Dark and gritty have been the two adjectives to describe many new film series, reboots, or remakes over the last 10 years. We have all heard movies described along the lines of, “It’s a dark and gritty version of Snow White” (Snow White and the Huntsman); “It’s a dark and gritty version of Hansel & Gretel” (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters); or “It’s a dark and gritty version of Superman” (Man of Steel). The latest property to get the dark and gritty treatment is Timur Bekmambetov’s (Wanted) version of The Wizard of Oz, a new Syfy mini-series called Warriors of Oz.
While Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful already put a new spin on the Wizard of Oz story, Bekmambetov’s version will be — you guessed it — dark and gritty. According to Deadline, Warriors of Oz will follow a present-day soldier who is transported to Oz, but this time Oz is set in a post-apocalyptic future. Once in Oz, the soldier must team up with three other warriors named Heartless, Brainless, and Coward to battle the evil Wizard who has enslaved the land of Oz. Think of Warriors of Oz as L. Frank Baum’s world injected with a generous dose of Mad Max.
Timur Bekmambetov is set to produce and direct, while SyFy is looking for a writer to capture Bekmambetov’s vision for the mini-series. Bekmambetov first landed on most fans’ radar with the Russian film Night Watch in 2004. He also directed its sequel, Day Watch, two years later in 2006, and then gained mainstream success with the film Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman in 2008. More Recently, Bekmambetov directed the historical horror mashup film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 2012.
The Wizard of Oz is an iconic American movie that has been unsuccessfully remade, re-imagined, and sequelized again and again. In 1985, Disney tried with the sequel film Return to Oz, but that was mainly notable for traumatizing an entire generation of children. Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful prequel comes close to being a successful film, but its quality is all over the place and James Franco is not a strong lead in the film. It’s doubtful Timur Bekmambetov’s Warriors of Oz will be anything less than embarrassing.
This isn’t the first spin on The Wizard of Oz for Syfy. In 2007, the Syfy mini-series (at that point still called the Sci-Fi Channel) Tin Man put a science fiction spin on Baum’s classic tale. The mini-series starred Zooey Deschanel, Neal McDonough, Alan Cumming, and Richard Dreyfuss.
Warriors of Oz is the first of two four-hour mini-series Syfy will be developing for their basic cable network. While we’re at it, how about a dark and gritty version of The Little Mermaid set in a post-apocalyptic future, where Ariel has to sell herself into sexual slavery to earn enough money to buy legs so she can finally walk on land.
Nothing about this project sounds good, but if it’s on Syfy then it might be one of these “it’s so bad, it’s good” schlocky movies like Sharknado, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, or Birdemic. Otherwise it just sounds unnecessary and foolish. Seeing that Timur Bekmambetov is the “mastermind” behind this ill-conceived project, it’s likely going to take itself far too seriously.