Sunday 10 March 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Review!!!

Is this movie worthy to call itself the prequel to much beloved 1939 Wizard of Oz?? Read our review to find out!

When I first heard that Sam Raimi was doing a Wizard of Oz prequel I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to be a big screen adaptation of the hit musical Wicked.  I’m not a big musical fan (actually Wicked is the only musical I’ve seen) but what I loved about Wicked was the depth of the intricate story and the world they created around what we already know about The Wizard of Oz.  They created a believable history and backstory for all the characters and did it in such a way as to completely change your perception of everything you thought you knew about Oz.  It really is very very good.

Needless to say, Oz the Great and Powerful is not an adaptation of Wicked and that was apparent right from the first trailer.  I was disappointed to say the least but now that I’ve seen the movie I’m really rather glad and feel slightly foolish that I ever doubted the man who gave us Spider-Man 1&2.

James Franco is Oscar, or Oz for short, a small time magician and conman working in a travelling circus.  He uses his charms to have his way with the ladies and tries to make some kind of living from performing tired old magic routines for punters who are all too eager to call his bluff.  He is clearly disillusioned and yearns for something greater.  Treating his assistant like a chimp and using people as he feels fit, he isn’t a very nice person and you can feel that he too hates the person he is becoming.

Oz is soon whisked away by a very familiar twister to the land of Oz where he is welcomed by a big eyed, innocent, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who is convinced that he is the chosen one.  Legend has it that a powerful wizard will come to Oz to free the people from the evil witch and in doing so, the wizard will become king of the land.  At the Emerald City, Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) explains that Oz can only become king by defeating the evil witch.  Oz knows he is no wizard but the lure of unimaginable riches is too great and he embarks on his journey, a journey that will introduce him to new friends and also new enemies.

Oz embarks on his adventure with the aid of a flying monkey (Zach Braff) and a girl made of China porcelain (Joey King).  They provide quite a few laughs and moments of comic relief throughout the movie. 

I didn’t watch the movie in 3D and, as such, I could see all the CGI unhindered, bright and clear.  Under the hand of Raimi, Oz looks exactly as we hope it would.  Bright, bold and beautiful.  Some of the CGI may not be perfect but then there is some that is, most obviously the remarkable special effects on China Girl.  All in all, the film is quite a feast for the eyes.

In the original 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, it was never clear whether Oz was real or simply in Dorothy’s mind.  The Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow being spitting images of three farmhands where Dorothy lived and the evil witch bearing an uncanny resemblance to Miss Gulch who was out to take Dorothy's dog Toto away, albeit with green skin.  The same can be said about Oz the Great and Powerful.  More than one character we are introduced to at the beginning appears to have a counterpart in Oz.  See if you can figure out which ones.  I will list a few after the rating for those who don’t mind the spoilers.

This is not the only way in which Raimi respects the original source material.  From the visual style to the dialogue and essence of all the characters, Raimi’s love for the original is palpable.  In fact, this is as much an homage to the original as it is an homage to the magic of cinema itself.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the movies rather great grand finale.  A true homage to the moving picture.

I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s a great family movie which I applaud for it’s balance as it never comes across as too kiddy, as such, it should be enjoyable for children being introduced to the world of Oz for the first time and for adults who want some more depth to the world of Oz they already think they know and love.  This is way better than tripe like the Alice in Wonderland remake or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, despite the visual similarities.

I especially enjoyed Franco’s performance as Oz.  A selfish man, who’s real character and goodness can’t help but come through from time to time, as can be seen in scenes such as those with China Girl and with the girl in the wheelchair at the beginning.  This helps us to empathize with his situation because we believe he isn’t all bad, there’s good in him and this in turn makes the movie all the more engrossing as the story unfolds.  As the wizard he is brash and loud as he thinks people expect him to be, as Oz Franco exhibits some really great, subtle and nuanced acting.  Franco’s come a long way as an actor since the days he played Harry Osborn in Spider-Man.

Another thing to note is the clever media campaign to try and build public interest by getting us all guessing who will end up being the infamous green witch we all love to hate.  It certainly worked and people were speculating all over the place about who was going to turn out to be the green witch – Weisz or Kunis?

An enjoyable movie and worthy addition to the heritage of The Wizard of Oz, if you’re a fan of the original you should find a lot here to keep you happy.

Check it out!

Rating 4 out of 5.


Warning - Spoilers follow!!!  Do not continue to read unless you don't mind some spoilerage!

Michelle Williams played Annie, the real world love interest of Oz who is getting engaged at the beginning of the movie.  She also played Glinda the witch.

Joey King played both the girl in the wheelchair and also China Girl.

Zach Braff played both real world assistant Frank and flying monkey assistant Finley.

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