Skip to comments.Potter faces Narnia fantasy challenge
Posted on 11/18/2005 3:02:41 PM PST by DaveLoneRanger
The fourth Harry Potter film, The Goblet of Fire, is confidently expected to break box-office records when it opens in the UK on 18 November. Directed by Mike Newell of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame, it will be the fourth hit in a row for its young stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
All three have been signed up for the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, due out in summer 2007.
By then, however, the series' status as Hollywood's pre-eminent fantasy franchise may be under threat from another blockbuster saga looming on the horizon - The Chronicles of Narnia, which is released in the UK on 8 December.
For three consecutive Christmases between 2001 and 2003, audiences flocked to see the three instalments in Peter Jackson's epic Lord of the Rings.
The first two of these, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, opened in close proximity to the first two Potter titles, the Philosopher's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.
The first Potter narrowly outperformed Fellowship at the US box office, but the situation was reversed the following year.
Their success proved there was a strong demand for epic adventure based on popular fantasy fiction.
And it is precisely that demographic that Walt Disney Pictures and its producing partner Walden Media hope to target with their $150m (£85m) version of CS Lewis's Narnia adventure, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Like the Lord of the Rings, the film is based on a 20th century literary classic and has been mostly shot in New Zealand, on soundstages previously used for Jackson's films.
But with six more Narnia books optioned, the nascent franchise has even more material to draw on than the JRR Tolkien-inspired trilogy.
As in JK Rowling's Potter books, the lead Narnia characters are children caught up in spectacular adventures involving witches, magic and outlandish creatures.
Where the Narnia series differs is that the children do not feature in every book, meaning any sequels would not be as reliant on specific child actors as the Potter films are.
Time has been a pervasive factor in the Potter series, with Radcliffe, Watson and Grint all ageing faster than their fictional counterparts.
One more outing is guaranteed, but it has been suggested that the series will need to be recast by the time the sixth book and the as-yet-unwritten seventh instalment are made into films.
That is not a concern for the Narnia series, whose real star is Narnia itself - a mystical landscape where animals can talk, mythical beasts are common and pools become portals to different worlds.
It is a complex setting that has more in common with Tolkien's Middle-Earth than JK Rowling's relatively insular Hogwarts.
And, like Middle-Earth, it comes with its own detailed history, geography, mythology and even cosmology.
It remains to be seen how much of this will feature in the first Narnia film, which is being pitched to audiences as a fast-paced, effects-based action adventure.
It is notable, too, that while Walden Media have optioned all the other Narnia books, a follow-up has yet to be announced.
Note also how the producers have opted for the most familiar of Lewis' series, rather than its chronological prequel, The Magician's Nephew.
It is a decision that reflects the fact that - outside of devoted readers of fantasy literature - The Chronicles of Narnia remain something of an unknown quantity.
"This is really the only Narnia book to make," says Chris Hewitt, associate editor of Empire magazine. "I don't think the others made that much of an impact."
Despite the name recognition, however, Hewitt expresses some pessimism about its chances.
"I don't think there's a huge buzz around Narnia," he says.
"There's no Lord of the Rings this year for the second year in a row, so our readers want something to fill that gap.
"But I think Harry Potter will be the more successful of the two - and while Narnia could be a good one-off instalment, the world's not really waiting for a sequel."
In the end, though, a third candidate - King Kong, Jackson's first film since the Lord of the Rings - may prove a bigger hit than both.
Wizards and witches are all very well, but on or off the screen neither would stand much of a chance against a 25-foot ape.
I feel that Narnia can beat Harry Potter, short-term AND in the long run. Christians will want to go see Narnia, along with the Potter fans. But only the Pottheads will go to the Harry Potter movies.
And I wouldn't be so sure that King Kong will tromp either one. For one thing, the director himself, Lord of the Rings's Peter Jackson, is looking forward most to the Narnian film.
We're planning to see Narnia and Harry Potter. Why not? Our children and grandchildren like both. Harry Potter is not as explicitly Christian, but you can make a case that it portrays good and evil in a basically Christian light. There was a good defense of it in the journal "Christianity and Literature" a few years back.
I really enjoy reading C. S. Lewis, and have read all of his books over the years: fiction, theology, criticism, the works. Actually, the best of his fantasies, less well known than Narnia or the SF trilogy, is "Till We Have Faces." Lewis fans who haven't read it, should.
But I like Harry Potter too.
As far as King Kong is concerned, I'll give it a miss. Yet another gigantic remake? I'll take Fay Wray.
FYI: The 1933 version of King Kong has been restored and is finally coming out on DVD on Tuesday in a nifty 2 disc set.
Some of us are going to both. I'm a Christian Narnia fan, as well as an HP fan. I think the audience had more overlap than you maybe think. They don't have to compete... I'm sure plenty of Narnia books got sold at the last Harry Potter book release, every bookstore I know had a table of "If you like Harry Potter, try these" with them on it.
I so wanted to see HP today, but the kids are seeing it. We'll see Narnia probably during Christmas break. Don't see why you are so against HP though.
"I'll take Fay Wray."
How is the volume of the Oxford History of English Lit? I've been thinking about getting it, but it's pricey!
She was a charming, beautiful woman, and every inch a lady.
I've got to agree with the author. Other than FR, I've heard very little buzz about Narnia. Even watching previews in the theater, no one reacted.
Part of it is many kids don't read the Narnia books anymore. I have 10 cousins and was surprised to find that only one ever read the series. It used to be standard reading in 5th grade, but my guess is the Christian theme got it kicked out.
Saw a trailer for King Kong. Amazing special effects.
What a privilege.
It's one of the better volumes in the series. That and the seventeenth century volume by Douglas Bush. Lewis has often been bashed for speaking of the drab and golden styles in sixteenth century poetry, but he was absolutely right, except that plain is now generally used rather than drab.
I've occasionally seen it on sale, but I don't know how easy it would be to find a copy. Full price is more than I'd probably want to pay.
This is a clearinghouse website for used books. Shoulda looked here sooner! (They even have copies of the Liber Usualis hovering in the 70 dollar range -- better than the $107 for the reprint!)
ABE books is one that I use. Also half.ebay.com often has good prices for books and DVDs.
Saw Potter and loved it. And I can't wait until Narnia comes out.
I figured you would have seen it by now.
Narnia will be cool ... never read the books, though.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.