Thursday, March 07, 2013

See the Wizard!

In a couple hours, I'll be in the theater, getting ready to see Oz the Great and Powerful. There hasn't been a new Oz movie on the big screen in Springfield since 1985. (They have screened MGM's The Wizard of Oz.)

I'm excited to say the least! I've read a couple books for the film. One was the Junior Novelization, which tells the story of the movie, which had a horrible writing style and is likely skipping many details we Oz fans look for. Where's Joan D. Vinge when you need her? Basically, I'd guessed at much of the plot already, but to be honest, I did think it was a good story. Now I look forward to seeing it in its pure form. (I read it to get a head start on an article I'm writing for the Baum Bugle.)

I also bought The Art of Oz the Great and Powerful and read through it. It has a section dedicated to Baum and they mention Denslow a lot, but don't mention John R. Neill or that Baum and Denslow parted ways. It neglects mentioning that Baum wrote works under pseudonyms, and among a "sextet" of books published in 1911 and 1912 that failed to generate good sales, Our Married Life and Johnson are mentioned alongside the Trot and Daring Twins books, despite the fact that they were never published at all, and their manuscripts are lost. However, I'll give them credit for referring to the Daring Twins books and a generally factually sound biography. They must have just looked at a list of Baum's works. Sometimes, I just have to accept that not everyone knows as much about Baum as I do.

Overall, the book is basically a "making of" for the movie, focusing on the set, costume design and visual effects with some interviews, including a few of the cast. There's plenty of concept art and behind-the-scenes photos.

Some on-set photos I thought could just as easily be pictures from Oz books. Sometimes Zach Braff and Joey King (who voice CG characters in Oz and inspired the animation for them) were actually on set, so you see a guy dressed as the Wizard with two people in average modern attire. (The Wizard just isn't as old as Baum told us.)

I'd suggest picking this book up, if such things catch your fancy. I don't think we'll see many behind the scenes books for this or later Oz movies.

Typically, the two things I pick up for a movie are the soundtrack and the movie itself on home video. Intrada is selling the score for the movie on CD on their website, and I think I'll get it. I am a little concerned. Ryan Jay mentioned that the music was the weakest part of the movie in his opinion, and I was less than pleased with Mariah Carey's song to close the film called "Almost Home."

Oz has a wonderful legacy of music since 1902, including the music of Paul Tietjens and Louis F. Gottschalk, the MGM film's score and songs, the score of Disney's Return to Oz, and many wonderful songs from The Wiz and Wicked. Even Tin Man had a very distinctive score. Even low-budget projects wound up with great songs, such as Capitol Records' adaptation of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Rankin-Bass' Return to Oz, Dorothy in the Land of Oz, and many others. (Today I had "We're Off To Oz" from The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz in my head.)

To present a score that isn't distinctive for Oz after all of this great music is rather disappointing. Especially when you consider it's Danny Elfman, who's created many iconic themes. But my opinion might differ from others.

So, I'm off to see the Wizard... In half an hour.

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