The internet is abuzz with the news that a producer associated with The Chronicles of Narnia told a blogger yesterday that The Silver Chair, the proposed fourth movie in the ten-year-old series, will represent the start of “a brand new franchise.”
Many websites have taken this to mean that the new film is a “reboot”, though the producer, Mark Gordon, does not seem to have used that word. Asked if the new film would bring back any of the actors from the first three films, what he said was:
No, it’s all going to be a brand new franchise. All original. All original characters, different directors, and an entire new team that this is coming from.
For the most part, there’s really no news here.
Storywise, I believe the only human characters from the earlier books who appear in The Silver Chair are King Caspian and Eustace Scrubb. Eustace was played by 17-year-old Will Poulter in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but the actor is now in his 20s and is thus too old to keep playing the schoolboy — while Caspian basically gets just a cameo at the end of the story and could be played by anyone.
As for recasting the vocal parts (e.g. Liam Neeson might no longer be the voice of Aslan), well, the Narnia movies have already done that too, by replacing Eddie Izzard with Simon Pegg as the voice of Reepicheep between Caspian and Treader.
And productionwise, we have already known for a few years that the rights to the Narnia series are no longer with Walden Media, the company that produced the first two movies with Disney and the third movie with 20th Century Fox.
So there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of continuity between the new film and the old ones, either in front of the camera or behind it, anyway.
That being said, it’s hard to imagine an entire “franchise” being based on The Silver Chair. There is only one more story that features Eustace (and his new friend Jill Pole) — The Last Battle — and that story brings back many of the characters from the earlier stories, and in a way that only makes sense if the reader (or viewer) already has some sort of attachment to those characters (or the actors playing them).
The Last Battle is also the story in which Narnia itself is destroyed, so it would seem to be something of a franchise-killer. Are they planning to make only two movies?
The only other alternative, apart from remaking the films that Walden Media already produced, would be to tell the other two stories that have not yet been filmed: The Magician’s Nephew, which depicts the creation of Narnia (and is thus, in some ways, the more obvious contender for a “reboot”), and The Horse and His Boy. But those stories have nothing to do with any of the Silver Chair characters, except for Aslan of course, and they both take place thousands of years earlier in Narnian time.
Oh well. Whatever happens with the new film, C.S. Lewis’s stepson Douglas Gresham will still be involved. Whether fans find that reassuring will probably depend on what they make of his influence, such as it was, on the first three films, all of which made puzzling or subversive changes to the tone and character of Lewis’s books.