James Franco to Star in Wizard of Oz Prequel

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by Brooke on January 13, 2012 · 0 comments

When I learned ’80s dancetastic movie Footloose was being remade, I knew all bets were off when it came to Hollywood’s newest crush on movie remakes, reboots, and re-imaginations. I’m not at all surprised that Total Recall is being remade, although I’m reserving judgment about Colin Farrell playing the new Douglas Quaid/Hause, and it doesn’t shock me one bit that Spiderman and Superman are being rebooted. Again.

Still, when I learned that director Sam Raimi (Army of Darkness, The Quick and the Dead, Spiderman 2 and 3) had a new take on the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, it struck me as sacrilege. The Wizard of Oz is one of the world’s best known, and beloved, films. Tinkering with this movie made me feel as though Hollywood had gone too far in the name of the almighty ticket sale. My suspicions were later confirmed when I learned that Disney –  the company driving the Remake Express by slapping 3D on favorites like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo – will be responsible for distributing Raimi’s Oz reboot. I suspected the only thing driving this remake was box-office sales.

Just as I was prepared to write a scathing letter to Disney about their irreverent marketing techniques, I came across a piece of information that changed my standpoint. Raimi isn’t tampering with one of the most treasured movies of all time – he’s making a prequel to it. This might have promise.

Oz: The Great & Powerful tells the story of how the Wizard arrived in Oz and became the ruler, told from the Wizard’s point-of-view. Hold on. This is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz that’s told by one of the movie’s most mysterious and iconic figures? Yep, they got me. I’m interested. As a person who loves character-driven stories, how can I resist the prospect of learning more about such a fascinating character? I quickly researched the latest casting news.

The Wicked Witch of the East is being played by Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, Constantine, The Mummy), the Wicked Witch of the West is being played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, That ‘70s Show) and Glenda, Good witch of the North is being played by Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Dawson’s Creek). I have to question a couple of the casting choices here. Kunis has grown considerably as an actress since her debut on That ‘70s Show, but I’m not sure the 28 year-old possesses the emotional depravity or experience to play such a pivotal character as the Wicked Witch of the West. And while Glenda is a far less challenging character to play, I’m having a hard time believing Williams will be able to fully embody the character of the Good Witch. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how she does in My Week with Marilyn, but I think she will always be Jen Lindley to me.

So far, I’m not convinced. Placing Kunis in a movie that’s so closely related to a movie starring the immensely talented Judy Garland feels like a mistake. The only cast member that really pulls me toward this movie is James Franco, who plays the Wizard. Franco one of those actors I never really gave much thought. I saw him as another blockbuster fill in, aka Ryan Reynolds. You know what I mean…he’s decent to look at, but doesn’t have that spark of unique talent. And then I saw him in 127 hours, which completely blew me away. Just as I was enthralled with Tom Hanks’ ability to hold my attention in his one-man Castway show, Franco was able to grab and completely seize my attention with his outstanding performance in 127 Hours.

I’m also not sure how I feel about Rami’s decision to pay homage to the original Wizard of Oz movie by showing the beginning of Oz: The Great & Powerful in black and white and then transferring to color when the cast arrives in Oz. I can understand his desire to pay respect to the original film, but I can’t help but feel it’s a tad gimmicky.

And, speaking of gimmicky, I just learned that Oz: The Great & Powerful will be filmed in 3D. Ugh, just when I was ready to buy into the concept of an Oz prequel, they had to go and put it in 3D. It’s bad enough that they’re tampering with a classic movie, but now Rami is slapping some 3D effects on it? That’s it, I’m out.

Oz: The Great & Powerful is scheduled hit theaters in March 2013.

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