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Saturday, February 26, 2005

HERE SON, TAKE THIS SLED: Hollywood's Mid Movie Crisis

It's not easy being green. Have you ever wondered how the Wicked Witch of the West got that way? Me neither. Yet there is now a bestselling book and play based on that very thing (WICKED)

L. Frank Baum did not care about the emotions and
motivations of the Wicked Witch of the West in
THE WIZARD OF OZ. The Witch was Wicked, and that was enough, and generations of readers accepted a house dropped on her sister as sufficient justification for her dislike of Dorothy. It would annoy me, too.

WICKED is in the same vein as Tom Stoppard's excellent play ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, which has minor characters commenting on the action in HAMLET. But Stoppard is Stoppard, and most of us aren't, so this device can easily be overused. While I might be interested in learning a bit about
the background of
Doctor Victor Frankenstein, there are few other popular fictional characters with his depth of character in the original source material.
Sherlock Holmes, whose creator disliked him so much he tried to kill him, is ever in the vanguard of reinterpretation. He has been psychoanalyzed and deconstructed in
THE SEVEN PER CENT SOLUTION (1976) and reconstructed as a robot in SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE 22ND CENTURY (1999) and will doubtless be around for many more outings of this sort.

Remakes of older movies and plays have been around since the beginning of theatre. Even Shakespeare wrote remakes. On a less Olympian level, we have had excellent remakes of early films such as CHICAGO (1927, remade in 1942 as ROXIE HART and again with its original title 2002) and THE FRONT PAGE (1931 and 1940). THE WIZARD OF OZ was first filmed in 1912, again in 1924, and finally in 1939. On a Stygian level, we have remakes of KING KONG (1976) and the new one by Peter Jackson which will seek to atone for Di Laurentis' sins; and Buster Keaton's SEVEN CHANCES (1925, remade as THE BACHELOR in 1999, which was unredeemable.)

A sequel is not in itself a bad thing. As someone who is always asking what
happened 'next', I'm cool with sequels as long as they are good ones. TOY STORY II was arguably better than the original film. The first three STAR WARS movies, which started this outbreak of sequel-itis, weren't too bad. As for the 'prequels'-
well, the less said the better. But animation has fared better. We've had SHREK II and TOY STORY II and both were successful, so we will have sequels in both 'franchises' into the forseeable future, the respective studios promise us.

But now there is a new phenomenon: what might be called 'mid-quels', in which we find out what we didn't want to know about stuff that the filmmakers didn't want to tell us.

Presumably someone at Disney thought that
BAMBI AND THE GREAT PRINCE OF THE FOREST was a nice commemoration of BAMBI's sixtieth anniversary, which actually passed three years ago. Be that as it may, (spoilers ahead) do we really care
or need to know about how Bambi spent the winter after his mother died?
And do we want to see it as a cartoon or as

This is the easy way out for those who consider these films 'franchises' rather than works of art. It is so much easier to insert a story that happens DURING the course of the original film's action, than to come up with a new story for a sequel. If
BAMBI AND THE GREAT PRINCE does well, (it even has 'costume design'!) live action producers will surely leap on the animated bandwagon and we can look forward to lots more 'elaborations' of
films that we thought were done years ago.

Here are some that I'd like to see:

ROSEBUD: THE STORY OF A SLED Don't you wonder why there is that huge jump cut in CITIZEN KANE, when
Thatcher wishes him Merry Christmas, and then we leap ahead twenty years as he finishes the sentence "And a Happy New Year?" ROSEBUD: THE STORY OF A
SLED will show us the 'missing years' of Kane's childhood. Young Charles will meet a little girl nicknamed 'Rosebud' who will show him that objects and possessions
don't really matter but friendship does. Of course he doesn't listen to her.

MONSTER!!! We're restricted in the number of sequels only by how much'source material' Igor originally provided here, since each film is be the story of the people whose dead bodies were used to build the Frankenstein monster. We see their hopes and their dreams and then they die and wind up as part of this seven
foot high green guy. This has an influence on him. This could go on for years. I'll bet the film about 'Abby Normal' is the hit of the series.

And what about: seven movies telling the backstory of all Seven Dwarves, including the real reason why Grumpy hates women and why Dopey doesn't talk? How about a prequel to DUMBO explaining Mrs. Jumbo's unhappy separation from Dumbo's
dad, who was clearly an African elephant, so we can work in a 'mixed-marriage' angle that will wring your withers? Actually, since none of the Disney characters have a nuclear family, and Geppetto seems to be actually ignorant of the methods
customarily used to obtain a 'real boy' as a son, there are great possibilities here.

I've got a million of 'em.


Jean Pilotte said...

Here's one: I heard that the british movie "George III" was re titled "The madness of King George" for the U.S. market. The reason given was that the average American would think that "George III" is a sequel, and won't go see it if he hasn't seen "George I" and "George II".

"... King George is back, mad as Hell and he won't take it anymore..." as it would have been narrated by that " In a world..." guy who voices over all the movie trailers.

Here's my favoritr would be sequel title:

"The return of the second coming of the son of Zorro strikes again part III".

Nancy said...

Hi Jean,

Do give us some credit...

the original title of the film, in England and America, was, The Madness of King George.
The other 'title' is just a joke.

I love the Zorro title.

Celtic Crossroads said...

There are so many possibilities... My favorite KING KONG movie was the old one with Faye Wray... The 1976 remake just didn't cut it. Also, the Japanese films having King Kong fighting Godzilla was pretty interesting as well.