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After Going Back to Wonderland, Do We Really Need to Return to Oz?

Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Michelle Williams as Glinda. [source: totalfilm.com]

Once again, Disney feels the need to venture into another fantastical world with an eccentric director as our tour guide. This time, however, it’s thankfully not Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp is nowhere to be found. Disney has chosen Sam Raimi as their kooky auteur-of-the-moment and James Franco as their star. He plays Oscar Diggs, also known as The Great and Powerful Oz, a small-time magician who becomes the savior of the Land of Oz. Rounding out the cast is Rachel Weisz as Evanora (The Wicked Witch of the East), Mila Kunis as Theodora (The Wicked Witch of the West), and Michelle Williams as Glinda (The Good Witch of the South).

The film is actually a prequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland. It tells the story of how Oscar ended up in Oz and the events that lead to him becoming “The Wizard.” From the trailer, you can see he gets caught up in a tornado, just like Dorothy, whilst hot-air ballooning away from the black-and-white, pre-technicolor Kansas to accomplish greater things. Once through the twister, he finds himself in a strange new place, and in color, where he must battle an evil witch and save the inhabitants of this fantastical new world.

Seriously…WTF?! [source: rottentomatoes.com]

Although I’m a bit excited to revisit The Emerald City, I’m a bit leery to take the trip after Disney’s last “magical” journey, Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t hate the film, but by that point, I had my fill of Burton/Depp/Bonham Carter collaborations. It was a visually beautiful film, though. The costumes, characters designs, and set designs were all incredible. Except for Depp’s Mad Hatter. I enjoyed the way he played him, but not the way that he looked  like a cross between Madonna and a cracked-out clown.

The title of the film also should’ve been changed. There was a lot of confusion as to whether the film was a remake or a sequel. Upon viewing the film, it was easy to see that it was a sequel, but many were still perplexed. I overheard a lot of angry people talking about how it was a completely different story than the original, and Disney ruined it because they changed the story. The story wasn’t changed, just continued. In all fairness, it would have made more sense to call the film Through the Looking Glass or something other than Alice in Wonderland. It would’ve helped with a lot of the confusion and anger.

Thankfully, Disney is not making the same mistake twice, and hopefully, people won’t see the word “Oz” and think this is just a remake.

I will admit that I am a bit more excited for this film than I was for Alice, even though I’m more a fan of the story of Alice. However, I am still skeptical. Sam Raimi is one my favorite directors, but he has made some stink bombs (i.e. Spiderman 3, Drag Me to Hell), so there’s a chance this film might take a nosedive into the Poo-town City Pool. His good films (i.e. Evil Dead trilogy, Spiderman 1&2, The Gift, The Quick and The Dead) do outweigh the bad ones, but after Spiderman 2, most of us thought Spiderman 3 was going to be phenomenal; it was nothing but a huge letdown.

James Franco as Oz. [source: ifc.com]

Strangely, James Franco playing the lead does not worry me. He’s quickly become one of my favorite actors and is a greater talent than most give him credit for. I believe he will carry this film quite well, and his supporting cast, especially the actresses cast as the witches, will make his performance stronger. I’m not worried about the visuals or designs either. I think this film will look stunning, better than Alice.

I’m not gonna hold my breath, thinking this film is going to be the greatest film ever, but I will say that I am eager to see how this all turns out. And I hope it turns out well. I don’t need another film taking a crap on a favorite story from my childhood. I need one that’ll knock the dust off and polish it up, give it a new shine.

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