Is “Captain America: The First Avenger” the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies? The correct answer is, of course, “for the first half, yes.” The introduction to Chris Evans’ WW2 super-soldier is an evocative, beautifully realized, rather charming, funny-without-being-quippy joy in its first half, and certainly the most emotionally potent of the Marvel films, before getting quite boring quite fast in its action-heavy second half.
Even so, it remains one of the better MCU movies, so it’s a little puzzling that Joe Johnston, the film’s director — who was also behind films including “The Rocketeer,” “Jumanji,” “Jurassic Park III” and, uh, “The Wolfman” (though he only came on to that mess a month before shooting began, so don’t blame him too much) — didn’t get more credit for it. The 66-year-old helmer has only made one subsequent movie, the little-seen Max Minghella thriller “Not Safe For Work,” since. But that’s about to change, as Variety have announced that Johnston’s returning to tentpole territory for a new entry in the long-dormant “The Chronicles of Narnia” franchise.
First reaching screens in 2005 with “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe,” Walden Media’s adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory fantasy series was initially a massive hit, taking $750 million worldwide, but sequels “Prince Caspian” in 2008 and “The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader” in 2010 saw a steep box office fall off, even with a change of distributor from Disney to Fox with the third film. And while $400 million hauls are nothing to be sniffed at, the films were expensive enough that they presumably struggled to draw a profit.
But with Walden Media’s rights expiring in 2011, a new version of the franchise has been in the works with the Mark Gordon Company and TriStar, and now the backers have landed a director in the shape of Johnston, who’ll work from a script by “Life Of Pi” writer David Magee on an adaptation of the fourth book in the series. It drops the kids central to the first three books to focus on Eustace Scrubb (played by Will Poulter in ‘Dawn Treader’) as he and his friend Jill travel to Narnia on a quest to find Prince Rilian and battle the Lady Of The Green Kirtle.
The book is… not the best in the series, and we’re a little surprised they’re not starting over from the beginning, but on the plus side, the writer and director pairing is the best that the franchise has had to offer so far, and without the certain cheapness and preachiness that Walden brought to the series, this could easily turn out to be a welcome revival. There’s no word on when to expect the film in theaters, but we imagine 2019 is the best bet at this point.