I find it a little odd that after a century of publications, continuations, and reinventions of L. Frank Baum’s ‘Oz’ world in literature, the realm has been explored so little on film. The 1939 classic version of The Wizard of Oz obviously towers over the rest of the franchise’s legacy, but the film only explored the tip of the iceberg, and subsequent cinematic attempts to dive deeper into Oz, like Return to Oz or The Wiz, haven’t exactly breathed new life into Baum’s world.
I still can’t say for sure whether or not Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful will be the project to finally crack Oz on film once more, but I really like what I see in this second trailer, released today and embedded below.
The footage is visually marvelous, first and foremost, making brilliant use of color and bursting with enticing design choices at every turn (check it out in HD over at Apple if you have the chance). The teaser trailer left me cold thanks to the abundance of CGI, but it looks like more work has been done between then and now, and the visuals meld much more seamlessly in this latest footage. So much of what Oz has to offer lies in the aesthetics, and if Raimi has achieved nothing else, it appears that he has indeed created a fully realized Oz vision on film, one that is bigger, bolder, and more fleshed out than anything we’ve seen before.
I’m less confident in the film’s ‘prequel’ structure, made obvious by the narrative thrust of the trailer. It really looks like Disney is intent on tying their film in with the 1939 classic, and while that makes total sense from a commercial standpoint, I don’t think it’s a creatively invigorating idea. Victor Fleming’s film is wonderful, but it’s only one (very loose) interpretation of what Baum wrote, and with a filmmaker like Sam Raimi on board, I’d rather see Oz: The Great and Powerful strike a distinct, original road for itself. It’s possible the final film will be its own beast entirely, but for now – especially with that final shot of the Wicked Witch – Disney is selling this as ‘MGM’s Wizard 0.5,” and I don’t know how much narrative interest I have in that story.
That being said, the cast looks great. James Franco as the wizard? Genius. Mila Kunis as female lead in a magical epic? What took Hollywood so long? Raimi has always been good with actors and character dynamics, and there are hints of nice character arcs and relationships on display here that could play out quite well in the final film.
Check out the full trailer below, and sound off in the comments with your thoughts on the preview.
Oz: The Great and Powerful arrives in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theatres on March 8th, 2013.