The long-developed Chronicles of Narnia franchise revival is finally taking wing. Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnston has signed on to helm The Silver Chair, the new Narnia pic that will kickstart an all-new franchise for Tristar Pictures,the Mark Gordon Company, the C.S. Lewis Company, and Entertainment One.
Based on the fourth novel in Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, the adapted script comes from Life of Pi screenwriter David Magee, and offers the perfect opportunity to soft reboot the franchise with a narrative that follows, not the Pevensie siblings of the first three books (and films), but their cousin Eustace Stubb and his classmate Jill Pole as they set out to rescue Prince Rillian, son of the now wizened King Caspian. Mark Gordon, Lewis’ stepson Douglas Gresham, Vincent Sieber, and Melvin Adams are producing.
“Joe is a wonderful storyteller who is equally at home in the biggest franchises and the most intimate character pieces,” Gordon said (per Variety). “Because C.S. Lewis’ story is iconic and epic, but also tender, personal, and emotional, he’s the perfect choice to bring ‘The Silver Chair’ to the screen.”
The Mark Gordon Company and The C.S. Lewis Company took over the rights from The Walden Group back in 2013, when they first announced plans for a Silver Chair adaptation. The project was picked up by Sony’s TriStar in summer of 2016. When I caught up with Gordon a few months before the TriStar deal, he made it very clear that there was no plans to cross over the new iteration of Narnia with Disney’s previous films. “No, it’s all going to be a brand new franchise,” he told us. “All original. All original characters, different directors, and an entire new team that this is coming from.”
Disney’s first Chronicles of Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, was a box office success grossing $745 million worldwide. Its sequel, however, landed to tepid box office results, earning only $419 million in 2008, and Disney subsequently dropped the franchise. Fox 2000 picked it up with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which kept the original cast intact and failed to match its predecessor with $415 million, which is when Fox 2000 pulled the plug.
Now, The Silver Chair is looking to give Narnia a proper relaunch with the aim to turn it into a hit international franchise again. Johnson, who has worked as a sort of journeyman studio director over the last few decades, is a fitting choice with a track record for solid family-friendly adventures including Honey I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, and Jumanji.