OF NARNIA BE THE NEXT LORD OF THE RINGS?
far comparisons between the upcoming Chronicles of Narnia movie and Lord of the
Rings have been unavoidable.
For starters, both films are based on
beloved fantasy tomes by tweedy English academics that even happened to have
lived in the same era. Also, both movies were also filmed in New Zealand. But
the million dollar question is: will Narnia be as big a box-office hit as Rings?
Or make that the 292,000,000 New Zealand dollars question, because that is the
amount of money its producers have poured into the film thus far . . .
Both films are about the
eternal struggle between Good and Evil, with capital letters: in Narnia
four children enter a magical land through an old wardrobe and meet the lion
Aslan who is trying to liberate the fantastic country of Narnia from the
clutches of an evil Ice Queen (Tilda Swinton,
Constantine). Needless to say, the children join up with the forces of Good.
In Rings a similar simplistic tale of Good vs. Evil is
played out in a magical realm inhabited by elves, dwarves and other fantastical
Starring a cast of mostly
unknowns like Rings (at least at the time of its making), Narnia
is directed – without any whiff of irony this time around – by Andrew Adamson of
Shrek fame. Like Rings, Chronicles of Narnia is slotted for
a December release date instead of the usually crowded American summer movie
"The three Lord of the Rings movies made more money than the annual
GDP of a country like Mozambique!"
Comparisons are unavoidable,
and there can be no doubt that Narnia is hoping to cash in on the current
vogue for fantasy movies, especially with Pottermania continuing unabated and
the three Lord of the Rings movies having brought
in something like $2,9 billion U.S. dollars at box-offices globally – more than
the annual GDP of a country like Mozambique!
Without the recent successes of
Harry Potter and
Lord of the Rings, it is unlikely that a project like Narnia would have been
green-lit, especially since fantasy movies had a mixed reception at the box
office in previous decades with expensive films such as
Legend (1985) and Willow (1988) flopping at the
box office. However, the new millennium seems to have ushered in new anxieties
(the first Lord of the Rings movie arrived on U.S.
screens mere months after the September 11 attacks) that make audiences seek out
escapist fantasy fare.
So will Chronicles of Narnia
be the next Lord of the Rings? It seems unlikely. The Narnia film
may be more “family-friendly” than the “sombre, violent and almost morbidly
death-obsessed” (as one critic described it) Rings, but the Tolkien
novels, after languishing as a hippie cult favourite novel at campuses for
decades, have more successfully penetrated the popular public consciousness –
largely thanks to some innovative and popular calendar art work in more recent
years. Put more simply: Lord of the Rings is better
known than The Chronicles of Narnia. Also, Chronicles of Narnia has a
whiff of Johnny-come-lately about it. After all, Lord of the Rings was
first . . .
despite this, expect Chronicles of Narnia to still clean up at the U.S.
and South African box office. December in the States isn’t as crowded at the
cineplexes and Narnia doesn’t have to go up against any other major
blockbuster-style movies. After all, the quiet December period has proven to be
beneficial to Titanic – still the biggest box-office hit of all times –
back in 1997.
So while Narnia may not
exactly bring in $871 million like Fellowship of the Ring did back in
2001, expect to see some Narnia sequels in future: it was probably a wise
decision of Narnia’s producers to option the six other books in the series for
big screen adaptations. The books are Prince Caspian (first printed in
1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair
(1953), The Horse and His Boy (1954), The Magician's Nephew
(1955), and The Last Battle (1956).
So who knows? Narnia
might even be bigger than Lord of the Rings. Mike Goodridge, U.S. editor
of Screen International, certainly believes so: “If you look at the Rings
cast when they went into that, they were absolutely run-of-the-mill. Nobody knew
who Orlando Bloom was! This being a Disney film, it’ll play very broadly. It
could be huge.”
C.S. Lewis, the author of The
Chronicles of Narnia, has a lot in common with J.R.R. Tolkien, the author
of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. No, they weren’t both born in
Bloemfontein. Check out below to see what we mean . . .
Known by their initials:
Quick, what does the J.R.R. stand
for? (See further on below.)
What does the C.S. stand for? (See
the trivia section below.)
What were their day jobs?
Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon
at Oxford University. He had a thing for all things medieval as his academic
output shows: in 1936 he gave a lecture called "Beowulf: The Monsters and
the Critics" which was an aesthetic justification of the presence of the
mythological creatures Grendel and the dragon in this medieval poem . . .
Lewis was a fellow of Magdalen
College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1954 in which time he wrote “The Allegory of
Love” (also in 1936!), which remains “a standard work on medieval
literature” as one source puts it. Spot the similarities in interests so
They’d be best remembered though
The fantasy tome, The Lord of the
Rings (1954-55), which was first published in three volumes, namely The
Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King
The Chronicles of Narnia novels,
which are regarded as “classic high fantasy.” The seven books in the series
were published in more or less the same time as Rings, namely 1950-56.
Both authors were known for their
conservative outlook: Rings is a lament for a rural England that is
threatened by modernity and industrialisation.
“A persuasive and passionate
advocate of conservative Christianity” is the phrase one comes across most
when reading up on Lewis. Both their novels served as allegories for their
Played by actor Anthony Hopkins
in movie versions of their lives:
Both writers were played by Anthony
Hopkins in movies based on their lives. No, actually that isn’t true. As
yet, Tolkien hasn’t been played by Hopkins in any movie version of his life.
Lewis was played by Hopkins in the
1993 film Shadowlands (see elsewhere).
The J.J.R. stands for John Ronald
C.S. stands for Clive Staples.
(Initialising their names was no doubt a wise decision on the part of their
More interesting but pointless
Tolkien fought in World War One and
saw action in the bloody Battle of the Somme, but trench fever often kept
him hospitalized during 1917.
Lewis died on November 22, 1963, the
same day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Tolkien only
died a decade later in 1973, but wasn’t seen anywhere near any grassy
knolls on that fateful day . . .