Why Bad News is Good News for ‘The Silver Chair’

Three years ago, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) sank The Chronicles of Narnia fantasy film franchise. But now, as fans are likely to say, “Aslan is on the move” again: As  NarniaWeb reported and ComingSoon.net elaborated on Oct. 1, franchise shepherd and C.S. Lewis stepson Douglas Gresham has found a new Narnia  film producer in Mark Gordon.

Mark Gordon stated, “Like many readers, both young and old, I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’s beautiful and allegorical world of Narnia. These fantasy stories inspire real-world passion among millions of devoted fans around the world. As we prepare to bring the next book to life, we are humbled and excited to contribute to the outstanding legacy of Narnia.”

Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis stated, “I have a great deal of respect for Mark Gordon’s work and am confident that together we can bring the beauty and magical delight that Narnia engenders in the hearts of those who read the books to the screen in ‘The Silver Chair.’ I am very much looking forward to diving once more into Narnia, this time with Mark Gordon and his team.”

So far this is exploratory, with no word about other partners, planning, or release dates.

A producer of most expensive Roland Emmerich disaster films, including The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, Gordon will likely face less-expensive film construction and a struggle to market The Silver Chair. In fact, a new film’s journey may be like that of the story’s two English schoolchildren — the new Narnia friend Eustace Scrubb and the trust-averse Jill Pole (perhaps Lewis’s best heroine) — and their optimistically pessimistic Marsh-wiggle guide Puddleglum, trekking into the wild lands around Narnia to seek a long-lost prince.

But such hardship may be exactly what a fourth Narnia film needs: a lower budget, tighter focus, less input from those with film investments to lose, and more faithfulness to Lewis.

Dawn Treader likely didn’t benefit from second film Prince Caspian’s (2008) mixed fan response and lackluster reception from summer audiences. Gone was the Christmas magic-flavored The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) in favor of Caspian’s teen-flavored marketing and themes. Yet even if not a faithful adaptation, Caspian was a decent story.

But Dawn Treader exchanged Lewis’s episodic exploration of wholehearted surrender to adventure and glory, for a videogame-like quest with “believe in yourself” themes. The book emphasizes giving all to see Aslan’s Country (Narnia’s “heaven”) even for an instant; the film climaxes with a final sea-serpent battle on an island where nightmares come true, re-envisioned as the source of a green cloud that eats people. After the battle, one character spies Aslan’s Country. “Well, we’ve come this far,” he says flippantly before they hop on by. They have won a trip to Disney World, yet they treat it like a stop at McDonald’s.

If you could not already tell, I’m a longtime Narnia fan, even a former moderator for the fan site NarniaWeb. On a recent NarniaWeb podcast I discussed this news with friends “Rilian” and “GlumPuddle.” (In true fan fashion, these names come from Lewis’s series, and both happen to be from The Silver Chair.) We found ourselves mostly curious about this news. We want further Narnia films to succeed just as Lewis’s “children’s” stories succeeded — by asking “what if?” about a magical, mythology-diverse world in which Christ manifests as a lion and calls real-world children into his stories.

To adapt Lewis’s stories for film, one doesn’t need cliché plots, man-centered sentiments, or even a high budget. So if Gresham, Gordon, and other makers of The Silver Chair can show Lewis’s themes of obedience to Aslan’s commands no matter the cost, they’ll be able to rescue the good ship Narnia from the island where subpar film adaptations come true.

About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.

  • aslanscompass

    I hope they make this one accurately; if not, the old BBC one is fairly well-made and thematic accurate. Plus, Tom Baker’s Puddleglum!

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Didn’t even see Voyage. Too disgusted by Caspian. LWATW wasn’t really that great either truth be told.

    I’m sticking with Focus on the Family’s radio theatre dramas! Folks, you’ve got to check these out. Look no further for high-quality, faithful adaptations of Lewis’s work.

  • Anne

    I am really surprised to hear they are making The Silver chair when they seemed so convinced on doing The Magicians Nephew. I LOVED The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe. It was true to the story and very well done. I even absolutely loved the Prince Caspian movie. I thought it was genius! I really liked how they made Peter and the others struggle to keep faith in Aslan so evident. But I have to say the Dawn Traeder was indeed a FLOP. They actually butchered the story. Lets hope the Silver Chair will bring the enthusiasm back.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    The Magician’s Nephew would be very, very high-budget. And the main reason to make it would be to feature The White Witch yet again. Someone decided that “Narnia,” like “Harry Potter,” needed to have a recurring villain a la Lord Voldemort, and thus has included the Witch in every single “Narnia” film so far. In Prince Caspian her role was slightly justified. Not so in Dawn Treader, and certainly not to the extent of even featuring her on the poster and DVD/Blu-Ray artwork. I hope even more than the Queen of Underland in The Silver Chair will not be yet another White Witch reprise. Despite the same White Witch actress portraying her in the BBC adaptation of The Silver Chair, they’re not the same person.

