James Franco Michelle Williams Mila Kunis Rachel Weisz
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
In 1939 what would become one of the most beloved films of our time debuted and landed six Oscar nominations. The Wizard of Oz (MGM), for most, is a classic that has been handed down from generations. Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t the first attempt at recapturing the fantasy for modern times. Return to Oz came out in 1985; presented by Disney, the film was considered a critical failure. With film existing in an era where anything can be created on screen, Oz has once again returned. Some will hate this new prequel directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) because it looks like Alice in Wonderland and not the simple classic in our minds. However, this film might just make new generations go back and discover a classic they never knew about.
Oscar (Franco) is traveling through a small Kansas town with the circus, preforming his magical tricks and trying to make a living. He looks up to Thomas Edison and other men that he considers powerful and great, yet all he does is fib, trick and manipulate to get what he wants. Oscar is chased out of his tent and into a hot air balloon headed for a tornado that takes him to a land unlike anything he has ever seen before. It’s called Oz, which just happens to be his nickname. Greeted by Theodora (Kunis), who says that Oz is the wizard they have been waiting for, he decides to play along in hopes of getting gold from the Emerald City until he realizes the land of Oz is being terrorized by an evil power.
If you haven’t seen the original film in a while, then the first thing you should do is refresh your memory. Much like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this film will be much deeper and richer if you are familiar with the source material. I really liked the fact that Oscar meets his high school friend Annie (Williams), who has come to tell him of her engagement to farmer John Gayle, and he wishes her well saying, “I will see you in my dreams”. There are hints and homages to The Lion, The Tin Man and Scarecrow, but in smart and subtle ways, making the familiar viewer feel welcome.
Beyond the association with characters and elements we recognize, the script explains how the wicked witch came to be green, and why she has a pointy hat and rides a broom. The visual effects for the film are flawless in the realm of over-the-top fantasy and might just join the previous two Oz films, which earned visual effects nominations. Franco is quite entertaining as the Wizard of Oz and the three actresses are well cast. Special effects being what they are, the heart of the story isn’t with how impressive everything looks in 3D; it’s still with the spirit of the first film, about people finding their place in the world.
Final Thought – Should inspire a new generation to go back and discover a classic. Grade B- By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Disney Pictures has brought us a richly decorated 3D family fantasy adventure in Oz the Great and Powerful. To take you back to the old days, it begins in black and white, showing the origins of the Oz figure, with all his magical tricks and personal faults. After going through a terrifying experience that makes him think he wants to be a better person, his hot air balloon touches down onto the enchanting land of Oz, a beautiful, fanciful place where everyone has been eagerly anticipating his appearance. They play right into his fantasies of grandeur, and he is back to his old tricks of being something more than he actually is. However, in his encounters with the three witches of Oz, he meets his match. In different ways, they each challenge him to produce what he has promised. One—along with true friends he meets along the way—is able to appeal to his better side and assist him in achieving something he is longing for deep down, but is not quite in touch with. This is something of a hero’s journey for him.
The talented director, Sam Raimi, has worked in all the major areas of filmmaking--producing, writing, directing, acting, filming, and editing—primarily in the fantasy-adventure genre, and his experience is evident in this production. It flows very nicely, the 3D is used appropriately, and he has assembled a group of actors who are up to their usual fine performances, especially the witches, played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams who are skillful in conveying innocence, evil, or good, as called for by the story. James Franco largely succeeds as Oz, a droll character who is canny enough to lead others on; however, I felt someone like Johnny Depp would be better suited to the role. A monkey (Zach Braff), a china doll (Joey King), and other townspeople add to the color and warmth of the story and picture. Sets and costumes are well designed, and evoke feelings of visiting another country.
Oz is likely to be appealing to most people who enjoy fantasy films and are not too wedded to the early version of the Wizard of Oz. Because of 3D, some of the scary scenes of flying spears and bat-like animals may be too much for very young children who are sensitive to such. Grade: A-