Should Greta Gerwig Be the Next Narnia Director? | Talking Beasts

Time to blow the dust off our Narnia movie news page! There is a hot rumor that Writer/Director/Actress Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) is being eyed by Netflix to direct two Chronicles of Narnia films.

If true, what would this tell us about Netflix’s intentions for the project? Would Greta Gerwig be a good choice to helm a Narnia adaptation? Listen to the podcasters and then post a comment below!

Rilian, Gymfan, Glumpuddle

In Part 2 of this discussion, the podcasters debate how difficult it would be to set a Narnia adaptation in present day.

Here is everything we know about Netflix’s Narnia Reboot.

19 Responses

  1. Cleander says:

    I can feel it… IT’S ALMOST COUNTDOWN SEASON!

    From all I’m hearing, Greta might well be a viable choice, but as usual I guess it comes down to how much creative freedom the big folks allow her. Hopefully Netflix will resist the urge to make this all about ticking boxes and just let her do her thing… otherwise, I think the odds for a good adaptation are much lower than 50-50.

    But be it good or bad, we’ll always have the books!

  2. Observer says:

    Just because she’s directing it, doesn’t mean she’s going to be able to do what she wants.
    Netflix is in charge here. And from what I’ve seen of Netflix’s programs ,which are becoming more and more perverse, with open homosexual references, I’m not optimistic about anything associated with Netflix anymore. Even if the thing they’re doing is a well established beloved story. I fear that somehow they are going to twist this into a *shudder* “new progressive” *shudder* version that will initially appear wholesome but will tarnish the Christian character and morals that made the books so good in the first place. May I be wrong. May Jesus Christ in His mercy enter into this production, may the director seek to keep it pure and inspire people to live Godly lives.

    • Cleander says:

      My hope is that even if the show gets advertised as “progressive”, it won’t actually fulfill that “promise” as much as many fear it might. (E.g., they’ll promote Jadis as a “strong woman” – which she quite literally is – and then go on to make a fairly faithful version of her). The Adamson films, as pointed out in the podcast, weren’t directed by a particularly religious person, but they still managed to retain a lot of the Christian symbolism and values of the original books. So while nothing is certain right now, there is still plenty of room for hope. And prayer.

  3. Col Klink says:

    This isn’t really relevant to Narnia, but I’d encourage people who had issues with the 2019 Little Women movie to read the screenplay that’s published online because it’s much better than the movie as a whole. All of the flashbacks are written in red ink and the scenes set in the present are in black, so, unlike with the movie, it’s easy to keep track of which is which (and if you really want, you can just read all the red stuff first, though you’ll get confused by the ending.) And in the script, Gerwig writes about specific effects she intended, which she didn’t necessarily succeed in conveying in the movie if you ask me. For example, in the first scene with Amy in art class, she sees a fellow student doing a painting that’s more modern than hers. According to the script, “She looks back at her own piece and realizes that she might have missed the moment that she came here to master. Perhaps she’s already passed before her time.” I doubt anyone would get that just from watching the movie.

    Incidentally, I’m gratified to hear that Glumpuddle thought Timothee Chalmet was miscast in Little Women. I know he’s an Oscar winner or an Oscar nominee (I don’t really pay attention to that) and that he has a lot of fangirls but, except for one really great scene, I thought he was super boring in that movie. I honestly think he was cast because young feminist leaning women who weren’t necessarily already fans of the source material follow him on Twitter. I’d say the same of Emma Watson and Florence Pugh, though I enjoyed their performances more than his.

    I’ve said this before (there’s been some very good discussion in the forum on this topic, though it seems to have fizzled out) but I don’t see how Greta Gerwig makes sense at all. (I’m not freaking out or anything because this is in the possibility stage if it’s real at all.) All of the arguments I’ve heard that her talents would lend themselves to Narnia seem like they’re about really peripheral things. (Sorry, Glumpuddle.) By this episode’s own admission, she seems to want to be both writer and director and according to the rumor, Netflix only wants her to direct (possibly because they haven’t fired Matthew Aldrich yet?) She seems to want to tell realistic stories about regular people leading everyday lives. I suspect that ordinary kids becoming kings and queens is exactly the kind of story she wouldn’t want to tell. She’d probably consider it selling out.

