Yes, well, it was just a joke. Monday’s “EXCLUSIVE PILGRIM IN NARNIA RELEASE” was a total farce. I am not an academic consultant to the Netflix miniseries (though I hope someone is). As far as I know, pop sensation Taylor Swift is not in talks with eOne entertainment to play Jadis, Empress of Charn and pretender to the Narnian throne. And, despite the quality that comes out of Hollywood’s adaptation sandbox from time to time, I hope there is no producer as inept as Karol Rakestraw (by the way, Lewis had an interesting media problem with another Rakestraw).
It was all a bit of April Fool’s Day fun.
The various images of Taylor Swift as the White Witch and the Narnian posters are screenshots from Swift’s video, “Out of the Woods”–which I referenced subtly in the piece. I quite like Swift as a songwriter, though I don’t love the genre she works in. She is clever as a public figure, and no doubt both compelling and cinematic. I suspect she would have chuckled if she saw the joke, but I chose not to hashtag or loop her in because, frankly, I couldn’t take the time to pacify her fans when they inevitably discovered that I had lied to them.
It was all a bit of fun, but I must admit that I had a bit of a serious point behind my parody. I am worried about the Netflix film series.
Unlike most readers, I am pretty comfortable with an adaptation like the Anne With an E retelling of L.M. Montgomery‘s classic. It combines a recovery of certain elements of Anne of Green Gables with an interpretation very much of the present. It is not what I would do–and certainly I would not do it with Narnia–but I can appreciate the art of the adaptation in that style.
I’m also not terribly worried that they will sex up the series–making it “cinematic” as I joked about yesterday. There will be an element of that, no doubt, and I trust the characters will be Hollywood beautiful. But I doubt that Netflix-eOne will go the boy-meets-girl route.
What I am worried about really comes down to four things.
First, will it be terrible? See the Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader films from a decade ago. And the terrible Eregon adaptation basically sunk that series.
Second, will they jump the shark, over-producing the series like mad to bend it into a particular frame? See the Hobbit films by Peter Jackson.
Third, will they attempt to understand the worldview of the author (C.S. Lewis, in case we forgot)? This is clearly not the situation with the Anne With an E series, though a case may be made that they have followed a trajectory of Montgomery’s thought into the present. As appreciative as I am of Peter Jackson’s work with The Lord of the Rings, he does not understand Tolkien at the very core of his being. It is also my worry for the new Tolkien biopic. The recent adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time shows how utterly they ignored the author’s worldview, though it is no doubt a beautiful film at points. But I do think they understood Virginia Woolf in The Hours and Ernest Hemingway in Hemingway and Gellhorn (two films featuring compelling work by Nicole Kidman). I wonder if there is a lesson here for Hollywood to learn about listening to voices it doesn’t understand.
Finally, I am worried that the series will be too violent for children. The Hobbit films are a good example, but you can see the adultization in adaptations like Ender’s Game. Narnia has WWII as a background and is full of violence. On a parent’s lap, in a comfy chair in a sunny room, or read by a teacher in a classroom–that’s all one kind of effect. On screen it is something quite different.
So my fun yesterday has a bit of an edge to it and my jocular interview shows the worries I have about a Narnia adaptation. Still, I think that Netflix is finally the genre that could bring us a great, full-bodied adaptation of the whole Narniad. It is not constrained by the conventions of film and could become something great.