It’s a straw in the wind: As the recently restored 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz comes out on Blu-ray today, Warner Bros is giving renewed attention to a pair of new Oz projects in early development, now likelier than ever to come to fruition. The reason: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
Avatar’s monster box-office performance may have been the game changer, but it was Alice’s inflated opening ($116 million on the first weekend and still #1 in its second frame) that confirmed the trend: After six decades of curiosity status and technological evolution, 3D is finally the future of big-screen spectacle.
Upcoming movies like the Clash of the Titans remake and two final Harry Potter movies originally shot in 2D have been or are being retrofitted for 3D. From what little I know about 3D conversion, this seems dauntingly complicated—but then Burton actually shot Alice in Wonderland in 2D planning all along to convert it to 3D after the fact.
That seems crazy to me—and apparently to Cameron, whom Slashfilm quoted as saying, “It makes no sense to shoot in 2D and convert to 3D.” But Alice in Wonderland’s producer Richard Zanuck was quoted in Straight.com saying that the final product is indistinguishable from native 3D, and that Burton preferred working with 2D cameras since 3D cameras are “very clumsy” and expensive to work with. (I dunno. I hadn’t known when I screened Alice that it had been shot in 2D, but I remember thinking at times that the 3D effect looked a little odd, as if characters and objects were diorama-like cutouts with a convincing range of depth but lacking in volume.)
At any rate, shooting in 3D will probably quickly become the norm for big-budget movies that Hollywood wants to sell viewers on seeing on the big screen. At least until 3D TV goes mainstream, viewers have finally been convinced that 3D is worth the trip to the theater.
So much for form, but what about content? LATimes.com’s movie blog reports that two different ideas for a new Oz film are being batted around at Warner Bros. One is from the production company behind Twilight, with a script by a writer from the upcoming Shrek Ever After. The other sounds like a direct descendant of Burton’s Alice: “it’s written by ‘A History of Violence’ screenwriter Josh Olson and focuses on a granddaughter of Dorothy who returns to Oz to fight evil.”
Um, yikes. As a lifelong fan of the original L. Frank Baum book, which I read as a child and have read aloud to my kids, I’ve long wished that Hollywood would take on a brand-new adaptation of the book, one that — unlike other post-1939 takes, such as The Wiz — was not indebted to the classic film (which isn’t especially faithful to the text).
Now, though, I’ve got a rock in my stomach at the thought of the popular but soulless Alice, with its Gothic design, literary revisionism, feminist resentment and pointless heroic story-arc becoming the template for a new generation of live-action high-budget family spectacles. The last thing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz needs is a Burtonesque twist in which Dorothy, having led the Winkie uprising against the Wicked Witch of the West and liberated Emerald City by exiling the Wizard via balloon, returns to Kansas, helps Uncle Henry reconcile with his estranged brother, takes Aunt Em to a Broadway play, and moves to LA to become a writer. Not that a Shrekish fractured fairy-tale approach would be much better.
Roger Ebert, a long-time opponent of 3D and a skeptic of most 3D movies, has an essay in Newsweek explaining why. His opening salvo is typical both of his views on the subject and of his lucid, vigorous writing style.
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