“The First Book” And Other Matters | Talking Beasts

According to Time Magazine, Greta Gerwig is working on a new adaptation of “the first book” in The Chronicles of Narnia… which, considering the controversy surrounding the Narnia reading order, offered no clarity for fans about what to expect. That said, there is still much to discuss:

  • Which book Netflix will/should start with
  • Netflix CEO calling Gerwig’s vision is “bigger and bolder”
  • Gerwig referencing C.S. Lewis essay

Watch the post-show chatter.

Glumpuddle, Impending Doom

14 Responses

  1. Caspiancrown says:

    Thank you Glumpuddle and Impending Doom for this great podcast!
    My main takeaway from the “first book” quote is that she is doing a “NEW adaptation of the first book.” Magicians Nephew has never been a movie before. If that is the book she chooses to go with, is not “new.” Maybe they just mean new like a new movie, but that’s what I got from it.
    The quote that was brought up about Barbie has slightly changed my view on the Netflix trying to make Narnia like popular fantasy TV shows. If she would not take out a scene from the movie, even though the studio wanted her too, because it took out the “heart” of the story, she will not ruin Narnia. She will choose to focus on the moments that are not huge battles, but just meaningful moments. These are the little things Walden did not focus on, but make Narnia distinguished from other fantasy franchises.
    I never thought I would say this, but The Magician’s Nephew is probably the best story for Netflix’s adaptations to start with. I agree with Impending Doom. If they start with LWW, they’ll run into the same issues both Walden and BBC did. Having to adapt Prince Caspian so early in the series, but also having to deal with the big “commercial break” after The Silver Chair, where we jump way back in time to HHB. Then we go even further back to before Narnia was even created with Magician’s Nephew! This works as a book series, but definitely not as a film franchise! I get how Gerwig likes that the Narnia books are all different stories and such, but if she wants her franchise the at least make sense, she and Netflix should definitely go with chronological order.

  2. Narnian78 says:

    If Greta Gerwig starts with Magician Nephew there is the issue of not beginning with the children’s entrance into the wardrobe, and it seems that doing without that may spoil the beginning of the Narnia stories. That would be rather sad because many people think of their first introduction to Narnia as the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The scene of the entrance through the wardrobe is very important for people’s first visit to Narnia. Magician’s Nephew has the creation of Narnia, but perhaps the creation should not always come first since it is not at very beginning of that story even though the book contains it. It is good that the books are finally being adapted, but I am not so sure that it would work as well without having the wardrobe come first.

  3. Frank Durant says:

    I hope it’s a mix between the Magician’s Nephew, The Last Battle and a little bit of The Problem of Susan !

  4. Bolton says:

    Great episode! I’m very encouraged by all these interviews we’ve heard from Greta – she’s winning me over to getting excited for this series.

  5. HTP says:

    What are the chances we see Gerwig working on an original story set in the world of Narnia after her first book adaptation? Not that I’d like to see that without adaptations of all the books first but I think Netflix would be up for it…

  6. HTP says:

    When does the new season of the podcast start? Or is this the kickoff and episodes are just releasing on different days now?

  7. Courtenay says:

    Great episode and very thoughtful comments and intriguing speculations, guys!
    About the term “Gerwiggle”… when you first referred to it, my immediate thought was that it sounds positive — the term for those who are fans of Gerwig and right behind her in this new production. But of course, in a Narnian context, it’s based on “Marsh-wiggle”, which we all know is a term for the most endearingly gloomy and pessimistic character in all the Narnia books (though he is of course not entirely negative about everything, and turns out to be one of the wisest characters in that particular book in the end). So I really don’t know which way we should use the term, if it’s used at all! But I must say I’m one of those who’ve moved from “cautiously optimistic” to “generally optimistic” after hearing these latest comments from Gerwig. I suppose we can only wait and see what comes next…

  8. Col Klink says:

    I love the idea of some Narniawebber disguising themselves as a member of the press, like a character in a screwball comedy, so they can specifically ask Greta Gerwig the title of her Narnia movie. LOL.

