Film Review: Oz the Great and Powerful is Thrilling, Plausible Prequel

When small-time magician Oscar Diggs (James 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 wizard—and just maybe into a better man as well.”Disney Oz Great and Powerful

“Oz the Great and Powerful” is Disney’s reboot of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 series of classic novels known as the Oz books.  “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”  is one of fourteen Oz books Baum wrote, and the story most are familiar with.

I attended a screening of this long-awaited film and can tell you it was more than I expected. But don’t expect to see Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, Toto, Dorothy or the Ruby Slippers in this latest version of the “Land of Oz.”

Oz the Great and Powerful Screening

Instead you’ll find that a porcelain doll, China Girl, the best representation of a relationship between a CGI created character and a human one I’ve seen in a long time, and a small flying monkey are the wizard’s best friends in this film.

OZ Great and Powerful, China Girl 






“Oz the Great and Powerful” is the imaginary prequel to Baum’s magical journey to the Emerald City, conceived by screenwriters Mitchell Kapner (“The Whole Nine Yards”) and David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”), and director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man). This film is based on a mix of Baum’s novels; it’s a story that illustrates who and how the great Wizard of Oz became the ruler of the good people of OZ — and, in my view, greatly succeeds in doing just that.

Disney’s fantastical adventure “Oz The Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved wizard character. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.

In “Oz the Great and Powerful” you’ll not just be taken down the traditional Yellow Brick Road, you’ll feel like you’re gliding down a Slip ‘n Slide in one scene and jolted off  the ground on a wild hot air balloon ride in the next.

The mesmerizing 3D special effects grab you from the movie’s black and white opening scenes, mirroring the 1936 “Wizard” film’s opening scenes, and then transitioning into a vibrant and fantasy-laden land rich with color and curious creatures.

Then we meet the unsuspecting future Wizard, Oscar Diggs, portrayed by a scruffy-bearded James Franco, and his romantic escapades.  The first 15 minutes of the film has him juggling three different women at once.

This philandering of sorts is at the root of the evil he unleashes when he finally crosses Theodora (Mila Kunis), sister to the bad witch of Emerald City, Evanora, played by Rachel Weiz.

Oz theGreat and Powerful

Theodora feels jaded by Oz’s friendship with Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams), and transforms herself (via a familiar apple biting scene) from the beautiful and googly-eyed wizard’s love interest, into a scorned woman to represent the scorned woman of all time … broom an all.

The story turns even darker when the people of Oz want to retake control of their beloved Emerald City and follow Glinda and Oz to fight against the power-hungry evil sisters. The menacing flying monkeys of the original “Wizard” film swoop down to scare the Munchkins (and you!) again, but this time the baboons are bearing sharper teeth and bigger wings!

 The dialogue in this movie is simple enough for kids, but let me forewarn you this film has very sinister and violent scenes that don’t let up the entire duration of the film. These scenes are as strong as some in the Harry Potter films.

The PG rating may also mislead families and because it’s a Disney film you may be itching to take your kids. I strongly caution you about taking kids 9 and under to see this film, much less in 3D!

For the rest of us, this film is well worth spending the extra money for the 3D or IMAX versions.

Based on an entirely plausible storyline, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a visual delight and a thrilling trip into what could quite possibly be the origins of the Great Wizard of Oz.

Genre:                                      Fantasy Adventure

Rating:                                      PG                  

Release Date:                           March 8, 2013

Running Time:                           127 min


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