Why “The Chronicles” haven’t fared as well as Harry and Frodo

With tomorrow’s release of the third Chronicles of Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, there are a lot of articles being written about how this movie will likely “make or break” the franchise.  In other words, if it’s a box office hit, we’ll see a fourth.  If not, it’s the end of the chronicles.

Most of these articles postulate about why the Narnia movies haven’t been as successful as the Harry Potter movies.  Many of those articles bring up the fact that C. S. Lewis wove Christian themes into his stories.  Really?  That’s what you think keeps the movies from being super successful.  And Harry Potter is only successful because J. K. Rowling wrote about witches and was teaching our kids evil, right?  Sorry, not buying it.

How about this:  While The Chronicles of Narnia is a well-written body of work, and may have been super-fantastical when it was written, it is dated.  I don’t mean the settings.  We see movies set in days gone by all the time.  I’m talking about the story itself.  How many kids today had heard of them before The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was made into a film?  Contrast that meager number with that of Harry Potter fans, even prior to the first movie, and you’re probably looking at a much smaller market with foreknowledge of the potential product, bugging their parents to see it.  The Harry Potter series was still being written and read by the current generation of kids that the movies were targeting.  A period of 9 years (8 in the U.S.) between the 1st and 7th books means that for kids hitting age eleven in ’97/’98 grew up almost year for year with Harry, Hermione, Ron and their year class.  So, aside from being a fantastic story and movies (for the most part), there is immediacy with the kids.

Move forward to the release of the second Narnia movie, Prince Caspian.  I’ve now seen the first one and it pales mightily when compared to The Lord of the Rings.  Not even including story, characters, etc. in the comparison, the direction, cinematography, and “Epic feel” of LOTR crushed Narnia.  Prince Caspian, had better fight/action scenes which helped make it feel more epic.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the name recognition of the first movie and had likely lost some theater viewers by the unremarkable first one.

I’m planning on seeing the “Dawn Treader” and hoping that the new studio and director will have figured out how to provide this well-loved series the epic feel it deserves and rake in the box office dough it needs to keep the series alive.

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