    I never got the impression that BBC wanted to adapt every Narnia and then were only able to do four. Judging from the fact that they moved Aslan’s “there I have another name” speech to the end of The Silver Chair and followed it with a montage of all their Narnia adaptations, I’d say it was a preplanned decision.

    My thoughts on the CEO’s statements about the adaptations not being contrary to fan’s imaginings yet bigger and bolder are similar to Impending Doom’s and Glumpuddle’s. It definitely sounds like he’s trying to appeal both to viewers who want something close to the source material and viewers who want something far removed (though it’s not impossible for both his statements to be true.) I wouldn’t say I’m annoyed as Impending Doom describes himself as being. I’m just…whatever. LOL.

    I thought it was nice of Glumpuddle to say that he understood why Andrew Adamson felt the LWW book was anticlimactic compared to his childhood memory it even though he doesn’t agree with the sentiment and I’m kind of proud that I remembered the quote from C. S. Lewis that Gerwig talked about when he (Glumpuddle) didn’t. 🙂 It’s a great quote.

    I was scared for a moment that this episode wasn’t going to mention my favorite bit from the article, the lots-of-different-traditions-not-schematic bit. If Gerwig is going to offend Planet Narnia fans…I’m up for that! (Insert evil laugh here.) Just kidding, just kidding.

    I remember liking the scene from the Barbie movie Impending Doom was talking about, but I feel the quote he cites actually tells against the film. If the person who wrote the story can’t tell what it’s about if a single specific scene was cut, it sounds like a badly structured story. LOL.

    Am I feeling optimistic or pessimistic about Gerwig’s Narnia adaptations now? Hmm. I’m actually kind of an unemotional, neutral place where I’m like, “whatever will be will be.” I see some reasons to be optimistic but after being disappointed by so many false starts to new Narnia adaptations, I don’t want my hopes raised to be dashed again. I also see some reasons to be pessimistic, but I don’t want to be all mopey either. I’d say I lean more positive than Rilian but more negative than Glumpuddle or Impending Doom. Since I’m an argumentative person and this episode was optimistic, I’ll devote the rest of this comment to my negative thoughts. If it had been pessimistic, I’d have likely done the opposite.

    Gerwig has stated that she’s been influenced by C. S. Lewis’s thoughts a lot but I’m having trouble thinking of any way in which her movies reflect this. (Of course, I haven’t read every bit of nonfiction C. S. Lewis wrote or every interview Gerwig has given. I’m not that interested in nonfiction, truth be told. 🙂 ) The only thing I can think of is that both Lewis and Gerwig seem to feel that mothers are often tempted to be domineering and clingy and they need to learn to let their kids go. (Though that description undersells Gerwig’s nuance. She also feels that daughters need to be nicer and more appreciative of their mothers.) And that has nothing to do with Narnia! (If she were doing an adaptation of Till We Have Faces now, I’d be interested.) If anything, they seem like they’d be opposites. Gerwig has stated that she believes any kind of power imbalance is bad for society though she seems to be too realistic to believe we’ll see a society without power imbalances anytime soon. Lewis stated that he believed natural hierarchies are not only necessary evils but downright healthy and that society needed to get back to them, though he acknowledged they could and do often lead to evil. Lewis seemed to see “progress” as a bad thing and felt that society needed to go back to something called “the tao” or “natural law.” Gerwig seems like she’d think of progress as a good thing and natural laws as something society needs to move beyond so that people can live up to their potential. (Remember what I said about believing it was important for parents to let go of their children? Of course, as I also said, she believes children need to appreciate their parents too, so there’s something nuance there.) For all the “nerd bombs” she’s dropping, she hasn’t yet said anything specific about C. S. Lewis’s philosophy that’s attractive to her, so it’s hard for me to believe her. Well, I shouldn’t say that because it sounds like I’m accusing her of lying and I don’t believe that’s what she’s doing. I believe she loves The Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t understand why and if I don’t understand it, I see no reason to get excited one way or another about her adaptations. My hope is that once I hear what her specific vision is for whichever book she adapts, I’ll love it. She’s said some stuff that I really like so far.

