The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven books written by C.S. Lewis that built a vast mythology with a richly defined world and characters that could rival that of his friend and peer J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth series. At the heart of the series lies Narnia, a mystical fantasy world brimming with curious creatures, that is explored by the four even more curious Pevensie children: Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter. Their adventures take them throughout Narnia as more of the unusual otherworld is revealed to them.
While many have heavily speculated the series to be a metaphor for the teaching of the Catholic Church, Slate published an article saying that Narnia was more than just a Christian allegory, and Lewis later clarified that there was no intention for the series to come across as religious rhetoric as it was categorized in the fantasy genre, but welcomed any speculations that were made by his readership.
In 2005, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe debuted in theaters and was followed by Prince Caspian in 2008. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the third and final novel adapted for cinematic retelling before the ongoing series was drawn to a halt. An announced fourth film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, was canceled following the collapse of the film series.
Updated July 5, 2023: This article has been updated by Valerie Parker with new information regarding The Chronicles of Narnia and the status of the series since being acquired by Netflix.
It was announced in 2018 that Netflix would take on the responsibility of rebooting the series for the streaming service, but little information about the status of the franchise has emerged in the five years since. After years of rumors, a recent profile with The New Yorker seems to confirm that writer and director Greta Gerwig will be following up her successful run of adaptations including Lady Bird, Little Women, and Barbie, with at least two films in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise.
Speculation is rife as to what stories in the series Gerwig will tackle, and if they’ll be her next project focus, but at this time, Netflix is keeping things quiet and refuse to even acknowledge that Gerwig is attached to the project. While the streaming giant continues to craft its upcoming approach to Chronicles of Narnia, here’s a look back at why The Silver Chair movie adaptation never happened.
What Happens in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair?
The Silver Chair follows Eustace Scrubb and his friend, Jill Pole, as she is introduced to Narnia for the first time. The pair is sent on a journey by Aslan to rescue the son of Caspian, Prince Rilian, whom they find captured and bound to the Silver Chair itself. Before the pair can free the prince, the two are caught by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, who reveals herself to be the Green Witch. Her ability allows her to transform into a green creature resembling a serpent, and she is later slain by Rilian. In the end, Caspian is reunited with his estranged son shortly before Caspian’s death, at which time Rilian is named the new King of Narnia.
After the coronation, Scrubb and Pole return to Aslan’s Country where they are greeted by a revived, rejuvenated Caspian. The novel concludes with the duo being returned to England. The Silver Chair was the fourth novel in the Chronicles of Narnia series published, but the sixth story in the franchise chronology.
Why Didn’t The Silver Chair Happen?
A significant decrease in box office revenue between each movie in the Chronicles of Narnia franchise forced the studio to shift its plans. Instead of adapting The Silver Chair, the next book published in the series, the studio opted to instead look into a prequel with an adaptation of The Magician’s Nephew, an idea that was ultimately dropped when Walden Media lost the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia in 2011.
In 2013 a new adaptation of The Silver Chair was announced. While production on The Silver Chair looked initially promising after Captain America director Joe Johnston signed on to helm the project in 2017, development ultimately lagged. The cast that was expected to reprise their roles had aged out of their respective characters’ age ranges, which would require an entirely new cast to step in where the others had left off. For this reason, The Silver Chair was intended as a reboot of the Narnia franchise and likely would not have included any cast members from the original film series, including Liam Neeson as Aslan.
Johnston’s adaptation never saw the light of day, and in 2018 it was announced that Netflix would be taking over the Chronicles of Narnia franchise and looking to develop films and television series around the property. This development seemed to be the nail in the coffin for The Silver Chair film, as there was no outright desire to proceed in recovering The Silver Chair after complications arose when attempting to plan the fourth film.
Why Did the Narnia Movies Fail?
Though The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe performed well in theaters, the fate of the Chronicles of Narnia film series was slowly marching towards its own downfall. The film series struggled with consistency when looking for a studio to carry the weight of its once-emerging cinematic universe. The saga lost its footing when trying to navigate the third film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader after Disney withdrew from the project, and it was later passed to 20th Century Fox (although with Disney now owns the rights to the entire trilogy after its acquisition 20th Century Fox).
When The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe hit theaters in 2005, the film was a major hit for Disney. It was the second highest-grossing film at the domestic box office in 2005, beating out even heavyweight Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. With a strong box office and six more books to adapt, it seemed Disney had found a new franchise that the studio could rely on for years to come.
However, unlike Harry Potter or later franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games, Disney did not quite strike while the iron was hot and instead of having a sequel ready for the following year, there was a three-year gap between the release of the first film and second, 2008’s Prince Caspian. This extended gap between sequels and the series move from a holiday release to a summer release date where it faced fiercer competition of the likes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the unexpected Marvel Studios hit, Iron Man, Prince Caspian struggled to find an audience. By the time The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released, it seemed like the audience had jumped ship.
It’s also possible that the studios may have simply overestimated the Narnia property. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was a hit film because it was an adaptation of a beloved book many people read as children, but for many, it is the only entry in the franchise they know. Unlike Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight, this much of the audience was unaware that this was only the first in an interconnected series of novels. The Chronicles of Narnia films were set up to directly compete against Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, both of which had the advantage of higher budgets and more dedicated fanbases.
The Chronicles of Narnia were unable to nail down a niche following that would eagerly commit to the franchise as intensely as to other fantasy series. Adding to this challenge was the fact of poor marketing and little buzz around the sequel films. An absence of demand from a fandom led to the failure of the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, and the audience can only hope that with this acquisition by Netflix, the series can find new life as a television series the way that A Series of Unfortunate Events did.
Greta Gerwig Takes On Narnia
While Netflix has been sitting on the rights to Narnia for quite some time, it seems progress is now being made with Greta Gerwig directing reportedly not just one but two films in the franchise. Gerwig has been an in-demand director since 2017’s Lady Bird and has since followed it up with 2019’s Little Women and 2023’s upcoming Barbie. Barbie has become one of the most anticipated movies of 2023, so everyone was wondering how Gerwig would follow it up, and it appears Narnia is the franchise for her.
It is unclear which two books Gerwig will adapt. It is unlikely The Silver Chair will be it since it is a book with a lot of established lore and characters. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe seems like the most likely, but the second one could either be the direct prequel, The Magician Nephew, or another go around at the direct sequel, Prince Caspian. No release date has been set or even a production start date, but it is unlikely the movie will not arrive until 2025 at the earliest. If it does hit in 2025, that will be twenty years since the release of Dinsey’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and it might be the perfect time for audiences to return to Narnia.