What Barbie Means for Narnia (Review) | Talking Beasts

Greta Gerwig is set to write and direct two Narnia movies for Netflix… and she’s terrified. But for now, she is enjoying the success of her latest movie Barbie, which grossed $155 million in its opening weekend. How will the Barbie movie affect future Narnia adaptations? Listen to our movie review and discussion and then post your thoughts below!

Note: This review contains one minor spoiler, but we warn you in advance.

Watch the spoiler talk.

Glumpuddle, Gymfan

17 Responses

  1. Fireberry says:

    As much as I admire Greta, I worry about her going to Narnia. I just can’t imagine her believing in Aslan, or pretending to believe in Aslan. Not after being so rewarded for flying her own colours with Barbie.

  2. Jack Tollers says:

    After reading reviews for the Barbie movie, I am not so sure that Greta is the right choice to direct the Narnia films. Many of the ideas C.S. Lewis wrote about are in direct conflict with her views. I doubt she could resist the urge to change what he wrote to match her perspective. But we can pray that this will not be the case.

  3. Fireberry says:

    Where btw, is Douglas Gresham these days? Has anyone heard from him lately?

  4. Col Klink says:

    You know, I wasn’t expecting to leave a comment on this because I’m not really interested in The Barbie Movie. Similar to what Gymfan said, it doesn’t change my opinion about Gerwig as an adapter of Narnia much. (It’s true that it’s the only fantasy movie she’s made so far but Narnia and the Barbie Movie are too different kind of fantasies and I imagine she realizes that.) Judging by the trailers and what I know of the plot, I’d say the movie has some clever ideas but also a lot of stupid stuff. It fees overhyped to me and I don’t want to add to the overhype by either praising it or condemning.

    But I was actually kind of worried about not leaving a comment since I regularly do so and I don’t want Gymfan or Glumpuddle to worry about me. LOL. Plus, since there’s political controversy around the movie, I worry that they’d think they offended me or something like that. So I’m actually quite pleased to say I do have stuff to write in response! Not like a lot but some.

    Glumpuddle spoke dismissively of the direct-to-video computer animated Barbie movies in this episode. I actually watched some of those movies when I was a kid in secret. (I was a boy and didn’t care about Barbie, but I was interested in fairy tales and a bit interested in ballet. Not the dancing part of ballet but the idea of telling a story without words.) And you know what? I enjoyed those movies, especially Barbie as Rapunzel. Mind you, I’m not recommend anyone rush to see them. They definitely don’t have as much aimed at adult audiences as Gerwig’s Barbie movie, but considering they were just aimed at kids and not even kids of both genders, I didn’t feel like the screenwriters were phoning it in. In fact, the main musical theme for Barbie and Rapunzel is absolutely beautiful IMO. (You can look it up on YouTube.) Part of me feels like it was a waste to throw that piece of music away on a movie so few people would see and those who saw would soon outgrow. But another part of me admires the composer for giving his to the target audience of little Barbie loving girls and not condescending to them. Come this December, I plan on reviewing Barbie in a Christmas Carol on my blog. It would carry on the tradition of reviewing unusual, animated adaptations of that story for Christmas which I started last year.

    Considering that he hadn’t seen the movie recently enough to remember the main character’s name, I’m impressed Glumpuddle was able to make such an insightful comment on The Emperor’s New Groove!

    Glumpuddle mentioned that he found it kind of cathartic, in a culture where people have to walk on eggshells when it comes to hot button issues, for a movie to be so obnoxiously in your face about its social message. Honestly, I think the fact that I live in that culture is what makes such movies annoying to me. Like the fact that I have to hide my true feelings about the issues for fear of getting fired or banned from family reunions while Greta Gerwig gets paid all this money to express hers just makes me resent her. Well, not her specifically. More like politically minded filmmakers in general. I even avoid movies with social agendas that I support because (a) they remind me that so many people disagree which angers me and (b) in the back of my mind, there’s this part of me that worries that they’re unfairly depicting my ideological opponents and knows it would be spiteful to enjoy that.

    Interestingly, what Glumpuddle said about The Barbie Movie, how he really enjoyed it (and so did his wife) but when he talks about it, he keeps thinking of all the flaws, is pretty close to my relationship with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie. I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed it but considering how many strikes I went in knowing it had against it, I was so relieved to find it as engaging (for a onetime viewing anyway) and pleasant as it was. But when I have to add up all the good and the bad, it feels like the bad should outweigh the good.