    Gerwig also seems to want to tell female driven narratives. I know everyone is going to jump on this comment and list all the great female characters in the Narnia books, but to do so is to reveal that they don’t really understand what modern feminists want. They don’t want more female protagonists or antagonists. We already have plenty of those. They want more female sidekicks. The only ones Narnia offers are Mrs. Beaver and Hwin. (You could argue Polly is a sidekick rather than a protagonist though I hate to denigrate her like that. If she is, she’s a sidekick to a male lead and modern feminists wouldn’t care for that.) The character closest to Hwin in Little Women BTW is Beth and she’s the one Gerwig did the least justice to in her adaptation. (Though I hasten to add that she did a great job with nearly all of the other characters and they present a wide range of personalities, so it’s not like she’s super limited.) Notably, unlike Lady Bird or Little Women, there are no mother-daughter relationships in the Narnia books. Keep in mind that the C. S. Lewis Estate pulled the plug on a movie of The Silver Chair on the grounds that the studio wanted it to be a “girl power action movie” and that was despite really liking the early drafts of the script, so even if Gerwig is hired, the project probably will fall apart.

    Of course, while Gerwig would want her movies to empower young women, she probably wouldn’t want to do an action movie-and that’s bad. I know what I’m saying goes against what the podcasters and many Narnia fans say, and it’s true that the books have far fewer action scenes than Hollywood would prefer, but the books are adventure stories, NOT character studies. Parts of them are driven by the characters’ personalities and psychologies, but I’d argue that the Walden Media movies were actually more character driven than the books were. (If you want to read what I’d consider a character study written by C. S. Lewis, try Till We Have Faces.) I guess you could argue The Magician’s Nephew only has a few action scenes and is very much about the emotional drama of Digory and his mother, but that’s an exception. The book I’d say is most character/relationship driven is The Horse and his Boy and that story is like 50% adventure and suspense. I don’t think Gerwig would do a good job with the Pevensies flight from the White Witch or Caspian’s flight from his uncle or the sea serpent’s attack on the Dawn Treader or the giants throwing rocks at Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum or a host of other memorable scenes from the books. What’s more, I don’t imagine she’d want to attempt them and there’s no reason she should. There’s no reason why she specifically should do Narnia adaptations at all.

    I also imagine she’d be hostile towards the more conservative segments of the Narnia fanbase. I hasten to add that I don’t see the books themselves as being liberal or conservative. They’re not really about politics if you know what I mean. I also hasten to add that you don’t have to be conservative to do a good Narnia adaptation. I’m almost positive Andrew Adamson and Michael Apted are or were liberals, but the thing is they were commercial enough to suppress their contempt for their audience. Creating an adaptation at least partly for people she despises would not be fun for Gerwig and it probably would filter into the work itself, making it not fun to watch-including for liberals.

    • Skilletdude says:

      “…she probably wouldn’t want to do an action movie-and that’s bad. I know what I’m saying goes against what the podcasters and many Narnia fans say, and it’s true that the books have far fewer action scenes than Hollywood would prefer, but the books are adventure stories, NOT character studies.”

      Good point. We have more confidence she would do justice to the character moments, but it’s odd that Netflix would even consider a director who (to my knowledge) has no experience directing a production with so many special effects requirements that Narnia is sure to have, not to mention the practical action sequences that she’ll have to film. I’m not saying she’s incapable of doing them, just that we haven’t seen it at this point in her career.

  4. Col Klink says:

    As ridiculously long as my last comment was, I actually left out some of my most specific points. LOL. That’s why I’m doing another one and if someone only reads one of my comments, I’d prefer it be this one.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Greta Gerwig interested in doing somewhat nuanced characterizations and situations where no one’s totally right or wrong? I wouldn’t say the Narnia books have no nuances, but there aren’t many examples of that in them. (Again, that’s more of a Till We Have Faces thing.)

    Also, wouldn’t it be fair to say that a theme in her work is that life can’t be perfect, but it can still be pretty great? In the Narnia books, life can be perfect in Aslan’s Country and the Real Narnia.

