The Great and Powerful? Who will be the new Oz?

Shooting Begins on ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful”
The Disney film has a March 8, 2013, release date.

As I sit and listen to my daughter read from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz* I wonder why, when there are so many of the original L. Frank Baum Oz books yet to be adapted, would yet another spin-off of “The Wizard of Oz” surface. For arguments sake, yes – I would dare say that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” could possibly be the most fascinating of the 14 original Baum books. But wait, haven’t 90% of all on-screen adaptations been in some form or the other, a re-adaptation of  Victor Fleming’s 1939 version of 1900 book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”?

It is almost like that summer in 1996, when Baz Luhrmann took  Leonardo Dicaprio and put him opposite of Claire Danes in Shakespeares epic story of, “Romeo and Juliet.” Coincidentally, my 14 year old brother had been given the assignment of reading and reporting on the play. There was no getting him into this story. I asked him what the problem was and he responds, so what exactly does, “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear” mean? Who is Ethiope and why stick a jewel in his ear? He had a point. So off to the cinema we go, not sure of what to expect and if Shakespeare would’ve approved of Leo in the lead. To my surprise, the modern adaptation was riveting and engaging, especially to a young boy whom understands the “street” Shakespearean over the “classic”  Shakespearean rhetoric.

The Problem:
Is understanding synonymous with appreciation?
My point: Many ‘great’ pieces of literature and cinema are being replaced by adaptations.
The concern: Are we forgetting that Shakespeare has written over 37 comedies and tragedies combined and this beautiful writing is being repeatedly diluted into mediocre over-adaptations. Are we teaching our children that there is more that just The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the Oz Book Series, to be precise…14 more?

So what does this all mean and what does it have to do with The Wizard of Oz? For my grandmother (who grew up blocks from the original 1939 set), nothing will ever be as memorable as the 1900 book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. My mother would politely agree but whisper to the child version of me, “The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland is by far better than the book.” I would have to agree with my mother but in high school, The Wiz with Micheal Jackson was pretty amazing.

“According to an article published by Moviefone, Disney hopes that Oz: The Great and Powerful will replicate the commercial performance of a similar 3-D fantasy film; Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland (2010).” ~ Wikipedia

After the adult mom version of me finishes listening to her daughter read from, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz*,  she asks her daughter, “So what do you think about the new movie Oz: The Great and Powerful? It will be similar to the style of Tim Burton’s (my daughter is a HUGE fan) Alice in Wonderland?” My daughter rests her cheek on her arm and responds, “What book is that?” and I say, “It is a made-up movie based on The Wizard from Oz.” She thinks for a minute and says, “Maybe if it were more like the real The Wizard of Oz,” surprised, I reply “Honey, I thought you loved Tim Burton! Why do you want it to be like the original?” She smiles and says, “Because it isn’t as like, crazy and stuff.”

Sometimes being truly “original” makes something “new” more memorable.

* The #4 book in the Oz books by L. Frank Baum.

Comments are closed.