Celebrating both its 75th Anniversary and its 3D Blu-Ray release, The Wizard of Oz returns to theaters for a limited time in IMAX 3D. The story should be a familiar one, I mean who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz? Well in case you are one of the few, here’s a little help.
Dorothy Gale lives on a farm with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and three farmhands Hunk, Zeke and Hickory. One day she is trying to get everyone to pay attention to her story about how the mean ol’ lady Miss Gulch was going to come take her dog Toto for getting in the garden and for biting her. She is paid little attention to and told to get on out of the way of everyone’s work. Miss Gulch comes to take Toto, but the little pooch gets away and Dorothy decides it’s best that they both run away. While on her path she runs across Professor Marvel who reads her future (he sees a picture of Dorothy and Aunt Em together) and tells her that Aunt Em is sick and is calling for her. Dorothy goes running back to the farm, but gets caught in the storm with everyone else in the shelter, she gets knocked out and wakes up to the house being caught in a tornado (“It’s a twistah, it’s a twistah!”)
It’s at this point the film takes on the fantasy side of things with Dorothy getting to Munchkin Land and told she has killed the Wicked Witch of the East, who had been controlling the Munchkins and holding their lands. Dorothy meets Glinda the Good Witch and is told she is the Munchkin’s hero, to which a parade is held. During the parade the Wicked Witch of the West comes in and finds her sister dead and her ruby slippers on Dorothy. She vows revenge and vanishes. Dorothy is told to seek get out of Oz and to seek help from the Wizard to get home to Kansas. On her journey down the Yellow Brick Road she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion who all join in her adventure to Emerald City to ask the Wizard to help them.
This film is a marvelous fantasy musical, but it does not age well. I am not talking here about the effects, which would obviously be nowhere near up to par with even a small budget direct to cable movie in this day and age. I speak of the films message itself. Morals and ethics have had many dramatic changes over the last nearly eight decades. That said it is a classic film, one of which should be required viewing for everyone at least once.
The IMAX 3D remastering process has been done to many films in recent years. With the success of Avatar, it seems everything is getting its chance in 3D, some more successful than others. The Wizard of Oz hits a home run with it for parts of the movie, where others fall flat. The sepia washed Kansas scenes are surprisingly crisp, and the 3D process gives everything a wonderful depth. This is not an “in your face” 3D, but more a texture/depth 3D. It’s when we get to Oz that things take a turn. There is still texture and depth, which is wonderful, as long as you keep your eyes and head dead center screen. I asked a few people what they thought and more often than not the answer was “It was kinda blury”. The fuzziness came when there was a lot going on, or when you moved your head/eyes to the corners of the screen. I don’t think this would be a problem on a 3D blu-ray, even on a larger 60″+ TV, but the sheer size of the IMAX screen almost forces you to move, which in turn makes things get fuzzy. The size and clarity of the film in this format also highlights the dated special effects and makeup, but like the blurriness, the smaller screen size of a home entertainment system should help with this as well.
8 out of 11. The Wizard of Oz IMAX 3D staring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley hits theaters this Friday September 20th and on 3D Blu-ray on Tuesday October 1st