If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: The Wizard of Oz (Pt. 2)

Remakes must be handled delicately. Prequels, sequels, or even mere extensions of filmic classics are risky endeavors. Cheaper by the Dozen was unimpressive. Alice in Wonderland was typical. There has never been a great adaptation of Gatsby, so I have hope for Leo DiCaprio. Taking The Wizard of Oz and altering it in any form or fashion is like painting the Statue of Liberty purple. “Wow, let’s take this beautiful relic of history and change it!” No. That’s a joke and not a real suggestion.

If there’s an agreement to not paint the Statue of Liberty purple… why would Hollywood take the storyline of L. Frank Baum’s Oz  books and place James Franco in the lead role with the use of horrible CGI? This does not compute in my head. Look, I know Oz is a one-in-a-million storyline and plot… and even the 1939 version does not completely match the books (and was a remake of silent films). Still, it is a relic and the film industry needs to leave it be.

First of all, Mila Kunis’ face (which I’m pretty sure was altered by technology) looked like Jim Carrey in The Mask. There are brilliant make-up artists in the industry that could slap on appropriate prosthetics and green paint and call it a day. Again, technology is used as a time-saver … however, that doesn’t mean you should use it! The monkey, Frank, and China Girl were also poorly crafted. Part of the charm of Oz is the ability to form landscapes, creatures, people, and an entire fantasy world without the help of modern-day technology. Any great director — from Melies to Hitchcock — found ways around their technical difficulties and created the illusion themselves. I’m sure it would have been one hundred times easier to create a fake bird in a computer design program and duplicate it for The Birds, but wouldn’t the purpose of editing to create suspense and disbelief be lost? I looked at Frank and China Girl and thought only of their appearance distorted by technology.

The truth is, I’m just being selfish. I want the past to remain in the past and technology to remain in the present. If children grow up watching Oz the Great and Powerful, they will be lukewarm to the original film and likely celebrate the new technology. Just like the stage adaptation I saw this week. I fear our only creativity will be with the click of a mouse rather than using our hands or minds to form the relics of history.

And everyone knows that if you’re going to mess with Oz, the obvious choice is Wicked.

Wicked is loved, revered, adored, rejoiced by most audiences — especially fans of the original Oz books and the 1939 film. The story is well-constructed, the Broadway production was a roaring success, and there is actual talent in the roles of the characters. This is my only approval of toying with The Wizard of Oz… you must use Wicked. Nothing else. If you’re going to adapt something… do it properly!

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