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.

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