05 March 2013

Yes, I’ve Heard About the New Movie

Soon after I first joined the International Wizard of Oz Club in late 1976, its journal, The Baum Bugle, was full of articles about the making of the The Wiz. How many stars the movie would have! How many costumes had been sewn! How many square miles of yellow linoleum had been laid in New York City to simulate the Yellow Brick Road!

Then the movie came out, a critical and financial disappointment. Bad casting and overproduction not only sank the film but in some ways ended the “blaxploitation” business for years.

A few years later, the journal reported the imminent arrival of Return to Oz, Disney’s first big-budget attempt to use its movie rights to L. Frank Baum’s later Oz books. Again, the technical aspects of the production caught the attention of the press, particularly the appearances of many Baum characters and such feats as filming in a hall of mirrors.

Then the movie came out. As Buzzfeed’s article “The 11 Most Traumatizing Moments from Return to Oz catalogues, it was a dreary, anxiety-ridden mashup of two of Baum’s most popular novels. The movie has many moments straight from my childhood favorites, all in a tone that made me wonder why they had ever appealed to me so strongly.

That track record is why I haven’t been writing enthusiastically, or even mildly optimistically, about Oz the Great and Powerful, due out this weekend. I’m curious about this new movie, but I’ve been disappointed before.

Newspapers and magazines, needing content to separate one movie studio’s ads from another, have offered many articles this month on the production and the Oz mythos. The New York Times’s contribution on Sunday started out by spelling the name of the Good Witch of the South as “Glenda.” The Boston Globe’s design-driven discussion of Oz’s influence on American culture didn’t even mention Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins. So I’m not becoming any more optimistic.

1 comment:

Glenn Ingersoll said...

"So are you looking forward to that new Oz movie?"

"Uh. I'll go see it. But I'm keeping my expectations low."