    Anyone want to make fanart of Glumpuddle as Sweeney Todd and Gymfan as Barbie? 😉

    (This refers to the funny joke Gymfan mentioned which people may not want spoiled.) Next week, I’m going to be watching the 8 hour and 30 minute miniseries of Bleak House. Does that mean I’m depressed? 🙂

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful and mature review in the podcast, gP and Gymfan 🙂
    It is very refreshing to hear you recommend getting outside of our own bubble (aka silo) and listen to others’ worldviews. It makes me feel like Narniaweb is in good hands, and not being led by people who have agendas they want to promote while in service to the Narnia fans.

    I saw Barbie during opening weekend. The theatre was very full and I also saw several people wearing pink.

    Firstly, visually the movie was perfect imo. The Barbieland sets and costumes were on point. I also liked Margot Robbie’s performance. You make a great point that she toes the line between over the top and low key. She seems a bit goofy, but believeable.

    As for what Gerwig’s Barbie means for Narnia – it has now been demonstrated that she can direct a wide variety of movies, each with their own visual style and emotional tone. Gerwig seems like a mature thinker. Her worldview does seem somewhat different that Lewis’s, as portrayed in his non fiction Christian books. However, as with Andrew Adamson, I think it’s possible she will respect the source material. The best we can hope for is a total embrace of the Christian symbolism and parellels in the books. I suppose the second best we can hope for (on the religion front) is what Adamson gave us – saying “we’ll stay true to the books, and if that involves Christian material, it will of course be included in the movie.”

    I’m hopeful we could get a very good Narnia movie, but it’s not a guarantee. Because of a few unknowns, such as the way Gerwig will deal with the box office success of Barbie, the amount of creative control she will get, and how she will approach the adaptating of the books.

    I wish you all the best, Greta Gerwig! I agree with the co hosts – we are rooting for you, because your success is our success!

  6. Jack Tollers says:

    @Fireberry, in 2018, Netflix announced that Douglas Gresham was going to serve as an executive producer for the Narnia films, as well as the series. According to his IMDb page, he is still involved in both projects. However, it’s been five years since the announcement, and his page appears to be out of date.

  7. Col Klink says:

    I’d like to comment about something in the spoilery postshow chatter. I’m sorry to do so when not everyone can access that, but this has to do with something I’ve brought up before on Narniaweb but which people haven’t really discussed much.

    I once described the theme of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women as something along the lines of “life can’t be as perfect as you wish but it can still be pretty great.” (I’d say that was a theme of the source material too or at least latent in it.) According to Gymfan and Glumpuddle, this is also the ultimate message of The Barbie Movie, though they feel it wasn’t set up as well as it could have been. I think it could also be described as a theme of Lady Bird. (The main character initially longs to escape her home but when she’s really out on her own as an adult, she’s still not totally happy and needs to learn to just accept life as it is.) That seems to be the recurring idea of Gerwig’s work-and it really isn’t compatible with Narnia. The only Narnia book to have anything like a realistically imperfect ending would be The Horse and his Boy where Shasta and Corin are always going to fight once in a while and so will Shasta and Aravis. (The fact that Bree and Hwin eventually get married but not to each other also arguably subverts the “perfect” ending.) I just can’t really see Gerwig wanting to tell stories like The Chronicles of Narnia. I keep trying to imagine what she would make of the books, and I just can’t come up with anything. Not anything I like anyway. It baffles me that she signed up for this and I can’t really relax with her at the helm. That’s not to say I’m panicking with her at the helm! It’s more like I can’t imagine anything good that computes with what I know so I’m trying not to imagine anything at all.

  8. Elesbaan says:

    I’m surprised no one’s talking about the suggestion she dropped that maybe she’ll decide not to do Narnia.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    First of all, ten points to Glumpuddle for the Sweeney Todd T-shirt. We love the Sondheim support.

    Secondly, thanks for this very insightful review. I have not yet seen the movie and am still on the fence about whether or not I will do so, but your thoughts on the film’s tone, the lack of subtlety and the breaking of the fourth wall were well-balanced and offered great perspective. I agree with Gymfan that it doesn’t necessarily influence my opinion on Gerwig’s ability to adapt Narnia, but it will have an impact on the resources and platform she is given to do so, so I appreciate you tackling this topic.

  10. Cleander says:

    I haven’t seen Barbie and don’t really have any strong desire to, but I do understand why some people might find the heavy-handed social commentary in this movie a bit foreboding for Narnia. That said, I wonder if Greta felt encouraged to inject them simply because of the nature of the existing themes that a Barbie movie would already be dealing with (like the classic feminine image and how Barbie shapes girl’s perceptions of themselves, etc). Perhaps she’d feel less inclined to preach with Narnia, or at least restrict her social commentary to the books it could reasonably fit into (I could see The Horse and His Boy being a likely target for this treatment, for one).
    Ultimately I’m still rooting for her, like many Narnia fans, and from all I’ve heard I think she still has a chance at making a quite decent adaptation.
    I’m also reassured by her professed terror of doing Narnia. If anything she seems to understand that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of “that Lion!”

