‘Wizard of Oz IMAX 3D’ Uses Modern Tech to Update a Classic

In just three short years, 3D conversion has gone from an unnecessary distraction to an exemplary creative tool: Where the release of Warner Bros.’ Clash of the Titans was rightfully criticized for its awful, last-minute dimensionalization, the same studio’s expert transformation of The Wizard of Oz enhances the viewing experience and truly gives that film an update worthy of its venerated status.

Since Avatar changed Hollywood’s perspective (so to speak) on 3D filmmaking, the technology used to create it has grown by leaps and bounds, even as public interest has waned. But evidenced by the forthcoming re-release of the Judy Garland classic, 3D continues to be a powerful way of reintroducing older films to modern audiences – provided they’re converted with the same attention to detail Warner applied here.

The studio invited Spinoff Online to attend a screening of the film Monday evening at the newly remodeled TCL Chinese Theatre. The Wizard of Oz premiered there 75 years ago, so it seemed fitting that it be the theater where the film’s 3D re-release was also first screened for the public, and fans young and old turned out in droves to view the makeover. Although the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film released in the past decade really tackled the lion’s share of the work that went into its general restoration, the conversion is not just well done, it’s superlative, providing an unprecedented level of clarity in every image despite the obvious limitations of the source material.

More specifically, the earlier restoration addressed all of the basic needs of the deteriorating celluloid – in terms of color, cleanliness and consistency – but the conversion weirdly, but remarkably, makes the actual experience of the film better. While the original 2D version of the film is a masterpiece both in terms of storytelling and technical precision, the 3D draws audiences into the film like never before. The gossamer bubble that brings Glenda the Good Witch to Munchkinland for the first time looks like a truly magical conveyance. The detail on background mattes stretches into infinity, obscuring the lines between the hanging paintings and the practical sets. And the overall journey to Oz gains an unexpected sweep, simply by virtue of having landscapes that feel like tumbling mountains and great, distant valleys.

Despite my admitted reservations about changing the Chinese Theatre from a traditional movie house to an IMAX exhibition hall, the experience of watching the film with so many other fans – almost as if for the first time, thanks to the 3D – was a powerful reminder of the communal charge audiences get out of seeing films together. Moreover, it served to underscore the inspiring truth that moviegoers still yearn to be transported, and are willing to embrace technology in order to expand and improve that feeling. Ultimately, the team responsible for The Wizard of Oz IMAX 3D has many reasons to be proud, but its technical achievement is almost the least of them; rather, they reminded viewers in that theater of the transformative power of cinema, and utilized one of the medium’s oldest classics to instill that passion in a whole new generation.

The Wizard of Oz IMAX 3D premieres today in select theaters. Find locations and showtimes here.

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