With two new interpretations of The Wizard of Oz on the horizon, it’s clear that the story of Oz has not lost its magic.
The Wizard of Oz is a classic childhood story that is loved by grown-ups and children alike, although it has had something of a chequered past. Despite winning two Academy Awards, it was initially a box office failure. And L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, upon which it is based, was once banned in public libraries in Detroit for being too negative and for not being of any value to the learning of contemporary children.
The dark undertones of The Wizard of Oz were significantly heightened in the 1985 sequel, Return of Oz. The director, Walter Murch, wished to deal with the metaphysical issues that Baum raised in the books, such as ‘Where is the self? Can the self survive dismemberment of the body?’ Murch clearly wanted to explore the dark aspects of the Oz mythology alluded to in the original film and then take them a step further.
Oz: The Great and Powerful, which will be released in 2013, is being directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman, The Evil Dead). Starring James Franco as Oscar ‘soon-to-be-Wizard-of-Oz’ Diggs as well as Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz as the witches, it tells the story of an ordinary Kansas man, whisked away to Oz where he becomes the eponymous great and powerful wizard. And there’s also, though currently a little further away from multiplexes, the highly anticipated screen adaptation of Wicked, the wildly successful stage musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Many will ask whether the new films can stand up to their classic predecessors. But it will be exciting to see whether these new films can actually bring anything fresh to the merry old land of Oz.