A couple of months ago I saw a commercial for Oz the Great and Powerful. It stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away. Not necessarily because it looked amazing, but because I love the Oz universe (and somehow missed that they were making another Oz movie).
That book pictured above? My copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which I have owned since I was a kid. I’ve read it several times, and the cover and first few pages were a casualty of my childhood. Even though not much of the story was missing, a few years ago I realized that I could pull the first few pages from the Internet since the book is in the public domain, and I printed it out and kept it in the back cover.
I (like everyone else) adore the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz, and I used to watch it every year on TV when I was a kid. And I looked forward to watching it even though I always had a nightmare about the Wicked Witch of the West afterwards.
Eventually my parents just bought a special edition VHS copy that I may or may not have taken with me when I graduated from college and moved into my own apartment.
When the movie was re-released in 1998, I excitedly saw it in the theaters. Though I was a tiny bit disappointed that certain elements, such as the leaves in the cornfield, looked fake in the restored version, I was still impressed at how well the movie held up and tickled to be watching on the big screen.
A few years ago, very late to the party, I discovered Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, and then discovered it was also a hit Broadway musical that had actually started performances in San Francisco. (I live under a rock.) And I really loved both the book and the musical, even asking my husband to take me to see the show for my birthday when it came back to town and making him buy tickets once they went on sale although it was five months in advance.
Though to be honest, I was actually initially a little bit suspicious, nay, protective when I first read Wicked. It claimed to have been consistent with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and a couple other Oz books, but I was skeptical. So that sent me back to re-read the supposed inspiration books. Much to my pleasant surprise, there were a lot of delightful elements, many in Wicked, that I had forgotten in the years since I had read the first book, colored obviously by having seen the movie multiple times in the intervening years.
Combined with investigating the basis of Wicked, the realization that the books were in the public domain started me on the task of reading all of the L. Frank Baum books. A project, I am sad to admit, that I never completed. An unfortunate consequence of the combination of my being super-busy at my crazy job and the fact that, after the first book, some of the others are a wee bit insufferable to an adult.
Admittedly, I have never seen Return to Oz all the way through. I caught it on TV when I was a kid, and, quite frankly, it scared the crap out of me. I should probably revisit it one of these days. And I do enjoy The Wiz, which takes up its own special spot in my heart.
At any rate, when I saw the trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful, my excitement was tempered by wariness. First, while the production looked big-budget and slick, it also looked a little bit goofy. And second, well, James Franco.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of affection for James Franco. He’s obviously very talented and I love that he seems so self-aware. He’s kind of a local boy. I enjoy watching him, but his performances are often a little bit messy, and in the commercial he stuck out like a sore thumb – like James Franco spoofing the Wizard of Oz rather than being the Wizard of Oz. It didn’t help that it looked like it should have been Johnny Depp playing the character, which apparently it was supposed to be originally.
That said, it looks like it will be visually stunning, and Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Mila Kunis are all great actresses. So factoring in everything, I am going to try to finally get to see a movie in the theaters. (My last trip to the multiplex was for Toy Story 3, pre-kids!)
I’m doing my best to ignore the reviews, although the unavoidable buzz does seem to be on the side disappointment.
Here’s hoping my love of Oz and soft spot for James Franco will cushion the blow.