The original Wizard of Oz, the one we have all seen many times, is on a very short list of nearly perfect movies. Everything about the 1939 film is superb in excess. It’s as fun to watch today as it was over seventy years ago and you cannot honestly say that about many films. Because Oz is such a towering film classic it has overshadowed all cinematic attempts to reenter and reimagine Frank L. Baum’s world. Without exception every Oz wanna-be, and there have been many, suck like motivated gay prostitutes. Perhaps if we hadn’t seen the original, Oz the Great and Powerful, might be judged a “good” film, but we have and this overblown homage underscores, yet again, the magnificence of the 1939 Oz. I have some advice for Baum fans. If you want to reimagine his world — read his damn books! Believe it or not the book, The Wizard of Oz, is as good, if not better than the film classic. As for film makers — just stop it! Oz is close to sacred ground; if you’re not a Kubrick-level cinematic genius, and very few of you are, all you’re going to do is embarrass yourself and induce Dorothy nostalgia in your audience.
Watching Oz the Great and Powerful (OGP) has its own minor schizophrenic charms. On the good witch side OGP is another stunning special effects extravaganza. 21st century movies are now in a weird place; if you can imagine it you can render it on the screen. If the ancient Greeks had a god of special movie effects it’s unlikely he could top your average contemporary big budget — tiny brain — movie. For decades producers and directors have strived to out-effect each other and they’ve finally ended up in a place Sophocles would recognize. Real improvements in modern movies can come from only one place: better stories! It was the telling of the story that distinguished the 1939 Oz. They took brilliant source material and merged it with equally brilliant songs. This is incredibly difficult and rarely achieved. In OGP’s case they didn’t even try. The suits that ruin Disney these days have a reputation for phoning stories in. With OGP they’ve out John Carter’ed themselves. I believe a bad Oz witch went all premenstrual on the screen writers. How else can you explain the transformation of classic source material into the Phantom Menace of Oz?