Film Review – The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D
The Wizard of Oz in IMAX 3D
The Wizard of Oz. Three grown men dressed in funny outfits while experiencing various physical ailments take a newly pubescent girl, who is also a serial witch murderer, on a long, lonely walk through a strange forest, where they eventually inhale drugs and take a special nap together, after which they escort her to a flustered older gentleman who likes to lurk in the corner behind a curtain. Several other observations also jump to mind. In one brief shot, Munchkin children are hatched from eggs. Who is laying those giant eggs? Those poor Munchkin mothers must be getting torn in half! It’s been pointed out that those eggs are resting in flowers, so maybe the children are grown from flowers. If that’s the case, how are those plants getting pollinated? Sounds messy. Also, do winged monkeys require hair gel every day to groom their faux-hawks? By creating the giant green head of the Wizard, has the snake oil salesman from Kansas developed holographic technology? And if so, can he continue to conjure Tupac for us? Finally, with Dorothy ending up back in Kansas, everything is supposed to be hunky dory. But if you think about it, the initial problem that caused her to run away in the first place still exists. That old bitch on the bike still wants to kill her dog. Dorothy’s uncle and Auntie Em were going to comply because the law said they had to. None of that changed during the tornado while Dorothy took a nap. Now that she’s awake, they still have to comply with the legal paperwork and put the dog down. Makes for a super short and depressing sequel—Wizard 2: Toto Gets One Last Injection.
It is completely foolish to attempt to review the content in The Wizard of Oz. As a film, it is unassailable. It is a perfect piece of entertainment with classic characters, memorable songs, gorgeous sets, terrific costume design, amazingly physical actors, and enough heart for 20 movies. It’s perfect and you can’t touch it. References to The Wizard of Oz permeate our culture. Quotes from it are constantly cited. Characters are repeatedly evoked. It is probably the most viewed and beloved film of all time. The fact that this new re-release is the 75th anniversary is a testament to its staying power. In a review, there is nothing new I can tell you about this movie. You already know it. You already love it.
So the real questions are: how does this new anniversary release look, how does it sound, and is the 3D worth it? In short, the answers are: great, even better, and sort of. Beginning with the look of the film itself, this is glorious to watch on a giant IMAX screen. Looking at these images on a ten-story screen lets you really appreciate the gorgeous set designs from beginning to end. The matte designers back in the ’30s were real artists. Munchkinland has bright colors, and the shot of the Emerald City at the end of the poppy field looks shiny and vibrant. This film has been restored a number of times over the years, but this is still probably the best it has ever looked. The imagery is completely free of debris, scratches, or aging; it looks new. And in IMAX, you’re reminded that The Wizard of Oz is meant to be a big screen experience. Similarly, the sound is incredible in this format. The sound engineers did yeomans’ work creating a lush surround experience. The combination of the aural clarity and the big screen enhances the movie itself. This time around, watching “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” became a genuinely moving experience again. I thought I was pretty jaded about the song, but I actually got choked up.
So the last question: what about the 3D? Let it be stated right off, 3D is not necessary and does not instantly make a movie better. This film is already perfect. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, if there was going to be an argument for 3D, this is probably the best you can get. Everything in black and white while in Kansas is pretty much in 2D. The opening credits pop out of the screen, but other than that, the newfangled imagery is saved for Oz. That famous transition when Dorothy opens the door to Munchkinland and everything is in color is also when the 3D comes out. Its main use is to add depth to all of the shots. The far-off hills in Oz look much farther away than before. The Emerald City actually looks as if it’s in the distance. Occasionally, something pops out of the screen—a glint of light from the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball or some flowers poking out in the foreground. The snowfall in the poppy field works particularly well. Probably the best 3D shots involve the long green hallway when the characters are going to see the Wizard himself. That famous set piece in the palace has a nice sense of depth. Is all of this high-tech fiddling necessary? I wouldn’t go that far. But as a fun enhancement to these familiar sights in Oz, it does make for an enjoyably immersive experience.
We’ve been getting a lot of this type of re-release lately. Whether it’s Top Gun or Jurassic Park, Hollywood can’t stop adding 3D to a beloved movie to create buzz for a new Blu-ray re-release. Of course it’s meant as an advertising gimmick. It’s a way to milk more money out of their old catalog titles. But if it ends up facilitating people seeing these movies on a big screen again in a theater, then I applaud it. No, digital trickery isn’t required. Recent reissues of Jaws and The Godfather, for example, prove that a great movie is just a great movie. No need for messing with it. But for The Wizard of Oz, the 3D is at least fun. You should avail yourself of this rare opportunity to see the film on the big screen.
Film Itself: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++