Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My take on MGM

With the 70th anniversary of MGM's The Wizard of Oz winding down, I managed to finally collect my thoughts about it.

MGM's The Wizard of Oz isn't one of my favorite movies, Oz or otherwise, but I do enjoy it. I've read a large percentage of L. Frank Baum's works that I guess my view of Oz is pretty tainted by it... (Which is an odd term, considering that they inspired the MGM movie.)

The MGM movie is a tribute to the themes of Baum's story as much as it is an adaptation. It also pays a large tribute to the popular stage production, in its songs, costumes, and set designs. And it was made suitable for people of the late 1930's, and somehow has managed to entertain and delight audiences to this day.

But it's not my Oz! But that doesn't mean I hate it.

Baum created an entire fantasy world in his works, not just limited to Oz. From bordering countries outside the Deadly Desert to islands to places in the sky to kingdoms under the sea and underground. This world was expansive and opened the doors for many stories, only a few of which I believe he actually got to tell.

Although he made Oz a place where anything could (and did) happen, Baum set rules for his stories that followed logic mixed with nonsense. Somehow, he found the right balance that enchanted readers for 20 years. This is an element I've found missing in many Oz stories after Baum's initial fourteen.

In the MGM film, Baum's amazing world is made into a dream, that, like I mentioned above, owes a lot to stage traditions of musicals and set and costume design. While I can understand the need of this for the film audience of the day, for a well-read Baum enthusiast like yours truly, it's kind of a put-off.

All the same, it is a tribute to Baum's world and how it could be adapted to film, with songs and vibrant color. That's why I don't despise it.


Oz RPG said...

While I agree that the MGM movie is over-rated, my experience with adaptations has shown me that you must be flexible. I've seen some adaptations that were very faithful to the original source, and suffered for it. Each medium has its quirks and shorthands that make it go. Learning what those are and adapting them to the story you want to tell is key.

Anonymous said...

Despise is a strong word.

Jared said...

You're right (as usual), Al. It is.