll never speak of this again.