Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why Narnia Hits While Golden Compass Flops - C.S.Lewis v Philip Pullman

Absolutely fascinating story in the latest edition of Time magazine

Can God make one movie franchise a hit and another a flop? That was the question hovering over the first film adaptations of two best-selling fantasy series for children, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Lewis' series of seven books, published in the 1950s, was widely seen as a Christian allegory, presided over by the God-lion Aslan, who dies and rises again. Pullman's trilogy, written in the 1990s, described a battle between a dictatorial deity and the rebel angels determined to defeat him. As the author told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, "My books are about killing God."

Not quite yet, the Almighty seemed to say when the initial movies based on these franchises were released. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe premiered in late 2005 and earned a burly $291.7 million at the domestic box office, plus $453.1 million abroad, briefly becoming Walt Disney Co.'s all-time top-grossing live-action film. The first sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, has just arrived, with blockbuster expectations. And the next chapter, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has already reserved the first May weekend of 2010 to open in movie theaters around the world.

The Golden Compass, the first of the Pullman trilogy, reached the screen last December. It cost the same as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ($180 million) but grossed only $70 million at the domestic box office.

The very respectable $301 million the movie earned in foreign markets wasn't enough to mask the disappointment of its producing studio, New Line. No sequels were green-lighted, and in February New Line was folded into its parent company, Warner Bros.

For the full story link to Time online here or buy a copy of the magazine now on sale.
Photo above showing Ben Barnes & Warwick Davis in a scene from Prince Caspian also from Time.

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