New “Chronicles of Narnia” Movies in the Works

New “Chronicles of Narnia” Movies in the Works March 26, 2024

The Chronicles of Narnia movies that were made were pretty uneven, and after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008), and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), the project pretty much fizzled out.

Now Netflix is trying again, having signed a deal with the Lewis estate for all seven books, paying $250 million, and has secured the services of a top director, Greta Gerwig, fresh off her success for Barbie, who has agreed to direct the first two movies.  The plans are not yet clear, but reportedly Netflix will film all seven novels.  There has also been talk of a series, which has some fans worried that this means spinoffs from the “Narnia universe” that were not written by C. S. Lewis.

Charles Papadopoulos is optimistic, even excited.  He has written an article for Screenrant entitled  Greta Gerwig’s Chronicles Of Narnia Movies Are More Exciting After Netflix Update.  He believes that Gerwig will be faithful to the sources while treating them in an innovative way.  He draws on interviews with both Gerwig and Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos:

Speaking with Time, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos gave some exciting notes about the early vision of the film, declaring Gerwig as an “incredibly visionary.” He praised Gerwig’s vision, saying, “It won’t be counter to how the audience may have imagined those worlds, but it will be bigger and bolder than they thought.” From everything they described, the Chronicles of Narnia reboot looks to be innovative and fresh while remaining faithful to the original stories. . . .

Greta Gerwig is an auteur filmmaker who will likely embellish Chronicles of Narnia with her personal style, though her comments about the source material demonstrate a profound understanding of what makes C. S. Lewis’s novels so timeless.

In the interview, Sarandos describes the novels as “rooted in faith,” which is true to Lewis’s interpretation. Key quotes from Gerwig about the adaptation describe her interest in “embracing the paradox of the worlds that Lewis created” and exploring the “euphorically dreamlike” spirit of the books. Her adaptation seems bold, mature, and constructed around a modern audience’s enjoyment while maintaining the childlike wonder of the books in tone.

A Narnia fan site quotes from another interview by Gerwig:

I’m slightly in the place of terror because I really do have such reverence for Narnia, I loved Narnia so much as a child. As an adult, C.S. Lewis is a thinker and a writer. I’m intimidated by doing this. It’s something that feels like a worthy thing to be intimidated by. … As a non-British person, I feel a particular sense of wanting to do it correctly… it’s like when Americans do Shakespeare, there’s a slight feeling of reverence and as if maybe we should treat it with extra care. It is not our countryman.”

See also this collection of interviews in which Gerwig reflects on what she learned in her Catholic high school (though she was raised a Unitarian) and how she weaves religious stories into her films:

“In high school, we took four years of theology, and ‘grace’ was explained to me as being ‘completely unexpected, holy, and deserved [sic], but is something that can never be earned’ […] and there’s something deeply beautiful about that to me.” Religion News [sic:  the source is really Angelus News, which surely made a typo by printing “deserved,” intending  “undeserved]

“I have always been moved by the story of the denial of Peter. […] He is given the opportunity to repent through love. These stories have always informed my writing and my ideas, finding a larger universal truth behind what are so-called ‘small’ lives. Lady Bird denies where she is from, yes, but in the end, she also declares her love. We are granted the opportunity for grace, and we need love to accept it.” Angelus News

“I always have some religious story threaded underneath that people can pick up on or not pick up on. I don’t need them to, but it helps me as an organizing principle because even if you don’t believe in the stories, they are very old stories, and they do speak really deeply to people and their psychologies and how they deal with life.”The Washington Post

The novels are indeed “rooted in faith.”  Let’s hope the movies will be also.  I haven’t seen Barbie or Gerwig’s other movies Little Women or Lady Bird, but from what I’m heard about them I’m a little uneasy, though I’m sure the Narnia movies will be well-made.  Maybe her prominence will attract a big audience for Lewis’s Christian themes, as long as they remain intact.  Let’s see if Gerwig and Sarandos really understand them.  Maybe they do.

 

Photo:  Greta Gerwig, UKinUSA, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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