"Oz the Great and Powerful" -- movie review
Release date: March 8, 2013
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire
Now before you go rushing to judgments and condemning Disney for have the brash to reboot, remake and/or prequelize one of Hollywood's all-time classics. L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen novels, one of which was the basis for the 1939 classic, "Wizard of Oz". Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man" trilogy, "Evil Dead" trilogy) re-introduces that magical Land of Oz and does it in spectacular fashion. With some amazing visuals, a solid cast and a mix of humor throughout, the return to Oz is a welcome one.
Set before the events of Baum's novels, "Oz the Great and Powerful" is a prequel of sorts to the movie we've all grown up with and tells the story of Oscar Diggs, played by Academy Award nominee James Franco. Oscar, or Oz as he is called, is a small-time, womanizing magician and con man in dusty, boring Kansas. He's charming to women who don't know better, clever enough to trick folks who aren't as smart as he is -- but he is, at heart, a lonely man. Oscar wants out of Kansas because, as he puts it, "Kansas is full of good men...I want to be a great man" or something to that effect.
Oscar's way of playing with the hearts of women and his refusal to appreciate his one and only friend, Frank (Zack Braff), ultimately help wear out his welcome with the carnival but during his escape he is swooped up by a Kansas tornado and whisked away to the magical land of Oz. Upon crash landing, he is met by Theodora (Mila Kunis), who claims to be a good witch. Oscar is immediately mistaken to be the fruition of a prophecy that claims a wizard will descend from the heavens to defeat the wicked witch. Theodora already plans on being the Queen to Oscar's King of Oz.
Of course, Oscar goes along with this crazy idea -- after all, this is his chance for greatness and he's been promised more gold than he could ever imagine -- who could turn that down? Upon arriving at the Emerald City, he meets Theodora's sister, Evanora (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz), who doesn't believe Oscar to be the one spoken by legends but can clearly see he has Theodora has her eye on him. When Evanora sets him off to kill Glenda, the "bad" witch (Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams), it becomes pretty obvious that old Oscar is being played.
The movie not only goes into the background of not only Oscar, but the Witches of Oz as well. Their journey will take them to Glenda, where they will learn the true nature of the prophecy and set up Oscar's purpose in Oz. At the same time we learn about why the bad witches are bad and the good witches are good. And this wouldn't be an "Oz" film without traveling companions. Enter Finley, a talking, flying money and a porcelain China Girl, who Oscar meets along the way. Both characters serve as important ties between Oscar's old life in Kansas and the new one he is trying to live in this fantastical land.
Sam Raimi had a lot to live up to by taking the reigns of the "Oz" franchise. Unfortunately, with Warner Bros. still having proprietorship over certain characters and iconic imagery from the 1939 original film, Raimi and company had to come up with simple redesigns that would be familiar to fans but stand on their own -- such as the yellow brick road, the Emerald City castle and even the skin tone color of a certain wicked witch. Thankfully, they deliver. In fact, the entire movie is absolutely gorgeous. From the opening moments in black and white Kansas, to the incredible twister, to the panoramic gorgeous landscape of Oz, the film is sheer eye candy.
But it's the cast is that sells the rest and it starts with James Franco. Franco's take on Oscar, the man we will come to know as the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, is a surprisingly deep and rich character. As the witches of Oz, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis all seem to be enjoying the various levels of good and evil they are able to display. There are also a lot of fun tributes to the original movie that add character to the movie without feeling like they are wedged in there for a point of reference.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" is a spectacular addition to the "Oz" family that is sure to delight fans of the old movie as much as it entertains the kiddos. With a running time of just over 2 hours, the movie is paced nicely enough, filled with fun and hilarious moments that help even in the few dull moments. It's also a rare movie, especially a live action movie that is greatly benefited by 3D.
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