Movies

We’re off to see the 3-D, the wonderful 3-D ‘Wizard of Oz’

Updated: 2013-09-19T17:50:38Z

By JON NICCUM

Special to The Star

“The Wizard of Oz” doesn’t seem to need digital bells and whistles to recruit a new audience. It’s done just fine for nearly 75 years.

But the new IMAX 3-D version of the Oscar-winning musical fantasy offers a perfect excuse to drag the whole family to the theater, even at premium prices. Like most movies, “Oz” is designed to be viewed on the big screen, not as a perennial on TBS.

From the first roar of the MGM lion, the upgraded audio and 3-D conversion becomes marvelously apparent. It’s not gimmicky — no talking trees throwing apples directly at the screen. The 3-D amplifies and sharpens the original images, allowing the viewer to get further immersed in the film’s iconic majesty.

The 3-D blurs the background of the sepia sequences that fabricate the Kansas farmland. This not only makes the faces of Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her friends pop, but it conveniently hides the demarcation between set and matte painting.

But nothing quite justifies the IMAX 3-D like the tornado. It still ranks as one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest special effects — more convincing than anything in “Twister.” The raging scope of the tornado — created by manipulating a 35-foot tall muslin sock — has never seemed more engulfing than in this update.

Then the color scenes arrive. (Did you know the entire transition scene in which Dorothy first sees Munchkinland is all shot in Technicolor? The door of the house is painted to look black and white, while Garland’s stand-in wears a black-and-white dress. When she retreats out of the shot, the real Garland, decked in her blue pinafore, walks back into it. Presto, color.)

Hey, Dorothy actually has freckles in IMAX. Glinda’s floating sphere is mesmerizing. The flying monkeys are creepier than ever. The Lollipop Guild even more disturbing — are these guys having a seizure?

Not everything is necessarily better this way. The image clarity also makes it easy to spot the makeup lines trying to conceal the bald-head wigs on the Munchkins. IMAX doesn’t do a lot of favors for some of the matte paintings, either. The Emerald City looks like tinted cardboard. And it’s hard not to notice how much the witch’s guards look like Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.

It’s often challenging to embrace something so deeply familiar when given a new twist. “The Wizard of Oz” is the oldest film to ever receive a full stereoscopic conversion. But as its opening titles explain, “Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion.”

So has technology.

(At the AMC Barrywoods, Independence, Studio 30 and Town Center.)

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