UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly reports that Robert Zemeckis will NOT direct a remake of The Wizard of Oz as previously reported. Yay!! At least this is one classic story that won’t be CGI’ed beyond all recognition. (By the way, EW, I, for one, wasn’t howling like a “flying monkey.” I was screaming like that witch who got a damn house dropped on her head. Get it straight.)
Talk about your unnecessary remakes …
There is talk that Warner Bros. plans to remake the 1939 Technicolor dreamfest The Wizard of Oz, using the original script by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf (which was, as you very likely know, adapted in turn from the children’s lit classic by Frank L. Baum). Robert Zemeckis, whose directorial pedigree demonstrates an enjoyment for mangling classic works of literature on the big screen (last year’s version of A Christmas Carol, the atrocious 2007 adaptation of Beowulf), is rumored to be taking the lead of the production.
How do the powers that be at Warner Bros. not see this as a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad idea???
Earlier today, as I ranted about this new development on Facebook, a friend mentioned the 1978 musical version of Baum’s story, The Wiz, questioning why I would take issue with this news and not feel as offended by other incarnations of the story. But there’s a stark difference between adapting different versions of the same tale and what Warner plans to do with it. I have no problem with The Wiz (though I dislike it personally), nor with other adaptations of the tale such as Gregory Maguire’s fantastic Wicked (both the book and the Broadway show), for these versions of the tale use Baum’s story as inspiration, transmuting it for different, modern audiences. Fair enough, in my mind.
But to take the original script and essentially remake it, word-for-word? That smacks of laziness … and is anyone else getting shades of Gus Van Sant’s abysmal shot-for-shot remake of Psycho (1998) here?
And who the hell are they going to cast in the iconic Wizard roles? Who can even come close to capturing the magic of Judy Garland or Margaret Hamilton or Frank Morgan or Bert Lahr or any of the other brilliant actors who brought the original to life? No one, that’s who. So why even try?
I’ve not an Oz super-fan by any means; I like the movie and have fond memories of it, but it’s not one of those I feel the need to watch on repeat. Still, it feels like sacrilege to take one of the most beloved movies in Hollywood history and re-shoot it. Not only does it indicate that an original idea in modern cinema is about as rare as a World Series pennant for the Cubs, but it indicates a decided lack of respect for the classics. What’s next–films such as Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or Citizen Kane are going to be modernized and homogenized within an inch of their lives, thoroughly obliterating the utter specialness of the originals? Yeah, that sounds like a fun time for all.
What’s your take on this? Is a remake a tribute to the original, or is it merely a giant middle finger to fans?