    It’s not impossible for her to be a fan of the Narnia books, but I’d consider it unlikely. And even if she is one, her doing an adaptation would be the equivalent of Jack Skellington filling in for Santa Claus or the director of Les Misérables doing Cats.

  5. Col Klink says:

    I know, I know, third comment. 🙂

    I just wanted to mention that what Rilian said about the directors for the past Narnia movies is something I remember well. When Michael Apted was first announced, there were plenty of Narniawebbers who thought that his adaptation would be slower paced and less action driven and that it would do more justice to the books’ Christian themes. It’s pretty depressing in retrospect. (Whether you liked his Voyage of the Dawn Treader or not, I don’t think you can praise it for any of those reasons.)

    • jasmine_tarkheena says:

      Sometimes I’ve wondered if Voyage of the Dawn Treader would’ve turned out differently if Andrew Adamson had stayed on as the director. The movie is good in itself, though the Green Mist was the last straw!

      Hopefully Greta Gerwing doesn’t include the Green Mist! Perhaps her adaption will focus more on character development than on the epic landscape as the Walden movies have done. While impressive, it does tend to get too distracting.

    • Observer says:

      About what you said in your second comment.
      “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Greta Gerwig interested in doing somewhat nuanced characterizations and situations where no one’s totally right or wrong?”
      ” wouldn’t it be fair to say that a theme in her work is that life can’t be perfect, but it can still be pretty great?”
      I’m not familiar with Greta Gerwig’s work, but from the way you describe her and the things you mentioned in your first comment, she may be able to pull off a somewhat watchable version of “The Horse and His Boy” with a co-director to keep her contempt for her audience in check. Emphasis on “may be able to”

      The story has a foreign orphaned boy unaware of his origins living under an abusive fishermen facing the prospect of being sold into slavery, fleeing for his life on a journey he isn’t prepared for and suffering along the way, (there’s the whole thing with how he has to become king and can’t get out of it at the end of the story and how [also mentioned at the end of the story] he and Aravis [The Tarkeena] get so good at fighting and making up again they decided to get married and kept their marriage going) the story has a tarkeena (female Calorman) fleeing her arranged marriage (having escaped by causing others to suffer for which she is punished for by Aslan himself), not to mention how she may be one of the only women of calormen ancestry to marry royalty of Narnia (Arkenland).

      I still don’t trust Netflix though and would prefer it to be made by someone with an actual liking for the source material and the original context.

      • I’m not entirely sure what you mean. Are you saying no one is entirely right or wrong in that Shasta and Aravis are deying authority figures (Arsheesh, Anradin and Aravis’s father) for sympathetic reasons? Or are you saying that things aren’t perfect in the end because Shasta and Aravis still fight now and then? I guess I can see what you’re saying with the latter, but I don’t know why you felt you needed to recap the story of The Horse and his Boy. I’m sure everyone reading the comments to this podcast has read it. 🙂 (I don’t remember if you’re a regular listener, but they actually did a whole series of episodes analyzing it.)

  6. Observer says:

    To the Adaptation Stationmaster;
    I’m not a regular listener and I’m new to this forum.
    As to what I meant, it would be the second thing you mentioned: also included in that is the idea that each character is growing and needs to be corrected from time to time. Especially considering how neither one grew up in Narnia; neither one knows the ways or teachings of Aslan (they do learn them though).
    At the time I wrote the previous comment, I I was trying to be a bit optimistic about how Greta Gerwig could somehow still be apart of directing one of the Narnia stories.
    As for the reason why I recapped the the story of The Horse and his Boy; I was pointing out how Greta Gerwig could contribute to the film based on her tendencies as a director (based on the description given by Col Klink) and the parts of the Horse and his Boy where her tendencies could be used. My writing style does have a tendency to be redundant and state the obvious; I’ve noticed this in school papers I’ve had to write.

    Now that I’ve had a chance to catch up on my sleep (I had written the previous comment after a long work shift and Thanksgiving meal preparation) I regret making my comment because it was in a defeatist attitude that said, “there’s no hope of anything else so as a fan of Narnia I’ll just have to settle for this.” Which is very reminiscent of NickaBrick trying to bring back the white witch. And we all know how that went.

