Exclusively in IMAX cinemas nationwide from September 2014
It’s a movie that needs no introduction (but I’m going to give it one anyway).
It’s a classic. It’s one of the most beloved stories of all time. It’s inspired countless adaptations and spin-offs including The Wiz, Wicked and the terrifying Disney sequel, Return to Oz. The Wheelers still haunt my nightmares.
The Wizard of Oz was originally released in 1939, making this the oldest film ever to be released in 3D. Is this conversion merely a pointless gimmick, or are we finally seeing Oz in its true glory?
Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is swept away from dreary, sepia-toned Kansas to a magical land of music and munchkins. But she’s homesick, so Glinda (Billie Burke) advises her to seek the mysterious Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan), neglectfully failing to mention that all she really had to do was tap her shoes together. Along this perilous and frankly unnecessary journey, Dorothy befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley) and a massive pussy, better known as the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). Upon reaching the fabled Emerald City, Dorothy and company are tasked with destroying the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), who’s still miffed that Dorothy’s house flattened her sister. It’s perhaps the most enchanting tale of double homicide ever told.
All jokes aside, the movie is full of brilliant performances (with some clever double-casting), creative visuals and memorable songs. It’s an exciting adventure for children and a fun nostalgia trip for adults. There’s the touching message that the virtues we seek – be they brains, heart or courage – might have been within us all along. Of course “There’s no place like home” is a charming sentiment too, although the jaded part of my brain can’t help imagining an epilogue set 20 years later, where a frustrated Aunt Em begs Dorothy to get a damn job and move out. Maybe I’m the one who should ask the Wizard for a heart.
For the most part, the 3D effects work nicely. Glinda’s entrance is impressive and the Wicked Witch’s castle never looked so intimidating. There are moments (unsurprising considering the age of the film) where the enhancements only magnify the artifice, but pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Or if you must, then at least admire the inventive tricks and progressive special effects that brought Oz to life – a remarkable feat in its day.
Truthfully, any excuse to bring this timeless classic back into the cinema is a worthy venture. 3D might not have quite the same impact that Technicolor had in 1939 but it does add that bit of extra flair. Plus seeing The Wizard of Oz on the big screen is a novel experience, whether it’s your first or hundredth trip down the yellow brick road.