Oz the Great and Powerful
by Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)
Oz the Great and Powerful takes viewers on a journey that explains the story of “the man behind the curtain.” For the most part, the film succeeds in describing the backstory to a classic tale, revealing what happened in Oz before Dorothy dropped in.
Just like in The Wizard of Oz, Oz begins in black and white, where we meet Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a magician with a traveling circus. He uses his clout to meet and lead women on, asking them to be his assistant in his show. But he’s really a con man, and when he seduces the wrong woman – the strong man’s girlfriend! – he flees in a hot air balloon, leaving behind his right-hand man and sound effects guy Frank (Zach Braff).
In an intense and stunning sequence, his hot air balloon is swept up in a twister and then lands in Oz, where of course everything then changes into brilliant Technicolor. After bouncing around through a river and down a waterfall, where I felt like I was playing a video game and gave Disney the opportunity to show off their special effects, he meets naïve witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who just wants to see the best in people. She tells him he is the prophesied savior of Oz and they head to the Emerald City to tell her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) about his arrival and meet flying monkey Finley (voiced by Braff) along the way.
Later, Evanora sets him out on his own journey after she tells him he must destroy the Evil Witch’s wand and he and Finley meet a china girl, whose village had been decimated by the Evil Witch and her flying baboon minions.
But is the Evil Witch really who Evanora says she is?
That twist is wisely held off for later (though if you pay attention early on in the film, you may be able to guess who it is) and Oscar and Glinda (Michelle Williams) team up to save Munchkinland from wickedness.
The film is beautifully made, with spectacular colors and fun effects. You’ll be amazed at the realism of the bubbles Oscar, Glinda, and their companions travel in to Munchkinland. You’ll be dazzled by cotton candy clouds and the bright, sleep-inducing poppies from movies of yore that Glinda uses her magic to camouflage in an attack. You’ll be transfixed by Theodora’s and Evanora’s powers, but are they good witches or bad witches?
Kunis and Weisz play their sisterly conflict of power wonderfully, but my favorite witch is Williams. Her Glinda is perfect and you can absolutely see how she grows up to be Billie Burke’s version of the Good Witch. The only person who seems slightly miscast is the one whose shoulders the movie rides on – James Franco. He seems to troll the whole movie, sometimes appearing insincere in the face of contention. Robert Downey, Jr. was originally slated to play the Wizard and I wonder if Franco had that in the back of his mind the whole time.
Overall, though, I thought it was a great film. But there are definitely scenes that may be scarier for younger viewers, where the Wicked Witch’s baboons pop out of nowhere or Glinda gets tortured in front of the townspeople. However, if they can handle the first movie re-telling of Baum’s book or even more recent films like Brave, they should be okay with this one.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a fun movie the whole family can enjoy. It may not become a classic, revered the way The Wizard of Oz is, but you don’t want to miss this entertaining tale that takes us back over the rainbow.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars