Saturday, September 21, 2013
The Wizard of Oz enters the Third Dimension
When I read that "The Wizard of Oz" was being converted to 3D, I will admit I was skeptical. I'm not a fan of messing with films and changing what was originally shown to the public. I had also read all of the complaints and nasty comments made ahead of time (by those who hadn't seen this new version of "Oz," I might add), but still wanted to give it a chance. It's my very favorite movie of all time, and the few times that it has been re-released to theaters, I have made sure I was there to see it on the big screen. Last night, I attended an IMAX screening and not only was I pleasantly surprised, I was blown away. It is hard to comprehend without seeing it in person, but this (almost) 75-year old film looks as if it were shot just the other day. The rotoscoping that was done to achieve the 3D look is virtually flawless. From the moment the titles appear in their original sepia-toned glory, you can tell this is going to be a treat.
My first "wow" was being able to see the lettering on the incubator at the Gale Farm. The restoration that was done from the original negatives brings out a clarity that I had never witnessed before. There are only a few times that this clarity slightly detracts from the experience (being able to see the wig caps of some of the Munchkins is an example that comes to mind), but not enough to truly spoil the movie.
It is hard to believe that the movie's signature song, "Over The Rainbow" was almost deleted before the film's release. It is such a touching rendition of true emotion; it is no wonder that Judy Garland became a sensation after the public saw it. Her natural performance, completely free of artifice, holds the movie together. Without her, the movie would lose its anchor.
My one disappointment in the new version was the soundtrack, and I have a feeling this was partially the fault of the theater. The bass could have really used a boost, especially in the tornado sequence and the fire-bomb appearances of the Wicked Witch. I am guessing that the theater I saw it at did not want to cause any spillover to their other movies being shown in the multi-plex, as my home theater system exhibited a lot more action from the subwoofer in these very same segments of the movie.
In the clarity and 3D of the new version, the tornado sequence still manages to pack a wallop. The fright of navigating the wind and swirling objects becomes palpable.
And just when you think it couldn't get any better, Dorothy lands in Oz and enters the glorious world of Technicolor.
Because the original negatives for the Technicolor portions still exist, there is an even larger boost of detail that is discernible to the eye. It was interesting to hear the audience react to the film in the theater, too. The Lollipop Guild got huge laughs for their comedic song.
The Witch will always remain one of my favorite parts of the film; Margaret Hamilton scares the crap out of viewers, and I am sure she is partially responsible for the film's new PG rating!
When the ruby slippers are first shown, they literally jump off of the screen when Judy first models them.
The Emerald City sparkles as well, with the green lights illuminating the holes that were cut into the matte painting created for the background. The 3D effect even gives depth to the fantastic art deco influenced backgrounds.
The 3D effect is best towards the end when the gang is stuck inside the Witch's Castle. You can truly feel the size of the place as they race through the labyrinth of the Witch's Lair.
And there are the unsung heroes/heroines of the film who don't get quite as much recognition, such as Toto, played by Terry, the Cairn Terrier.
And Frank Morgan, who plays a plethora of roles in the movie, each one of them with perfect comic timing and tenderness.
I guarantee you'll hate for this movie to end; it truly transports you through the new technology which actually seems so natural. Never at any time did I feel that the movie had crossed the line into being gimmicky.
To find out where it's playing near you, visit the IMAX website. Take note, though: it's only a limited one-week engagement!
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