  • Anne

    Actually, it is the same witch in the silver chair. CS Lewis says it in the character descriptions.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Hmm, source? :-)

    This topic frequently arose in the NarniaWeb forums, such as here. One of our moderators specifically wrote:

    We had an official comment from [C.S. Lewis stepson and estate/"Narnia" franchise shepherd Douglas] Gresham several years ago, in which he made it totally clear that Jadis (aka the White Witch) is a different person from the Lady of the Green Kirtle. He said that the same evil spirit may influence both of them.

    This no more makes them the same than Nero and Hitler were the same because of being driven by the same sort of evil.

    [The White Witch] never spoke as [Lady of the Green Kirtle from The Silver Chair], because she was NOT her. Except in Hollywood (including the summoning scene in [Prince Caspian]) people do not return from the dead etc.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Our same moderator also noted:

    Actually, the BBC had the SAME actress. It’s because of this that so many people got the idea they were meant to be the same, like a reincarnation (of course Lewis as a Christian would not have intended this at all!) -and even one misguided person in Harper Collins publishers thought so and wrote an introduction to one of the editions of the books that said so! Sigh,…. [shifty-eyed smiley image]

  • Anne

    In my chronicles of narnia books it clearly states this in the cast of characters written by CS Lewis himself: Jadis. The last Queen of Charn, which she herself destroyed. Jadis arrives in Narnia with Digory and Polly in the Magicians Nephew and has taken over the land as the White Witch in The Lion the witch and the wardrobe. Completely evil, she is also very dangerous, even in the Silver Chair.
    This is what CS Lewis wrote in his cast of characters and I’ll take HIS word for it.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    (Debating “Narnia” particulars makes this feel like old times. My thanks for the nostalgia infusion!) Interesting. Does your The Silver Chair edition specify that this “cast of characters” page was specifically written by Lewis?

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Interesting. Does this edition have Lewis’s name specifically credited for the “cast of characters” list? (Other Chronicles of Narnia editions don’t include such a list.)

  • Nemo

    I’m pretty sure that section at the beginning listing all of the characters and describing them was added in much later. I don’t have a source for this, but the claim of the Lady of the Green Kirtle being Jadis appears to be what TV Tropes calls “common knowledge” – a commonly held belief about a work of fiction which is simply not true.

  • Alice

    I didn’t know that was the same actress.

  • Ruth

    Jadis, the last Queen of Charn (The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), is not the same character as the Lady of the Green Kirtle from The Silver Chair.

  • Shayla Parker

    I’m still shocked that anyone could have disliked the second and third movies! I thought that the movie series got even more amazing each time a new movie was released. Those are my favorite movies actually. I would love to see a new one, even though I’d be really sad that none of the Pevensies would be going on another adventure.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You have read the books… right?

  • Afi Silas-Bossan

    Let me start by saying that I’m a huge Narnia fan. I’ve read the whole series twice on my own and my Dad read all 7 to me when I was little. I’ve read my two faves, the Horse and His Boy and the Magician’s Nephew about 5 or 6 times. The Silver Chair is my third fave, so I’m extra extra extra super looking forward to this movie like crazy.

    To be honest, my favorite of the three new movies is Prince Caspian and it’s most probably because I’m kind of a film person. I really really enjoyed TLTWTW but after I watched Director’s commentary for both Prince Caspian and the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it just made me appreciate Prince Caspian more. A bit show-offy, yes, but also a lot of hard work. :-) Also, I guess Prince Caspian kinda surprised me because I was expecting very little from it (it’s my least favourite book) and although they strayed from the story, as a film, just a film, considering it independently from the book, it was really good. However, VOTDT, on the other hand, was not accurate from the book, (me and my sisters were just confused at the whole green smoke thing), and was a terrible movie on it’s own. And I was quite disappointed with Henley’s and Keyne’s performances. I understand that VOTDT book is less like one continuous story and more like a book of many short adventures so they had to introduce a plot that will tie everything together (hence the green smoke and stuff), but it was just awful and seemed fake and kinda forced to me. By the end of TLTWTW, I was clapping and crying, and clasping my hands going, “Yes Aslan” and by the end of Prince Caspian I was doing a laugh/cry and enjoying it so much. But at the end of VOTDT, I felt no connection. I was just like “Yup, it’s over.”

    I totally agree with you, E. Stephen Burnett, “To adapt Lewis’s stories for film, one doesn’t need cliché plots, man-centered sentiments, or even a high budget”. I feel like the movies will be so much more appreciated if they tried to portray what made the books famous in the first place instead of what they think people want to see now. The movies that are most appreciated are the ones that are honest, and true, and take a risk.

    Anyhow, what I really want to see in the Silver Chair is this.
    1. Poulter. That kid was good.
    2. Lessons. I don’t know if the other movies cut out a lot of the lessons because they thought it’d be too preachy or because they thought it couldn’t be expressed as well in a movie as in a book, but I just see so much lessons about God and faith and the Bible in the books that are missing in the Bible. (Side note: Some times, the things I read in the Bible make so much more sense after I read something in the Narnia books thats trying to make the same point)
    3. Portrayal of Aslan as more than a secret weapon to win the war. (I found the way they seemed to just use Aslan at the end of Prince Caspian to win the war kinda Goliathy. LIke, heeyyy, you have armies, we gots a magic lion. He’s gonna drown them all, Haha)
    4. What you said!


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