When I was young I read all of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books over and over. There are a lot more than one might expect, and I devoured them all. So I can understand why some people are so entranced with the series that they keep returning to it, though it’s interesting to me that most of the subsequent Oz books after the first one are so rarely plumbed for adaptation.
Disney’s the latest to jump on the Oz bandwagon; the company is set to release a prequel to the famous story: “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” I’ve heard about the movie for a while now, but I didn’t want to say anything about it until I was sure it was happening. Well, now we’ve had a Comic-Con panel and an official trailer, so I’d say we’re set.
The subject matter of this “Wizard of Oz” prequel is easy to guess: we’ll learn the story of how the man himself first made it into Oz and the adventures he had when he got there, leading him to the prestigious position he enjoys by the time Dorothy makes her way to his gates. James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, the titular great and powerful wizard, with Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams as Evanora, Theodora, and Glinda, three witches he meets upon his arrival. Sam Raimi, the director of the Toby Maguire-starring “Spiderman” trilogy is directing.
We don’t have many other plot details but at this point, given that the film isn’t coming out until next year, we don’t really need them. The trailer mostly just sets up Diggs’ profession in America and then shows him exploring an admittedly gorgeous Oz. We know Oz was a small-town magician back in the U.S., so I’m sure there will be plenty of humor as he encounters a world where real magic actually exists.
What I’m most interested to see is the development of Oz’s character. He seemed like a bit of a crook or at least a cheat in the original “Wizard of Oz,” and that’s something that we could easily attribute to his background as a carnival magician. But maybe he developed that trait later in life; he somehow had to make a name for himself in a land with real magic, and he might have had to learn a few believable tricks in order to survive.
We already know who Glinda is, but I haven’t heard of these two witches. I’ll admit my Oz lore is a little rusty; I haven’t revisited the series much since my childhood glut. Weisz’s Evanora definitely looks evil (we even saw a green-skinned hand, but it wasn’t clear if it was hers), and the jury’s still out on Theodora. Maybe she’s the other good witch from the North (who was conflated with Glinda in the film).
While the names attached to this movie certainly have me intrigued (and I’m always up for a well-made fantasy film), I’m a little underwhelmed about it. I admitted I was a big Oz fan in childhood, but because of that I’m a bit put out that people keep making up prequels to Oz, when Baum wrote so many interesting sequels. Also, “Wicked” has kind of dulled my enthusiasm a bit. I read the first book and didn’t like it at all, and though the musical is better, I’ve had my fill of Oz prequels, I think. But we’ll have to wait and see; if it’s reviewed well, I might be persuaded to see it.