"OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" opens Fri., March 8, 2013. Stars: James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Abigail Spencer, Bill Cobbs, Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Directed by Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead", "Darkman", "The Spider-Man Trilogy").
When small-time magician Oscar Diggs (Franco) pulls one flimflam too many, he finds himself hurled into the fantastical land of Oz where he must somehow transform himself into the Great and Powerful Wizard--and just maaybe into a better man as well.
This is loosely the prequel to the eternal classic "The Wizard of Oz", the 1939 film which starred Judy Garland. Like the classic, the opening sequence is shot in black and white, transitioning into color after our hero wakes up in Oz. Our hero is played by James Franco who portrayed Harry Osborne in all three installments of Raimi's "Spider-Man Trilogy". Franco is one of several veterans of Raimi productions to appear in this film.
This is another big budget risk by Disney Studios much like "John Carter". That film still hasn't shown a profit despite being heavily promoted. This one is relying heavily on devoted fans of "Wizard" being curious enough to see how Raimi envisions the world of Oz and the wizard's rise to power.
Director Sam Raimi is certainly no stranger to fantasy films. It's been his whole life dating back to 1981 when he directed "The Evil Dead" on a comparatively low budget. Not only did that film do very well at the box office, it has become a cult classic and a project which Raimi will produce the remake of with partners Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert.
Raimi has known failure as well but hit big-time success with the expertly conceived "Spider-Man" trilogy. His successes as a producer extend into the world of television, most notably to "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess". He will also be producing the remake of "Poltergeist", the 1982 classic produced by Stephen Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper. Having Raimi direct "Oz" was hardly a risk for Disney Studios but expecting it to last as along as "Wizard" is very risky...if that was their intent. Spending $200 million is also a huge risk considering how much they're going to spend on the upcoming "Star Wars" projects.
Regardless of anyone's intentions or expectations, this film should be viewed as fun for the sake of fun. Franco is a fine actor with the charm and grace to pull this off. Having worked with Raimi can only help him. Having Weisz, Williams and Kunis as witches is a great touch. It's a fun popcorn movie with incredible music by Danny Elfman. Enjoy!