  11. Yerdif says:

    I have not seen Barbie, but I have seen it reviewed, so I believe I can comment on this. In short, Greta Gerwig is a feminist, and for that reason alone, I don’t want her anywhere near Narnia. Barbie is basically an in-your-face feminist propaganda piece from what I heard, so no. The thought of what she would do to Peter, or Edmund, or Caspian, or Tirian gives me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach – not to mention the aberrations she’ll make out of Lucy and other female characters. Narnia is firmly based in a Biblical world view in which strong men lead and women support, which is one reason they resonate with me. For this reason, whatever the visuals, Greta Gerwig as director of Narnia is a horrible idea.

  12. Pacquin says:

    So I’ve seen Barbie and I LOVED it!!! I’m not an ultra left wing liberal by any stretch so I can say I really appreciate the level of feminism represented in the movie…considering it’s a doll that represents the image of a woman after all. But what I really appreciate is that she totally got alllll the nuances of everyone’s perspective. The good, the bad, and the ugly! She shows the real damage that woman go through to be perfect and how Barbie contributed to that stereotype. But she also leaned into the fun and imagination that one can have with Barbie and that she represents EVERY woman! C.S. Lewis wrote Narnia in a way that never hit me over the head with Christian themes. As a Christian I was able to see those elements and just LOVE Aslan dearly! So I feel she’ll be faithful I hope to all the surrounding elements represented in the stories. They are also time period pieces and she’ll lean into all the right places like she did with Barbie!!!

  13. fantasia says:

    In regards to the title of the Podcast, Narnia has certainly picked up a big-name director. I’m seeing Barbie news articles everywhere. But I don’t personally think Barbie is a good example of what to expect for Narnia. Rather, I’d look to Gerwig’s Little Women to get a better sense of her book-to-screen movie style.
    I hope at some point I can watch Little Women and Barbie to form my own opinions.

  14. Seth Dumas says:

    i am so freakin’ excited for Greta to bring Narnia back to life on film. now that she’s attached, i’m not sure which of the two books she’ll adapt, but my hunch is LWW and perhaps Magician’s Nephew. when the news originally came out that Netflix had purchased the rights to make “films and television series” i kind of imagined it this way: Netflix makes a five-season TV show adapted from LWW, Prince Caspian, Dawn Treader, Silver Chair, and Last Battle, with each book getting one season for the sake of continuity. while the main characters do change over time, there’s lots of crossover to keep viewers engaged. but tbh, the books aren’t that long so idk if it’s enough to sustain a season, unless that season is 3-4 episodes. i also thought Magician’s Nephew and Horse and his Boy would work very well as spin-off films. but again, now that Greta is directing at least two, i almost wonder if they’ll just make a film from each book, given that the books aren’t super long and (IMO) work better as films than as multi-episode seasons. i think LWW, PC, VDT, SC, and LB work pretty well as one cohesive series, with Magician’s Nephew and Horse and his Boy being spin-offs bc they’re sort of disconnected from the “main story.” but anyway, i think there’s a very good chance that they’ll kick everything off with a reboot of LWW because it’s the most famous and most widely beloved of the novels, and i think if Greta is directing at least two of the films there’s a 95% chance one of those is LWW. very interested to see how they approach it re: films vs TV, and which films Greta is tasked with directing.

  15. JFG says:

    Hey Narniaweb! Long time no see. My 2018 idea still compels me: I think doing chronological order/doing unadapted books into films/doing previous films into a tv series, is the way to go. It agknowleges, not the previous continuity, but the experience of the viewers. Effectively saying “You already know LWW through the Disney Walden film, so we’ll start off with a prequel film you probably don’t know, about the founding of Narnia!”… “The Magician’s Nephew”. Because it’s a stand-alone prequel where the child actors don’t need to return in the next installment, there’s less pressure to start making the next 3-4 adaptations immediately afterwards. They could wait 2-4 years before getting to LWW & the rest. Greta Gerwig could make MN as a film, wait until it releases to see its reception, then take her time to start work on the next several projects., which would have to be released a year apart from each other, I think. Also, I’m hoping she’d be a show runner on “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” Netflix miniseries before directing “The Horse and His Boy” film. So there’s filmmaker-continuity between the films & the miniseries. “Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” would also be miniseries’, respectively, while “The Silver Chair” and “The Last Battle” would be films. My two cents. 😉

  16. Anna says:

    These are crazy exciting times for Narnia fans. I can’t wait for a new generation of readers to be introduced through these new Gerwig films

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