The Wizard of Oz doesnt seem to need digital bells and whistles to recruit a new audience. Its done just fine for nearly 75 years.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
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. Its 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 films 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 Hollywoods 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 Garlands 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. Glindas 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 doesnt do a lot of favors for some of the matte paintings, either. The Emerald City looks like tinted cardboard. And its hard not to notice how much the witchs guards look like Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi.
Its 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.)