I was hesitant about seeing Oz, The Great and Powerful. I wasn’t quite sure what they were going to do with it, and honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go back to the land of Oz, I mean, there’s the original stories by L. Frank Baum, the classic ’39 film, there are comics, there was the ’85 film, Return To Oz…
I was pleasantly surprised.
It’s not the worst film, but nor is it the best, it’s good, but the final act really doesn’t hold any surprises, but I just thought it was cool seeing Sam Raimi have fun making movies again. This is probably Raimi’s most fun film since the Evil Dead films. There are all kinds of fun camera moves, things flying at the screen, and of course, though all too briefly, Bruce Campbell.
This is essentially a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story shown to us in the 1939 film, it follows Oscar “Oz” (James Franco) a bit of a con man, ladies man and stage magician. He’s aided by the only friend he’s got, Frank (Zach Braff), who treats like crap. He’s a man who’s only concerned with himself, and making bucks, or if possible, conning people out of their bucks.
Much like in the original film, the sequences in Kansas are shot in a sepia tone, and in a 4:3 frame, though occasionally things sneak out of it, and then once Oz, boarding his balloon to escape an angry husband, he’s swept up into a tornado. He pleads with his higher power to please spare him, and he’ll try to be a better person (though we know how long those claims usually last), the next thing we know color slowly seeps into the picture, and the frame slowly sweeps out to reveal the landscape of Oz.
Once there he is introduced to a strange world with witches, including one who falls for his routine, Theodora (Mila Kunis), and when he breaks her heart, well, she embraces her dark side at the urging of her sister.
Also in this world is Glinda (Michelle Willliams) who is likable, but seems to me to be trying to channel her inner Cate Blanchett.
We stumble across Zach Braff again, this time as a CG flying monkey in a bell-hop suit, named Finley. He and Joey King’s Girl in Wheelchair and China Girl are the show-stealers. They are great, family friendly characters that I think will appeal to a lot of the younger viewers.
There are all manner of connecting materials to the 39 film, there’s a lion, talk of scarecrows, singing munchkins, a broom, a yellow brick road, wicked witches, and a poppy field.
The film may be frightening for younger viewers, there’s flying baboons that seem incredibly reminiscent of Deadites, and honestly there was a moment when I thought Oz was going to say “Baby, you got real ugly” to Theodora… Missed opportunity?
The film is by no means perfect, and if you’re looking for it, it’s very easy to find faults in it.
However, it’s a Disney movie, it’s a mostly family friendly, and the 3D as well as the CG are top-notch. Raimi’s use of 3D is not only to add depth to the picture, which he does, but there are moments when things are flying right out at you.
So depending on who’s going to the theater it may be worth it…