The Chronicles of Narnia Movies, Ranked - VRGyani News and Media

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Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Chronicles of Narnia Movies, Ranked

In the wake of the success of the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings cinematic adaptations, studios were keen to find another fantasy novel series with a built-in audience that could inspire a franchise. The Chronicles of Narnia was an obvious candidate. The seven-part fantasy series by author C.S. Lewis was beloved, and the mythical realm of Narnia had an eager fan base keen to see their favorite characters and creatures brought to the big screen.

Lewis never sold the rights to his work during his lifetime out of fear that the fantasy creatures would look “blasphemous” in live-action. However, The Chronicles of Narnia films developed groundbreaking advancements in CGI, including one of the first fully digital characters in the paternal lion Aslan (Liam Neeson). Just as importantly, the films nailed the casting of the young ensemble. While the films differ in quality, there’s a compelling journey throughout of the Pevensie children Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley), who are transported from their home in England to a world of magic and danger.

While the first film was successful financially, the later two installments underperformed and a proposed fourth film sat in development hell. The rights to the series lapsed from the production company Walden Media in 2011. Joe Johnston was tentatively attached to direct a fourth film that would adapt The Silver Chair, but plans were dropped when Netflix signed a multi-year agreement with the C.S. Lewis Company to produce new films and series. Screenwriter Matthew Aldrich was hired as the franchise architect, but no major announcements have been made since.

Although its future is unclear, The Chronicles of Narnia series is a fascinating example of a franchise only partially completed. Here are all three films, ranked worst to best.

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3. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The third and unexpectedly final entry within the Chronicles of Narnia series featured major shifts from the previous installments. Unlike the first two films which were directed by Andrew Adamson, the directorial chair was handed to Michael Apted. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader only focused on the younger two siblings Edmund and Lucy, and took a darker approach to the material with less overt sentimentality. Unfortunately, Apted’s attempt to introduce a more “everyman” perspective is at odds with Lewis’s family-friendly stories.

Edmund and Lucy are transported back to Narnia to aid Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) in his quest to rescue seven lost lords on a ship-bound 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 feels watered-down. The film is so relentlessly paced that Apted never gets to spend much time in any one environment. A final reunion with Aslan and a massive CGI serpent battle feel closer to the first two films tonally, and they’re an awkward conclusion to the more psychological crisis Apted seemed interested in.

However, Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley still deliver strong performances and successfully mature the characters, while showing the anxieties that their more prominent leadership roles create. Ben Barnes delivers a much stronger performance as Prince Caspian than he did in his first outing, amusingly dropping his awkward accent. Unfortunately, the presence of the Pevensies’ younger cousin Eustace Scrubb (Will Poulter) is an annoyance. Poulter certainly commits to playing an entitled brat, but his constant complaining is a drag in a film that’s already balancing several subplots.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is less wondrous than the first installment. Focusing more on political intrigue and large-scale action sequences than fairy tale elements, it’s darker approach has mixed results. On one hand, it was necessary for the four Pevensie children to be more experienced, as they had already proven themselves and were growing older. A more hardened world where Narnians faced prosecution was an interesting approach, but at 150 minutes Prince Caspian is quite long and occasionally loses its heart.

Unfortunately, the main issue with Prince Caspian is its titular character. Caspian’s desire to take back 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’s maturation into his birthright doesn’t feel earned when he’s so frequently undercut by Peter’s leadership, and his botched Spanish accent certainly didn’t help. Castellitto is a serviceable hammy villain, but amidst constant setpieces the family strife only halts the momentum.

The conflict between Peter and Edmund feels authentic, but the 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), black dwarf Nikabrik (Warwick Davis), and mouse swordsman Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) are all welcome new heroes that fit nicely within the sibling dynamics. Although perhaps the film tackles one too many large scale battles, the combat is really impressive for a PG family film and feels like a proper 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 right. It's ultimately a coming-of-age story about children finding their voices, but still holds on to the hopefulness of youth. The joy of seeing Narnia for the first time couldn’t be replicated within the sequels, and the mix of practical makeup and groundbreaking CGI aged the film very well. The presence of Neeson’s Aslan as a mentor felt more obligatory in the later films, but in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he’s a delightful warming presence.

Tilda Swinton’s White Witch is the most compelling villain within the series; not only are the costume design and makeup stunning, but Swinton does the right amount of scenery-chewing to add depth to what could’ve been a generic evil temptress. James McAvoy’s faun Mr. Tumnus is the most endearing mythological creature within the series, and his development as he betrays the White Witch to aid Edmund and Lucy makes him dynamic. Tumnus’ tragic fate is gut wrenching, an emotional highpoint for the franchise.

Still, the focus never strays from the Pevensies, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe utilizes the ensemble most successfully of all the films. Each of the kids have a complete character arc: Peter learns what leadership really entails; Susan finds the power of compassion; Edmund realizes the importance of truthfulness; and Lucy discovers her inner bravery. Each of their individual journeys are granted equal merit, and their chemistry together is believable and engaging. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn’t a perfect movie; it wraps up a little too cleanly and the flash-forward isn’t necessary. However, as a fantasy adventure that balances heart, spectacle, and humor, it's a strong rebuttal to Lewis’s fear that The Chronicles of Narnia would never see a worthwhile adaptation.

KEEP READING: 'The Wheel of Time': New Images Reveal Amazon's Epic Fantasy Adaptation



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