I get why it’s so tough to fully adapt the whole Chronicles of Narnia into films.
Sure you can make headway capturing the magic and wonder of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a well-known story with mass appeal and everybody loves Mr. Tumnus.And while it’s nowhere near as popular, Prince Caspian makes for a good, old-fashioned swashbuckling romp.
Do it right and you might have the momentum to try The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
And that usually kills it.
Not that folks haven’t made valiant efforts. It’s just that Dawn Treader is a much slower story – more of a “travelogue” than an adventure on the high seas. The battles, beasts, and betrayals that mark the other two are noticeably absent here, as are two of the original four Pevensie children, and much of the steam built up by the previous two installments.
And that’s a damn shame.
It’s a shame because (1) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a beautiful story that shows fantasy can be more than Tolkien’s elves and dwarves, and (2) because it means we’ll never get an adaptation of my favorite book in the series:
The Silver Chair.
Probably the most underrated book in the series, The Silver Chair stands out in the series as a darker, bleaker tale. We’re taken out of Narnia proper and led on a perilous journey through savage, lawless lands. Our heroes face off against giants, unseen evils, and the merciless elements as they search for the lost heir to the kingdom (our heroes, I mean, not the elements, who don’t care either way).
So yeah, it’s pretty metal.
That said, with the slump that is Dawn Treader and the general difficulty posed by any of Lewis’s Christian-Allegory/Pagan-Mythology synthesis, actually getting to The Silver Chair can be a challenge. As of right now, it’s been a good seven years since the last Narnia film, and while there are rumors of an adaption in development, there’s an unfortunate chance that the project will never get out of development hell.
Or maybe I’m being pessimistic.
Maybe things will pan out, and we’ll have a film ready by Christmas of next year. Maybe it will be everything I want it to be and more.
And if we are going to (at long last) get the first solid Silver Chair adaption since 1990 (which was for TV, not theaters), I would like to make just a few requests. Like maybe you could…
Make It Scary
Because the story is scary.
There’s no getting around that. There just isn’t.
Outside of passages in his science fiction trilogy, The Silver Chair is probably the closest Lewis ever came to writing a horror novel. We’re given barren, frost-blasted landscapes. Conspiratorial meetings in the dead of night. Cannibalism. Kidnappings. Nihilism. The underworld.
I get that the audience is still young to be kids – I’m not going to ask for a fantasy version of Saw. But even young children get a kick out of ghost stories that’d send a shudder down the spine of any adult.
The Silver Chair is not a horror story, but it is a creepy one. A dark fairy tale with an undeniable lingering eeriness and sense of foreboding. As tempting as it might be to appeal to a wider audience by watering down those elements, all you’ll actually be doing is robbing the movie of its atmosphere- an atmosphere which not all gives the movie flavor helps drive towards the author’s ultimate point.
And on that note…
Don’t Pad It
There seems to be a tendency in any adaption for folks to expand the roles of minor characters or even to add entirely new subplots that stick out like a sore thumb (The Hobbit).
I am begging you here – please don’t do it.
So much of the story’s success hinged on the distinct feeling of emptiness, isolation, and futility. The characters efforts aren’t (chiefly) being hindered by monsters or by magic – it’s simply by the fact that the world is a cold, hard place.
Bad things happen because they can. The wind bites at the good and the bad with equal savagery and all is meaningless, utterly meaningless.
Adding action- fight scenes, chases, or (God forbid) romantic subplots – would give the idea that the heroes struggle against flesh and blood rather than against the all-consuming darkness.
Don’t Shy Away From Faith
This is a C.S. Lewis story, and while the allegory isn’t as obvious as in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is very much at the core of the story.
And I get that can be difficult to deal with. One one hand, you don’t want to come across as preachy or pedantic, and on the other, you can’t gloss over the religious subtext without damaging the story or the appeal of the Christians who see Lewis as the 13th apostle.
This is where that horror and bleakness are going to pay off.
See, beyond the death metal aesthetic and macabre undertones, Silver Chair holds a special place in my heart for the defiant response it offers to relativism and despair. Faced with the strong likelihood that the underworld is all that exists, our deeply pessimistic (bordering on bitter) character Puddleglum steps forward to declare he would rather follow an incredible fantasy than an unacceptable reality. Does argument of this tall, gangly, cynical character hit close to home to a certain tall, gangly, cynical blogger? Yeah, it kinda does.
But that’s not just part of the story, that is the story. Faith versus despair is the theme that makes up the core of the book, so you have got to lean into it. Don’t want to exclude or even offend those in the audience who aren’t believers? Then play up the horror and isolation elements we talked about earlier. The end result will be a movie that rallies everyone around the banner of hope but has special meaning for the faithful. Anything less and Puddleglum’s ass-kicking speech will feel like a shoehorned author tract, not the culmination of a theme (which I’m convinced was Lewis’s intent from the start).
And, if I can ask it, just one more thing –
Don’t Let Benedict Cumberbatch Play Puddleglum
I know you’re thinking about it. He’s tall. He’s got an angular face. He’s got a deep, earthy voice that would be just perfect for Puddleglum. He’s British and probably naturally prone to disappointment and a constant start of mild irritation.
Don’t – okay? Just. Don’t.
The last thing the world needs is a sexy Marshwiggle.
All images retrieved via Tumblr – Fair Use.