Let’s all agree: the 1939 film The Wizard of OZ is a classic. The film’s fantastical backdrop, the memorable songs, and the vivid use of Technicolor swirled together like magic, amounting to a piece of cinematic art that’s one of the more “perfect” movies in existence. Amazing then, that after the film’s release, Hollywood rarely returned to the world of OZ. Save for 1985’s dark, semi-sequel Return to OZ (a film directed by Frank Oz that sees Dorothy institutionalized for believing she traveled to the far away land), audiences have never returned to the wondrous place that’s been forever burned into our memories.
There’s an obvious fear of trying to replicate the magic of Wizard of OZ — how do you top it? — but if there’s one man for the job, it’s Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. In the new movie OZ, The Great and Powerful, the colorful, fantasy world of OZ is reexplored through the eyes of a recognizable character: the Wizard. Raimi, the guy behind the first three Spidey movies, Evil Dead and heartfelt flicks like The Gift and For Love of the Game, seems like the right man for the job. To star as The Wizard, Raimi enlisted James Franco — an unexpected choice. Did the duo pull it off?
Raimi describes his Wizard as a selfish man, who turns his life around by meeting people in OZ. “The Wizard” starts off as a carnival magician, but he lacks human skills — but he has a good heart. He thinks the way to greatness is fame and fortune. Raimi describes him as limited. He’s down on his luck, he’s an adulterer and eventually, he’s chased out of Kansas. He escapes the mob scene in a balloon…which gets swept up into OZ!
And that’s where the exclusive Comic-Con trailer picks up. Things start in Kansas, with black and white that’s in the old school television aspect ratio (a nice throwback). When The Wizard takes to the skies, he encounters a giant tornado, like the Disney version of Twister. When he ends up on the other side in OZ, the picture transforms a la the 1939 film. Things are bright (even with 3D glasses on) and colorful, the world popping with fantastical imagery. Alice in Wonderland took a similar approach, creating its world all in CG, and OZ runs with the style and then some. The trailer flashed plenty of intriguing images: talking dolls, explosions, bubbly fairy, Rachel Weisz as a devilish looking evil witch, Michelle Williams elegant as always, long shots of scenic vistas (both dangerous and Mordor like, and the Emerald City that looks straight out of a painting).
One thing the footage doesn’t reveal is the depths of Franco’s performance. It’s a fish out of water story, and much of Franco’s interactions are akin to “oh my what is that thing!” gasps (you know, a classic acting school move). The movie is packed with Raimi’s imagination, but the first look footage is light on the human element.
Wizard of OZ wowed folks in the ’30s with its design, but also with its heart. OZ, Great and Powerful looks to deliver the former, now we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if Franco can deliver the second half.
We caught the very first footage from OZ, The Great and Powerful at San Diego Comic-Con and here’s what we saw:
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[Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures]