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‘Wicked’ First Look Has Everyone Talking About Hollywood’s Aversion to Decent Lighting

I just wanna see the pretty dresses PLEASE!

The iconic Wicked poster from Broadway

When the Wicked movie was announced back in 2021, I absolutely lost my mind because I’m a diehard fan of this beloved Broadway musical. Based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, its plot explores the backstory of Elphaba, the eventual Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, and the relationships she forms with her roommate/bestie/rival Galinda (a.k.a. Glinda) and Fiyero, a prince who ends up stealing the hearts of both women. The musical is filled to the brim with emotional moments and belting songs that will be sure to blow everyone away when the adaptation hits theaters.

The movie version will be directed by Jon M. Chu, of In the Heights and Crazy Rich Asians fame, and star Tony award-winner Cynthia Erivo and pop icon Ariana Grande as Elphaba and Glinda respectively. Because there’s so much material that needs to be covered, Chu announced that the movie will be split into two parts, with Wicked: Part One being released on December 25, 2024 and the second part set to release a year later on December 25, 2025. It has been absolute hell waiting for any sneak peeks about the film, but our prayers were answered when Chu posted a first look of Erivo and Grande as their Wicked characters on Twitter last week.

And they looked great … I think. If you didn’t happen to notice, the pictures Chu shared are a bit dark. While you can see Erivo wearing Elphaba’s signature hat and Grande wearing Glinda’s iconic pink color, both images are a bit duller than anyone was truly anticipating. I mean, this is a story set in the world of Oz, which we all know from the original film to be bright and full of color. To have both of these pictures be so dark, even if it seems intentional, left me and a lot of Wicked fans disappointed.

Now, I’ve been around the block before, so I do understand that these images were purposely made to be darker to add a little bit of mystery to the film and not give too much away about Grande or Erivo’s looks. I mean, both films are one to two years away, so I understand that Chu and his team want to keep people on their toes by throwing breadcrumbs here and there. But, a very real trend in movies and TV where no one wants to light anything properly isn’t new. In fact, in the last few years, it seems like no one who makes this kind of entertainment wants their viewers to see anything unless their brightness is up to a million and they’re sitting two inches away from their screens.

For example, during the seventh episode of Max’s Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon, viewers were left absolutely perplexed when an emotional beach scene between Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon was lit like the two were chatting in a cave. The entire scene was incredibly hard to see, even in a dark room, and viewers quickly took to Twitter to voice their complaints.

Surprisingly, HBO Max responded to the backlash to the episode in a tweet, citing that the episode’s dark quality as “an intentional creative decision.” This response isn’t shocking as how, during an interview with Wired, Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon cinematographer Fabien Wagner explained that the problem isn’t with the show’s production team, but with viewers’ own television setups, stating, “A lot of the problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to tune their TVs properly. A lot of people also unfortunately watch it on small iPads, which in no way can do justice to a show like that anyway.”

But it’s not just TV shows that seem to be getting darker these days. A lot of movies seem to be suffering the same fate as Wicked. Movies like Cruella in 2021 or 2022’s The Batman have been criticized for being so dark that people can’t see the details of the characters or the action playing out in front of them. It’s a trend that viewers have not been enjoying and often wonder why this new way of movie/TV making even came to be.

According to Polygon, the answer to why movies, and by extension TV shows, are so dark these days is a mixture of filmmaking choices, streaming compression, and suboptimal viewing conditions. A lot of filmmakers have decided to take a more “naturalistic” approach to lighting their work where, in the past, filmmakers would just use bright bulbs and overhead lighting without giving too much thought of how it worked in the world they were creating. Writer A.B. Allen explained this decision saying, “Many filmmakers have opted to stick to their naturalist guns and try to emulate the true-to-life sensation of being stuck in a dark space without sufficient light, forcing the audience to reckon with a dim, hard-to-navigate frame, just like the characters in the story.”

It might be incredibly annoying to try to work out what’s happening in a new movie or episode of a show, but it’s up to us to respect what these film/show-makers have chosen to do to present their art to us because, at the end of the day, they do create some fantastic pieces of media. And, thankfully, it seems like Wicked may not have a color issue, as Chu has stated that color is “in his DNA” and that these pictures “were just the first tease.” But, if you’d like to fix your lighting issue on your TV before your next viewing party, CNET broke down how you can up the lighting settings on your television in the wake of the HoTD backlash.

Sometimes artists have to suffer to make their art and sometimes we have to suffer to see it. C’est la vie!

(featured image: Universal Stage Productions)

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Kayla Harrington (she/her) is a freelance writer who has been working in digital media since 2017, starting at Mashable before moving to BuzzFeed and now here at The Mary Sue. She specializes in Marvel (Wanda Maximoff did nothing wrong!), pop culture, and politics. When she's not writing or lurking on TikTok, you can find Kayla reading the many unread books on her shelves or forcing her friends to watch some random video she found. She's also a world class chef (according to her wife) and loves to try any recipe she can find.