Trailer Tuesday - Oz: The Great and Powerful
For a while now, Hollywood has been obsessed with dishing out explanations: Why did Michael Myers become a masked maniac pursuing his own sister? Where did the Wicked Queen come from and what's the source of her power? How did Charles Xavier end up in a wheelchair? What's up with the xenomorph and mysterious Space Jockey? Soon, whether we care or not, we'll also bear witness to how Mrs Bates warped Norman's psyche, why Malificent is such a bitch to Sleeping Beauty (my post on the matter), what exactly happened at the Overlook Hotel... and how a dodgy carnival magician from the American Midwest ended up as the all-powerful Wizard of Oz.
Coming from Evil Dead and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, Oz: The Great and Powerful is yet another in a string of big budget reboots, reimaginings, spin-offs and prequels. Former Raimi collaborator James Franco replaces first choice Robert Downey, Jr. as the title character: an ambitious but ethically challenged man by the name of Oscar Zoroaster Diggs who finds himself stranded in the magical realm of Oz. Identified as the Chosen One *yawn*, our instant celebrity finds himself torn between 3 omnipotent witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Glinda (Michelle Williams) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz).
Coming from Walt Disney Pictures and the producer of Tim Burton's live-action Alice in Wonderland, it's pretty obvious from the first trailer (which debuted at this year's San Diego Comic-Con) that Oz is intended to duplicate the massive success of that particular CGI-saturated fantasy adventure. The plot of this "untold story" is nothing to write home about - and it doesn't even take much research to work out which of the 3 sorceresses ends up green skinned by the credits. However, on the plus side, evidently we're going to be treated to stunning, vibrant visuals along with some real fidelity to L. Frank Baum's literary universe. The China woman is a nice little touch that will be recognisable to fans of the books.
In all honesty, Raimi could be a better fit for this kind of material than Burton, given the latter's gothic sensibilities. Alice felt strained in its attempt to be quirky, whereas Raimi has always embraced colour and cartoonish, broad humour. This may alienate viewers who prefer dark, serious entertainment but at the same time it's likely to please families with young children. And judging by the several moments of gimmicky 3D wackiness in the trailer (yes, the film has been shot for 3D!) it's this kind of broad appeal that the film is going for.
Oz: The Great and Powerful releases in North America on 8 March 2013. The film's South African release date is still unset, but expect it around the same time - as we come out of the post-holidays dumping period for mediocre cinema curiosities.