“The Wizard of Oz” is a classic. It’s one of those movies that everyone should see more than once, and most of us have. As the old cliché goes, it can stand the test of time. But have you ever found yourself wondering how the wizard actually got to Oz or why the wicked witch was so wicked? These questions and more are answered for us by director Sam Raimi and a brilliantly selected cast in “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a circus magician who isn’t exactly raking in the dough. We find out he isn’t exactly the nicest guy before he’s chased by a fellow circus performer through the circus. He escapes in a weather balloon, but because this is Kansas, a tornado shows up to change his life forever. He ends up in the land of Oz and is told he must kill the wicked witch to fulfill the prophecy, become ridiculously rich and ascend to the throne to become king of Oz.
Franco plays the womanizing and conniving Oz quite well. Despite his less-than-stellar character, you find yourself rooting for Oz and hoping he’ll succeed. However, this movie is really made by the trio of witches Raimi selected. Mila Kunis is Theodora, who plays the Oz’s first “love interest.” She is little sister to Evanora (Rachel Weisz), the king’s adviser. Finally, there is Glinda, played by Michelle Williams. All three witches try to show Oz that their way is right and that he must help them to stop the others, but only one of them is telling the truth. All three women play their roles with aplomb.
Visually speaking, this movie is stunning. Sure, they probably go overboard a few times with the special effects for the sake of milking the 3D, but for the better portion of the movie, your eyes will be astounded. It’s not quite “Life of Pi,” but it’s still one of the better uses of 3D effects to come out in recent years. More than once, you’ll find yourself ducking out of the way or blinking to make sure your eyes still work as things fly off the screen and right at your head.
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Without giving too much away, the story is original, but it doesn’t mind throwing references back to the 1939 original. Casual mentions of the Yellow Brick Road and a much scarier version of those evil flying monkeys are just a couple of the reasons this film is a nice homage, while still remaining its own entity.
Simply put, this is a good film. It’s going to have its detractors, but that’s every film. Could they have done better? Yes, they could have, but not by much. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is worth the price of admission. Prepare to be amazed.