x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A Wizard of Oz for the 21st century

It's been more than 70 years since the original was released, but that won't have stopped a good few shudders of revulsion over the news that a young girl from Kansas and three improbable companions might soon be skipping down an excessively lurid paved street once more.

It's been more than 70 years since the original was released, but that won't have stopped a good few shudders of revulsion over the news that a young girl from Kansas and three improbable companions might soon be skipping down an excessively lurid paved street once more. Yes, rumours are afoot that a remake of 1939's The Wizard of Oz is in discussion.

Since Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's classic first showered the world in ludicrous radioactive Technicolor, we've seen rehashes, remixes and reboots of almost every film in existence. But now, talks of a live-action remake are apparently under way and potential directors are being courted.

But what would an Oz for the 21st century look like? Would it be a dark, Burton-esque nightmare with terrifying CGI flying monkeys and a Munchkinland brimming with drizzle and discontentment? Or would it simply attempt to recreate the farcical singalong lunacy of L Frank Baum's world, but perhaps with a slightly better lion's outfit? In terms of technology, nothing has been stated, but it doesn't take a soothsayer to predict that the remake is likely to come in 3D, surely the Technicolor of today.

One nugget to have emerged from the rumour mill is that Warner Bros, which owns the screenplay, is planning to use the original script, although how some of the lines might sound in this far less innocent age is an interesting question. And what of the cast? The original line-up are no longer with us, Nikko the Head Monkey being the last to pass away in 1991, but the post-Oz lives of the main actors are well-documented affairs across Hollywood's older circles. For most, the film propelled them to stardom, but easily remained the biggest moment in their careers, a brief period they would be called on to regurgitate ad nauseum for the rest of their days. Most famous of all was the child star Judy Garland, who would go on to become one of MGM's most bankable stars before suffering a nervous breakdown and eventually dying of an accidental drugs overdose in 1969. Strangely enough, while this is the only certifiable, Emerald City-approved, remake on the horizon, there are several Oz-related titles already well over the rainbow.

Dorothy of Oz, due for release in 2012, is an animated musical sequel based on the book by Baum's great-grandson Roger, and will see Dorothy head back to the land that made her famous to help her chums. With casting fingers firmly on the pulse of modern culture, Lea Michele (aka the main singer from Glee) is voicing Dorothy, while Patrick Stewart, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi and Kelsey Grammer are also lending their more croaky tones. Bryan Adams is apparently penning some original tracks, which sadly probably rules out a thumping house rendition of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead.

Then there's Surrender Dorothy, set to be directed by and star Drew Barrymore, in which the great-great-granddaughter of Dorothy must harness the powers of those ruby slippers to stop further witch-based evildoing.

And if all this obsessing over what happened after that fateful tornado wasn't enough, there's Wicked, the long-running Broadway musical. Effectively "The Wicked Witch of the West: The Teenage Years", this tale of how a misunderstood green-skinned girl from Munchkinland became the most feared magician across Oz is due for a big-screen adaptation.

Last, but by no means least, there's Sam Raimi. Having been axed from Spider-Man 4 following Sony's decision to go for a Batman Begins-style gritty reboot (ie dark, rainy and with a more emo Peter Parker), Raimi has recently been signed up by Disney as the director for Oz: The Great and Powerful. This faux-prequel to the original will detail the wizard's rise from fast-talking travelling salesman to megalomaniac with a megaphone, with Robert Downey Jnr linked to the title role.

Whether the remake of the original classic makes it past the discussion stages or not, it's clear that perhaps the most famous film of all time, in some form or another, will be making a return. All together now: "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz." Can someone see if Mark Ronson or Jay-Z are available to do a remix?