    I should stress that I don’t believe an adapter has to agree with C. S. Lewis about everything! If I believed that, I wouldn’t want anyone to adapt Narnia because no one agrees with him about everything. I do worry though that a really analytical, “intentional” director who’s really interested in messages and themes could be something of a problem if there isn’t enough common ground between their philosophy and the author of the source material.

    It definitely sounds like she has a great deal of nostalgia for the Narnia books and nostalgia does seem to play a part in her movies. (Maybe Lady Bird could be described as being about the reverse of childhood nostalgia. The youthful main character romanticizes the prospect of adulthood and independence but once she actually has it, she misses her childhood. So…still about childhood nostalgia technically.) But it seems like she wants us to be very aware of nostalgia as an illusion. This is especially true of the Barbie movie. One of the main characters is a woman who is nostalgic about playing with barbie dolls but when she does so as an adult to cope with her depression, it just makes it worse. And when she actually travels to Barbieland, what she learns is that she’s the smartest person there, thanks to her real-world experience. So it’s hard for me to imagine her doing a take on Narnia that’s not some kind of deconstruction. But that doesn’t sound like Gerwig’s goal at all with her and the producers throwing around words like “reverence.” So, I’m really not sure what she’s going to do and therefore can’t be too positive or too negative. While I’m on the subject of nostalgia, it seems like a recurring theme in Gerwig’s writing is that life can never be perfect and we just have to make the best of our situations, whatever they may be. C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, believed that the reason we long for perfection is that we were made to do so the way fish were made for water. See what I mean about their philosophies not being particularly complementary?

    Gerwig definitely seems like she’s interested in theology, but I don’t get what people mean about her having this big respect for religion. I’m she’s not bigoted towards theists, considering the positive Catholic characters in Lady Bird. But whenever the Catholic characters disagree with the main character on anything really controversial, like anything related to sexuality or politics or anything, we’re supposed to agree with her, not them. Of course, said main character is also initially presented as immature and in need of growth so we shouldn’t assume everything she says or does has Gerwig’s approval. But I think it’s fair to say she sees her protagonist’s bad qualities as existing in spite of her ideology and the Catholic characters’ good qualities as…well, maybe not existing in spite of their ideology but being irrelevant to it. That doesn’t mean she’s vehemently anti-Catholic. It just means she, as a mature adult, acknowledges that people with different beliefs from hers can still be decent at heart. Is that unusual for a director? I’d imagine it was normal for directors interested in making realistic character driven dramas.

    I’ve also heard about the religious allusions she had in mind while making the Barbie movie and I’d honestly describe them as anti-Christian. (If anyone reading this is a Christian, please don’t get turned off of the movie just because of what I’m writing! While Gerwig may have had this subtext in the back of her head, I don’t think it registers when watching the film.) She’s described the character of Barbie losing her innocence after learning about the real world as being analogous to the fall of Man as depicted in the book of Genesis. Christians believe that eating of the forbidden fruit was a terrible sin with long lasting negative consequences. But the movie portrays Barbie’s loss of innocence as sad but ultimately good or, at least, OK. She’s also described Barbie and Ken as a gender flipped Adam and Eve with Barbie being initially created by herself and then Ken being created to complete her (sort of.) The movie ends with Ken being told that he shouldn’t exist just to be Barbie’s boyfriend and that he can find true happiness by living for himself. I don’t see how this can be read as anything other than an indictment of the Christian view of Adam and Eve. (Though, again, I doubt anyone watching the movie is actually thinking about the book of Genesis.) It’s also worth noting that while C. S. Lewis believed that expecting other people to exist to please you was wrong (Remember what I said about mothers?), he also felt that true contentment was found in thinking less about yourself, your own talents and desires, and more about other people. (Note I said “less about yourself,” not “less of yourself.” There’s a difference.) I’m just not seeing that Lewis had anything more in common with Gerwig, philosophically speaking, than he had with any other random filmmaker.

