August 24, 2009

Wizard of Oz Sequel: Is Nothing Sacred?

As a movie nerd, there are some films that I've seen a ridiculous amout of times. I've seen The Blues Brothers over 100 times. I remember taping the movie off of CityTV back in the mid-80's, shortly after we got a VCR - which we rented for like two years instead of actually buying one for some reason - and I never really recorded much else, so The Blues Brothers was watched many, many times. Around that same time, I became smitten with horror films and for a good five year stretch I was obsessed with Friday the 13th movies. Even now, despite the fact I can clearly tell what lousy films they are, they series holds a spot in my heart tinged with nostalgia. As a result, I've seen Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter upwards of 40 times. (Interestingly, The Final Chapter wasn't so final, less then a year later a sequel came out. This series is so messed up that two films in the series have Final in their subtitle and neither of them are the last of the sequels!)

Somewhere down the list of multiple-viewing flicks is The Wizard of Oz. TVO used to air it a couple of times a year and I would watch it with my mother from as early as I could remember. Recently my daughter, who is two and half, has started to find the television interesting after largely ignoring everything but hockey when she wandered by the screen. I was amazed when my friend and movie reviewer/journalist Chris Alexander told me his young son, who was half the age of my daughter loved watching flicks with him. I began to plot out the films I would introduce my little lady to first. A couple of months ago I was at a Fall Preview for Warner Brothers Home Entertainment (hoping to bag a few free Blu-Rays like I did at their previous event, no luck) and one of the things they were showcasing was a deluxe 70th Anniversary Edition of The Wizard of Oz. (Out September 29th) I turned to my buddy Johnny Hockin, who was attending with me, and told him I would be grabbing that when it came out to watch with my little monster.

1939, the year Oz was produced, was a truly extraordinary year for American cinema. Joining The Wizard of Oz that year in cinemas were Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights and Stagecoach. It took me many years to discover the other special films that were made that year, but The Wizard of Oz was introduced to me as a very young child and the movie was pure magic to me. Having the movie go from black and white to color blew my tiny mind and a story of witches, tornadoes, munchkins, lions and tigers and bears (oh my) and the magical Emerald City is like catnip for a child. I loved this movie.

So how will Hollywood piss all over this legacy and taint my memories of the movie? With a shitty sequel, of course! Now, it should be noted that they've tried this before. In the mid-60's and again in the mid-70's animated follow ups were made. Journey Back to Oz and Return to Oz respectively didn't register a blip on the pop culture radar. In 1985, all of the books in the Oz
series by creator Frank Baum became public domain and Walt Disney quickly churned out a sequel, also called Return to Oz and because all of the books were now public domain, they didn't need permission from MGM, the studio behind the original film. This follow up was live-action, starred Fairuza Balk as Dorothy and was incredibly dark and frankly pretty creepy for a Disney flick. I kid you not, the movie opens with Dorothy - still a young girl - being subjected to shock therapy. The movie had a very large budget for 1985 - $25 million - and only made $11 million at the box office after opening up in 7th spot.

The utter failures of the sequels haven't stopped them from trying though. Today I read that Dakota Fanning is set to star in yet another sequel that will be produced by Canadian Todd MacFarlane. MacFarlane's involvement doesn't exactly make me feel like maybe this is something worth exploring. His filmmaking credentials include the lousy Spawn movie and a Korn video he directed. But it's not just his not-so-impressive resume that leads me to believe that this new sequel will be an insult to the original film. The new movie will be set in present day, with Fanning portraying the original Dorothy's grandaughter. MacFarlane explains more about the character: "You've still got Dorothy trapped in an odd place, but she's much closer to the Ripley character from Alien than a helpless singing girl."

Sounds great, Todd. Sounds like you really get what made the first movie so special. I think I'll stick with the new special edition Blu-Ray and MacFarlane can stick to making super shitty movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment