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The Not-So-Merry Old Land of Oz

Not cool. Seriously not cool.

It’s one thing to mess with my childhood by making a Smurfs movie or remaking Flight of the Navigator or Neverending Story, but it’s another thing to screw with my gran’s childhood. Well, at least it’s not a remake – it’s a long-distance sequel. Yes, Dakota Fanning has been cast as the lead in a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. And not only that, she’s going to be hip and cool while Oz itself is going to be darker and edgier – like every good Hollywood property. I’m cringing inside already.

One crossover I don't want to see...

One crossover I don't want to see...

Seriously? Okay, I kow I have no right to get all pious and angry. I know there have been numerous sequels and spin-offs and reimaginings already. I know about The Wiz, featuring Richard Pryor as the titular wizard, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Diana Ross as the lead. I’ve seen Return to Oz years ago and remember being traumatised (though possibly in a good way) – I might watch that again. I know that cult classic Sean-Connery-in-a-diaper movie Zardoz is a sci-fi/fantasy reimagining of the concept. It even has a spin-off in the revisionist book and musical (and likely soon film) Wicked, which looks at the Wicked Witch as a misunderstood hero. The idea has been around the block. And the original wasn’t even that massive. It had a fairly poor theatrical run, somewhat redeemed by a long life on holiday television. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be sacred.

But it is.

It’s a true modern fairytale, one that is universal and beloved. It is a Christmas staple. It is 70 years old this year. If anyone in Dublin is reading this, I can’t recommend the Christmas shows in the Helix enough. Truly a magical evening. It’s a rich and shared cultural heritige. And it isn’t just a piece of mouldy old history. My little sister loved the original, as did my aunt and as did my gran. It doesn’t need to be updated to be relevant. If you want to exploit it, stick the original film back on the cinema screen. You don’t even need new special effects or 3D or any gimmicks. I’d pay my €10 just to stop you befouling a classic.

But alas, that is not enough for Hollywood. So whereas Batman got unceremoniously offed for his seventieth, but also got his best adaptation in any medium, you’re just going to drop a house on this classic. The Wizard of Oz was magical and colourful and different – both then and now. And what are you bringing to the new feature film? A checklist of modern girl-friendly childrens’ film cliches:

  • it’s set in the modern day, because children can’t relate to anything that isn’t right here and now!
  • it will feature Dorothy’s grandaughter, who will be fiesty and aggressive; because the advent of feminism (they compared her to Ripley) means you can’t have innocent young leading ladies who are slightly intrigued and intimidated by a world of witches and talking lions, no!
  • the film will be darker and edgier; not that there isn’t anything terrifying in the original film; what they likely mean is that they will add more gore and slime and boo moments – that doesn’t make adult horror films scarier, it won’t work on a PG-13 film!

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they announced that the Jonas Brothers would be providing the soundtrack with Miley Cyrus delivering a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The infuriating thing is that Baum (the author of the original) wrote a series of sequels. They are similar in tone to the original. While I think the film is superior to the original childrens’ book, I’d be far more comfortable if the studios announced that they were filming one of those books. At least then you could be guarunteed that the story followed the spirit of the original.

To say nothing of the visuals. The original still looks amazing because its wonderful fakeness. It looks exactly like Disneyworld. But in a good way. It looks as fake as you imagine a fantasy world would. The colour is turned up to eleven, everything (even the trees) are conspicuously crafted and placed, and you can see the cardboard background a few feet behind Dorothy in more than a few scenes. But it works. It works because it is so ernest and sincere and because nothing ever really looked like it. I mean, they’ve tried – often with bigger budgets and more advanced technology – but nothing has come too close. I can see this reworking using all the cutting-edge technology that 3D and other such gimmicks in an attempt to look state of the art. It’ll just end up looking like every other movie. However, I’ll concede that the look of the film is not really of importance. It’s what we’ve been told of the story and premise that worries me.

Still, who knows? The sooner the film comes out, the sooner we can all get around to forgetting that it ever existed.

Maybe if I click my heels.

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2 Responses

  1. hehe. funny piece, although i reckon youre a little too worried. just dont go see it. am more concerned about tim burton applying his own ‘vision’ to alice in wonderland.
    the wizard of oz is just a remarkable film – fun, scary and beautiful to watch. it blows my mind watching it today, i cant imagine what that leap from black and white into colour would have felt like in 1939.
    i also cant imagine what they would do with it now. id take it down the action movie route myself – instead of Dorothy being such a whining little cow, have her pack some heat
    easy tagline too: ‘The Witch Is Back…’

  2. thanks my friend

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