Going Home in 3D

Who hasn’t seen the 1939 film, THE WIZARD OF OZ? The classic tale of ruby slippered Dorothy and her dog, Toto, who get caught up in a tornado that carries them to the mythical land of OZ. Her sole quest: to get home. As a kid I was blown away by Dorothy’s journey, even though for years I only saw it on black and white TV set.

Like all good American kids I’ve watched THE WIZARD OF OZ  year after year, never tiring of the story and its life’s lessons: Believe in yourself and your dreams and life will turn out pretty ok. Great truth in those lessons. Generations of “lovers and dreams”(1), have thrived on those ideals.

As novelist Thomas Wolfe once said in his book, THE OCTOBER FAIR, “You can’t go home again.” But everytime we revisit Dorothy, she does make it home.

Can lightning strike again? Some 70 years later, did script writers, filmmakers re-imagine OZ and create a movie to rival THE WIZARD OF OZ? Can we return to OZ of our childhood? Through the medium of 3D, can we go home again?

As an animation student interested in digital animation and compositing, I eagerly anticipated Sam Raimi’s prequel, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL for the 3D effects.

I’d enjoyed the 2010 Disney movie, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, starring Johnny Depp, with its gorgeous colors and stunning 3D visuals. The closing credits, when flowers and vines seem to grow outside the screen, ah, breathtaking. Definitely worth the extra cost of the ticket for 3D. Sadly the story lacked interest. I found myself not caring about Alice’s journey,  marveling instread at Johnny Depp’s and Helen Bonham-Carter’s costumes and makeup.

Ang Lee’s 2012 LIFE OF PI combined compelling story with CGI and gorgeous 3D effects: the opening scenes of strolling through a picturesque zoo; fish flying into the audience; the main character Pi fighting with his sole traveling companion, an adult Bengal tiger. WOW! If you haven’t seen this movie in 3D, you’re missing out on a treat.

Could the 3D effects for OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL be fresh and new?

I’d answer yes.

Notable 3D effects: splintered planks of wood that piece the balloon’s basket almost skewering Oscar; the water fairies, his first encounter with inhabitants of OZ; bug-eyed water lilies that attack; and the battle scenes kept the action moving along. If there can be any criticism I’d say the redundant electrical currents and fireballs.

Did director Sam Raimi tell as interesting story about a philandering con-artist turned reluctant wizard? What lessons can we derive from Oscar’s journey?

The Oscar learned the importance of team work and friendship, and never underestimating the inate talent you have within.

While OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL hasn’t done well among movie goers, in time, it will cultivate a following of 3D lovers like me. I went to see OZ Wednesday, the middle of Easter break for the schools in this area. My party, fellow animation students, had the theater to ourselves for the daytime 3D showing. Admittedly $12.50 is a hefty ticket price but I expected to find a few more interested parties. For us, the movie met our entertainment expectations. We loved it.

As 3D capable television sets become the norm in more households, I believe movies like OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL will enjoy a younger and larger audience. In the current story Oscar has found a home in OZ, where he’ll live until Dorothy arrives several years hence. They’ll join forces . . . just as the movies WIZARD and OZ become a set piece . . . and  go home together.

NOTES:  1. Kermit the frog, “Rainbow Connection,” THE MUPPET MOVIE.

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