In the wake of the success of the Harry potter and The Lord of the Rings film adaptations, the studios wanted to find another series of fantastic novels with an integrated audience that could inspire a franchise. Chronicles of Narnia was an obvious candidate. The seven-part fantasy series by author Cs lewis was loved, and the Mythic Realm of Narnia had a fan base eager to see their favorite characters and creatures brought to the big screen.
Lewis never sold the rights to his work during his lifetime for fear that the fantastic creatures would look “blasphemous” in live-action. However, Chronicles of Narnia the films developed groundbreaking advancements in CGI, including one of the first fully digital characters of the paternal lion Aslan (Liam neeson). Equally important, the films were successful in casting the young ensemble. Although the films differ in quality, there is a fascinating journey through the children of Pevensie Peter (William mosley), Suzanne (Anna popplewell), Edmond (Skandar Keynes) and Lucie (Georgie henley), who are transported from their home in England to a world of magic and danger.
While the first film was a financial success, the last two installments underperformed and a proposed fourth film went through hell of development. The rights to the series expired from production company Walden Media in 2011. Joe johnston was tentatively attached to making a fourth film that would fit The silver chair, but plans were scrapped when Netflix signed a multi-year deal with CS Lewis to produce new movies and series. Scriptwriter Matthew Aldrich was hired as the architect for the franchise, but no major announcements have been made since.
Although his future is unclear, Chronicles of Narnia The series is a fascinating example of a franchise that is only partially completed. Here are the three films, ranked from worst to best.
3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The third and final unexpected entry into the Chronicles of Narnia series presented major changes compared to previous installments. Unlike the first two films which were directed by Andrew Adamson, the executive chair has been returned to Michel apted. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader focused only on the two younger siblings, Edmund and Lucy, and took a darker approach to the material with less overt sentimentality. Unfortunately, Apted’s attempt to introduce a more “everyone” perspective is at odds with Lewis’s family histories.
Edmund and Lucy are brought back to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (Ben barnes) in his quest to save seven lost lords in a shipboard adventure inspired by The odyssey. A corrupting spirit that pits each of the characters against their deepest fears is compelling, but the primal horror of the nightmarish monsters that hunt them seems watered down. The film is so fast paced that Apted never spends much time in one environment. A final reunion with Aslan and a massive battle of CGI snakes feel closer to the first two films, and they’re an awkward conclusion to the more psychological crisis that Apted seemed interested in.
However, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley still deliver strong performances and manage to mature the characters, while also showing the anxieties that their most important leadership roles create. Ben Barnes delivers a much stronger performance as Prince Caspian than he did on his first outing, playfully ditching his goofy accent. Unfortunately, the presence of the young cousin of Pevensie Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) is a nuisance. Poulter certainly commits to playing a titled kid, but his constant complaints are a drag in a film that already balances out several subplots.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is less wonderful than the first opus. Focusing more on political intrigue and large-scale action sequences than fairytale elements, his darker approach has mixed results. On the one hand, the four Pevensie children needed to be more experienced, as they had already proven themselves and were getting older. A more hardened world where the Narnians were pursued was an interesting approach, but 150 minutes away Prince Caspian is quite long and sometimes loses its heart.
Unfortunately, the main problem with Prince Caspian is its titular character. Caspian’s desire to reclaim the throne from his wicked uncle King Miraz (Sergio castellitto) is woefully underdeveloped, and the film is much more interested in showing the Pevensies’ loss of innocence. Barnes’ maturation in his birthright doesn’t feel won as he’s so often undermined by Peter’s leadership, and his sloppy Spanish accent certainly hasn’t helped. Castellitto is a useful hammy villain, but in the midst of constant kicking, family conflicts only stop the momentum.
The conflict between Peter and Edmund seems genuine, but female siblings are underserved in what Adamson called “more of a boys’ movie.” Lucy’s charming compassion as she searches for Aslan is an occasional bright spot in the darker story, but Lucy’s last-minute romance with Caspian comes out of nowhere. The red dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage), the black dwarf Nikabrik (Warwick davis), and the mouse swordsman Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) are all welcome new heroes who fit perfectly into the sibling dynamic. While the movie may be tackling too many full-scale battles, the combat is truly impressive for a family PG movie and feels like a true epic.
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the distillation of what the series does well. It is ultimately a coming-of-age story about children who find their voice, but which still clings to the hope of youth. The joy of seeing Narnia for the first time couldn’t be replicated in the sequels, and the mix of practical makeup and groundbreaking CGI aged the film very well. Aslan’s presence from Neeson as a mentor felt more obligatory in later films, but in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he’s a delicious warm presence.
Tilda swinton‘s White Witch is the series’ most compelling villain; not only are the costume design and makeup stunning, but Swinton does the right amount of sets to add depth to what could have been a generic evil temptress. James mcavoyMr. Tumnus’ Faun is the most endearing mythological creature in the series, and his development as he betrays the White Witch to help Edmund and Lucy makes him vibrant. Tumnus’ tragic fate is heartbreaking, an emotional climax for the franchise.
Yet the accent never strayed from the Pevensies, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe uses the set most successfully of all movies. Each of the children has a full character arc: Peter learns what leadership really involves; Susan discovers the power of compassion; Edmund realizes the importance of truthfulness; and Lucy discovers her inner bravery. Each of their individual trips is given equal merit, and their whole chemistry is believable and engaging. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is not a perfect movie; it ends a bit too cleanly and flash-forward is not necessary. However, as a fantasy adventure that balances heart, spectacle, and humor, it is a strong rebuttal to Lewis’ fear that Chronicles of Narnia would never see a worthwhile adaptation.
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He also talks about being a big fan of the ‘Dune’ books and his enthusiasm for the Denis Villeneuve film.
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