Saturday, September 05, 2009

Twisted Oz And Why It Doesn't Work

So, recently word has risen again about the Oz movie that Todd McFarlane and Josh Olson (or Olsen?) are attached to. While an interview with McFarlane left some Oz fans feeling sour, some more realistic news from Josh may have helped soothe the bad feelings a bit. Whichever way, this blogger has opted not to follow this movie until the trailer is released, if it ever is.

There's been talks of darker takes on Oz as movies over the years, and dark, twisted forms of Oz have appeared in comic books, action figures (which is why McFarlane isn't exactly a fond name among Oz fans), and novels. Oz has largely been reduced to a niche market outside of the MGM movie, it seems, and most of these efforts have met with only moderate success at best.

The most successful dark take on Oz has been Wicked, which wasn't exactly dark as it was an adult re-imagining of the Oz mythos. When it was adapted for the highly successful Broadway musical, it went through a major tonal shift that made it more family-oriented.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe anyone (outside of weird people like Todd McFarlane) would want to see a twisted take on Oz. Many of us fans loyal to the books only got a taste of seeing Baum's world faithfully depicted onscreen in Disney's Return to Oz, the last Oz movie to hit the big screen. Yes, there have been no new theatrically-released Oz movies for almost 25 years, though word is that's going to change next year.

The reason why many of us Oz fans don't want a dark, twisted take on Oz presented in theaters is because that is what most people will notice. Because it's easier to digest, most people will watch a movie or TV before they'd read a book. We don't need our fandom dragged through the mud. We don't want people to think we love Oz because of blood, gore, violence, sex, or swearing. That is not what Oz is.

(Sorry for not going in depth here. Wrote this quickly before work.)

EDIT: After reading this, my friend Sam Milazzo wanted to share this:

Oz was not written as a dark place, nor was it ever really hinted at being dark, not even hidden beneath the sunny surface . . . Nor should be attempted or even thought of. It is this simple story of laughter, hard work, perseverance against odds and standing up against the tyrannical, that makes it completely unsuitable to be darkened. There are many other fantasy stories out there that are intentionally dark, and so Oz by comparison needs to be light in tone and story to be loved, because its original written word shows nothing other than that.

Most of all, there are several adaptations of the story out there, which connect with the Musical audience, the (aforementioned) sometimes Dark audience, the cartoon audience, the Cultural audience, the adult audience (Wicked), and even the modern audience (Tin Man) . . . but there is not a film out there for the book Audience, for not even Disney's Return to Oz has managed to capture that entirely.


Mikelo! said...

I couldn't agree with you more on this. While we do have comics and novels that explore a darker side of Oz, what we need now isn't an "updated movie with modern sensibilities" or some crap like that, but a movie willing to be faithful to the source material.

I strongly feel that we got that with "Lord of the Rings" and "The Chronicles of Narnia." Awesome movies based off of awesome books. Why is no one taking notes from Peter Jackson or Walden Media? Come think of it, why isn't Walden jumping on Oz?

Chris Dulabone said...

Thank you for posting this. It defines what many of us must be experiencing at the hands of all those who want to fill Oz with misery to the point that it no longer even resembles anything Baum intended. I have heard tell of many hateful new movies, none of which I'm anxious to see. I hope this doesn't qualify as an attack on the movie folk.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Chris, most of these movies won't ever get made.

Barking Alien said...

I couldn't agree more..."but"

What is dark? Hollywood claptrap dark is definitely something I wouldn't want associated with Baum's work but that is not to say there should be no influences of a spooky and creepy nature.

Baum constructed his 'American Fairy Tale' at a time before Disney had all the Grimm and Aesop Fairy Tales sugar coated and then dipped in chocolate for good measure.

I personally thought Return to Oz was pretty awesome and much closer to the Oz in the books then the (still awesome) MGM musical. It was also, for all intent and purposes, quite dark.

Its not darkness I fear creeping in, its crap I fear creeping in. McFarlance and others in his vein tend to have a much better handle on childish crap than they do 'Wicked' (the play)style darkness.