    Hopefully Netflix will drop this project and someone with an authentic desire for Christian morals and values it represents will make it. While at the same time delivering the action and characterization that is in the books.

    • Col Klink says:

      LOL at your comment about feeling like Nikabrik.

      I am not entirely convinced that only a Christian could adapt Narnia well. But I can’t say you’re totally wrong either.

      There are plenty of readers out there who love the books for their artistic qualities while disagreeing with the philosophy behind them. Saying none of those fans could do a good adaptation sounds kind of…unfriendly.

      But it’s true that there’s a difference between enjoying a work of art and creating a work of art yourself. Most writers, directors, etc. want their art to convey what they believe are good messages. A non-Christian would definitely be leery of some of the books’ messages. And the best overall adaptations so far IMO have been made by an explicitly Christian company (though I hasten to add that many of the “non-Christian” adaptations have had wonderful elements.)

      So maybe you’re right. I’d just encourage you, if you want to be part of the larger fandom community, to try to express them in a less tribalistic sounding way.

    • EmanuelBV says:

      It is practically impossible for Netflix to abandon the project since they spent a figure of 9 numbers, which means that they spent a minimum of 100 million dollars, it is a figure that nobody wants to throw away.

  7. Musgrave says:

    Is it true Michael Apted directed 10% of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie and Michael Bay directed 90%?

  8. White Wizard says:

    Narnia is a favourite among agnostics, as well. I am an agnostic that sways slightly towards the non-atheist side, but I like the centre of politics as the stable middle ground. The books are a bit like Christmas: a little bit pagan and Christian, but a whole lot of tradition, history and myth.

    Narnia could be politicised by either side and that should never happen.

    • Col Klink says:

      I agree that an adaptation that pandered to either side of the political aisle would be annoying (though I don’t see why you would worry about Gerwig pandering to the rightwing side.)

      I’ve read an interesting article that argues that the Christmas holiday having pagan origins has been exaggerated. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s an interesting argument and the whole Christmas-was-influenced-by-paganism-thing is well known enough that I think it’s worth challenging just a little bit, so here’s are some quotes from the article.

      “There are two pagan festivals that are usually pointed to as the origin of Christmas, but the evidence for both is pretty thin. The first choice is usually the Saturnalia, the Roman celebration of the god Saturn, which does pre-date Christmas, but leaves one big, gaping hole in the plot: the Saturnalia kicked off on December 17 every year, and only went up to the 23rd—so if Christmas began as an attempt by Christians to co-opt the Saturnalia, they were literally two days late to the party. Telling people to fast when their friends are partying and then party when their friends are nursing hangovers makes for a lousy way to ease the transition from paganism to Christianity, if that was the intent.

      The other usual suspect is the Sol Invictus, the “Feast of the Unconquered Sun,” which looks like a better choice at first, since it did actually take place on December 25. The problem with the Sol Invictus, though, is that literally no one celebrated it until Roman emperor Aurelian instituted it in A.D. 274, and Christian references to Christ’s birth falling on December 25 date all the way back to the early A.D. 200s. So if anyone was stealing holidays from anyone, you pretty much have to conclude the pagans were stealing them from the Christians.

      None of that is to say that Christmas didn’t absorb any pagan customs (of course it did—just like Hanukkah has absorbed some Christmas-y customs), or that Christians were the first people in history to bring trees inside and cover them in sparkly things (I’m pretty sure that honor goes to whoever was the first person to get drunk in a forest), or that no one before Christians noticed that the dark, cold winter months kind of suck and would be greatly improved with an ugly sweater party and lots of mistletoe-instigated make-outs. But the idea that Christmas was “stolen” from pagans just isn’t supported by the evidence.”

  9. jasmine_tarkheena says:

    If more Narnia movies ever get made (by Netflix or some other company), I will watch them for entertainment purposes, as I’ve done with the other adaptations. Even if it doesn’t live up to my expectations. But hey, no company is perfect. It would be better than no adaptation at all.

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