Few authors can lay claim to creating a cultural touchstone. L.Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz has been a childhood favourite for over a century, and NBC are now poised to bring us a retelling of the fable. Their venture down the yellow brick road is only the latest in a long line of adaptations and re-imaginings. Ranging from The Wiz, Oz the great and Powerful and Wicked to the iconic 1932 original. It’s also not the first story set in Oz to cast Dorothy’s quest in a darker light, with 1985’s Return to Oz introducing many a fresh-faced youngster to their first taste of existential terror. So what does NBC plan on bringing to the party?.

From the opening shot of the trailer it’s pretty clear that we aren’t in Kansas any more (figuratively speaking). The tone is dark and brooding like a teenager whose parents won’t let him paint his bedroom black. Tornados hit and suddenly Dorothy is meeting a Braveheart-esque tribe of bearded men. From then on: more men, more beards, some armour, a few castles and a lot of conversations about courtly intrigue and rebellion. There’s also some admittedly pretty awesome looking magic. It’s all reasonably impressive but there’s not a whole lot here to suggest that this is going to be anything but a Game of Thrones wannabe with the occasional vague Oz reference thrown in to justify the title.

Emerald City has found its Dorothy in the form of rising star Adria Arjona, who will soon mech-suit up in Pacific Rim: Maelstrom. Vincent D’Onofrio has been cast as the Wizard and other cast members include Joely Richardson, Ana Ularu and Mido Hamada. As for behind the camera, the first 10 episodes will be directed by Tarsem Singh, whose other credits include The Fall and Self/Less.

We have to admit that a few alarm bells are ringing on this one. Right now we’re definitely getting a similar vibe to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. There was a film whose excellent production design and effects couldn’t quite compensate for the fact that its plot was a lazy rehashing of whatever fantasy was popular at the time, bearing little resemblance to the source material. For Burton, Wonderland may as well have been Narnia and it looks like NBC are going to do their damnedest to make Oz into New Westeros.

L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel is certainly dated, but also had some interesting things to say about courage, friendship and the nature of power and authority. We worry that the things that made the original tale so unique and enduring will all be lost in an attempt to be “with it” and zeitgeisty. That said, this is a trailer and we can hardly blame marketers for going after a slice of the Game of Thrones pie. Lets hope that when the series premiers on January 6th, 2017, NBC have more up their sleeves to set their series apart from other fantasy TV.

Category: TV

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