    If my impressions of Gerwig sound different from the impressions you get from her films, maybe that’s because she’s not that great of an artist. I mean, I believe she’s a real artist in that she puts thought and purpose into every shot in her movies. But I don’t think she necessarily succeeds in conveying what she wants with each shot. I adore the script she wrote for Little Women but there aren’t really any other aspects to it that I love. Actually, I’ve been privately speculating that if she makes a movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which seems likely now, it will have the same relationship to the 2005 adaptation as her Little Women movie has to the 1994 adaptation of that book. Basically, that means Gerwig’s version would be smarter and have better dialogue and show more respect for the source material but that the previous version would have better casting and better music and better art direction and just be a more emotional viewing experience on the whole. (I’m not the only one who feels that way about those Little Women movies. The 2019 one has its fan, but I keep running into people who say they prefer the 1994 movie despite my valiant attempts to explain that it really has less dialogue and less well-developed characters than Gerwig’s.)

    If that should come to pass…honestly, I could live with it. 🙂

  9. coracle says:

    @ HTP – I’m afraid that will never happen. The Estate will never approve a film adaptation of a fan fiction – which is what any “original story set in the world of Narnia” would be. If Netflix were to propose such a thing, they would lose their rights to Narnia.
    Narnia could not be treated like a late 20th century cartoon fantasy that can have spinoff stories.

  10. jasmine_tarkheena says:

    @HTP When Walden was doing Narnia, they’ve released a story book called The Giant Surprise. They were kind of testing things out to see if they could do spin off stories. Well, the Estate gave no approval.

    That is to say, Narnia won’t get the same treatment as Marvel, Star Wars, DC Cinematic Universe, etc

    Though it would be idea if Greta Gerwig could give some kind of hint especially if there were things that happened between MN and LWW.

  11. Col Klink says:

    My last comment about Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Narnia adaptations was pretty negative but I just thought of something positive! One of the things that fans of the book took issue the most with the movie version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was that it made the arrival of the main characters in Narnia break the White Witch’s spell rather than Alsan’s arrival. That’s probably what most people adapting the book would do since the conventional wisdom nowadays is that protagonists are supposed to be the ones to save the day. But in Gerwig’s last movie, when a character praises the lead in the end for saving the day, she says, “no, it wasn’t me.” Maybe that means if she adapts LWW, she’d be willing to have Aslan be the one to break the spell.

    OK, I don’t really believe that but I’m trying to be positive!

    I’d Gerwig in that instance was playing with the protagonist-must-save-the-day rule, not ignoring it as did C. S. Lewis. But what she does with Barbie there is comparable to what Lewis did with Jill Pole in The Silver Chair. She’s the main character, Puddleglum is the one who saves the day and, in the end, she learns that she needs to be more like him. Maybe she should adapt that book.

  12. Forrest says:

    Great conversation, and too short at that! I would have listened for another half hour about your thoughts on these tidbits of info we’ve received lately. You should have Impending Doom on again, and any other staffers. Nice to hear different perspectives. I enjoyed the comparing and contrasting of quotes by Adamson, Apted, etc. from the past. The process of adaptation is fascinating, and so rarely pulled off.

    I think I’ve said this before, but I’m very encouraged that Gerwig respects Lewis as a writer and a thinker. I’m glad to see she is reading some of his other work, rather than just paying the usual lip-service typical of filmmakers. She comes across as very literary-minded, very authentically fond and reverent of Lewis’s work. Here’s hoping these films will feel more Lewisian than anything else. The Walden movies sorely lacked Lewis’s voice in many ways.

    I do think it’s obvious which movies she’s adapting, based on the comments she’s made. It must be The Magician’s Nephew and LWW. She has explicitly referenced them and only them. MN and LWW are also a logical pairing for rebooting a series. This way she’s adapting one of the books that has no predecessor, but works as a “beginning,” and following it up with the most famous and beloved of the series. A winning combo. I can’t see rebooting the franchise by starting with any other pairing. I could imagine both films being made back to back so that Netflix would be able to release them within a year of each other. Time will tell.

  13. WhiteStag says:

    Well put. Totally agree with all of that, Forrest! Yes, Impending Doom always has great insights. Yes, I think Gerwig will at the very least improve upon the Narnian atmosphere and character in her adaptations… and yes, my humble logic leads me to the same conclusions as you regarding which books she’ll do, and I really hope we’re right!
    Thanks for another great podcast, team.

  14. Impending Doom says:

    Thanks for the kind words. It was a blast to be on the podcast!