The ubiquitous classic, “The Wizard of Oz” first splashed onto screens in dazzling Technicolor in 1939. Some 74 years hence, modern viewers have been given a prequel that tells us just how the Wizard got to be so great and powerful, but does it live up to the standards of its beloved predecessor?
Well, not entirely, but could anything really? Most purists would probably answer that question with a resounding “no.” What is certain is that the team behind “Oz: The Great and Powerful” did not embarrass themselves with this outing.
On the whole, the film is immersive and fun to watch. The cast turns in solid performances. Mila Kunis gives a notably well-done take on perhaps the most iconic character in Oz—though her physical and vocal efforts are unfortunately taken down a peg by a too-cartoonish presentation of her transformation. James Franco admirably attempts to fill the shoes of a role that wasn’t written with him in mind—in fact after Robert Downey Jr. stepped down, Johnny Depp was widely rumored to be the preferred replacement—and though he’s all silky charm if the viewer thinks to hard on the dialogue and the mannerisms Franco adapts, that Iron Man sized hole where Downey Jr. would have been is hard to overlook.
Technology is both the greatest friend and foe of “Oz”, the opening black and white sequence in Kansas looks stunning in 3-D and the Emerald City has never sparkled more magnificently. But, the effects feel overdone at times, particularly when it comes to the Wicked Witch of the West.
Margaret Hamilton’s witch was terrifying in part because she looked so human, though much thanks goes to her performance as well. Kunis nails the physicality of the part, her presence as the baddest witch of them all is palpable and the cackle is spot on—but the nuances of her performance are somewhat lost thanks to the over digitized look that accompanies her physical transformation. Instead of a spindly, creeping villain, we are given a cartoon-y, clawed villain, albeit with the trappings of a great performance underneath all that movie magic. A few other elements feel almost too fantastic to be just beyond the rainbow, but they are beautiful enough that it’s hard to mind too much.
By all means take a journey back to Oz. You’ll enjoy it, just don’t expect any ruby slippers or familiar melodies to await you there. This vision, it seems, is a brave new world.