Sam Raimi has signed to direct Oz, the Great and Powerful for Disney, according to Deadline. The 3-D prequel to the original Wizard of Oz (it's kind of hard to write that, actually) will start with the character in his pre-wizarding days, when he's just a circus performer who suddenly gets whisked away in a hot air balloon by a tornado to the land of Oz and ... well, you can figure out the rest, right?
Raimi apparently beat out candidates like Sam Mendes, Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) and even Guillermo del Toro for the job. Robert Downey Jr. has been heavily rumored to star in the film but has not confirmed his involvement yet. A source told Deadline, "They are going to develop [the movie] for him, if things go right. The script will be rewritten."
Which might not be the worst idea in the world, according to The Playlist, which got hold of a draft of the script and found it, shall we say, lacking. But with Downey facing a pretty busy year anyway, with Sherlock Holmes 2, Gravity and The Avengers all coming up, this might give Raimi a chance to give the screenplay a long, hard look and get it into better shape than it's apparently in now.
Oz is Raimi's first official project since leaving the Spider-Man franchise behind, and his involvement also throws the future of the World of Warcraft adaptation—which he was supposed to direct—into doubt. It also all but takes him out of the running to direct The Hobbit. Harry Potter director David Yates is still the front-runner for that.
The bigger question is, even if you think Raimi could do a good job, does the world want a prequel to The Wizard of Oz? Or is this Hollywood thinking at its most desperate?