Netflix Is Making A Mistake Putting Narnia Up Against Game Of Thrones

Netflix has the rights to adapt The Chronicles of Narnia for the screen, but need to avoid the obvious route of going grim and gritty.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

No one could blame you if you were unaware that the streaming platform Netflix currently holds the rights to adapt C.S. Lewis’s seven-volume fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia. Though Narnia is one of the recognizable names in fantasy literature, Netflix has done literally nothing with it since it was first licensed in 2018 with no update of any kind (even to C.S. Lewis’s stepson and literary executor Douglas Gresham) since 2020. While it could be that Narnia has taken a backburner to series like The Witcher, we are deeply afraid that the platform is going to try to figure out a way to transform it into competition for Game of Thrones.

There is precedent for this, so it is not like we are being overly paranoid here. Adaptations of high fantasy (which is to say, epic stories set in an entirely fictional world with magical elements) are in a crowded field, and all of the major franchises in the genre have to do what they can to retain audiences. The Witcher needs to switch out a Cavill for a Hemsworth occasionally, The Wheel of Time needs to condense thousands of pages of backstory into a few episodes, and Lord of the Rings needs to get gritty and morally ambiguous to compete with Game of Thrones.

It is that last one that we are particularly nervous about for Netflix’s plans for Narnia. While J.R.R. Tolkien’s (a colleague and friend of C.S. Lewis) Lord of the Rings trilogy of books was a pretty unambiguous good vs evil story, Game of Thrones demonstrated pretty conclusively that modern fantasy audiences are looking for some more gray areas of heroism and villainy. Well, it can be argued that audiences wanted more sex and violence, but it amounts to about the same thing.

As such, Amazon Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings prequel series The Rings of Power began exploring murkier territory like, what if elves were even bigger jerks in the past? What if the orcs were actually abused, tortured wretches who yearn to throw off the chains of their masters? What if Sauron was hot? Imagine if this same approach was taken by Netflix to Narnia.

rings of power
The Rings of Power

Fundamentally, The Chronicles of Narnia exists in a more innocent universe than Game of Thrones (written by George R.R. Martin, who read about the worst parts of the Middle Ages and added dragons) or even Lord of the Rings (which mostly exists so Tolkien could make up some constructed languages). Lewis’s devout religious beliefs are the structure on which Narnia rests and changing that fundamentally makes it a different story.

Funnily enough, even though sex and gore have no place in Narnia, it is frequently a more morally complex place than Westeros or Middle-Earth. In the former, pretty much every decision is made due to some form of self-interest or immediate self-preservation, while the latter rarely has more complicated matters at hand than “should this clearly evil creature be guiltlessly murdered?”

But Narnia is a place where people have to make calls about leadership, bravery, helping one’s friends, the nature of sacrifice, and whether the confection known as Turkish delight is a good enough reason to betray your entire family. It is never going to be able to compete with Game of Thrones in so-called “adult situations,” but Netflix should realize that Narna, even though it was written for children, deals with much more mature decisions.

There is a pretty big chance that Netflix will think that it needs to make Narnia all dark and grim to compete with Game of Thrones, The Witcher, and The Rings of Power. Hopefully, it understands that’s not what people want from Narnia.