FRANCESCO VIOLA III
Ever since “The Wizard of Oz” was released in 1939 and amazed audiences, the film industry has tried countless times to recapture the magic of the classic. There was “Journey Back to Oz” in 1974, “Return to Oz” in 1985, and countless other adaptations, but none of them have had the same sense of joy and wonder that the original had.
It seemed as if a true successor would never come, but after 74 years, a worthy follow up has come in the form of a prequel. That movie is “Oz the Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi.
The movie takes place roughly 30 years before the original movie takes place. The movie obviously follows the story of Oscar Diggs, played by James Franco, commonly referred to as Oz, and how he became the great and powerful wizard. He starts his adventure as nothing more than a circus magician, without much success. He isn’t getting a big crowd, and has very few friends.
After a show that goes wrong, he is chased into a hot air balloon by one of the circuses strongmen. He uses the hot air balloon to escape, but gets swept up in a tornado. Before he can do anything to save himself, he is transported into the land of Oz.
While in Oz, he gets in the middle of a power struggle between three witches while being told he is the great wizard of OZ.
The story does a wonderful job of mixing entertaining adventure with actual drama. It feels warm and light hearted at times, but knows when to slow down for serious and touching moments. The drama comes from the film’s characters, all of whom are great.
The arch that Oz has over the course of the film is relatable and entertaining to watch due to James Franco’s charisma. The flaws of Oscar are a focal point in the film, but he still comes across as very likeable. Theodora, played by Mila Kunis, is very sympathetic and plays her part wonderfully. The complexities and tragedy of Theodora are perfectly illustrated by the script and her performance.
The side characters are also very likable. Finley the monkey, played by Zach Braff, is always entertaining and one of the highlights of the film. He is a perfect example of comedic relief done correctly. The China Girl, played by Joey King, is one of the sweetest film characters in years. It is a joy to watch her because of how likable she is. The side characters make the set pieces and special effects better because of how immersive they make the world.
The sets and effect look beautiful, and they compliment the characters and the world they live in perfectly. It does a wonderful job of combining the classic elements of “The Wizard of Oz,” while also updating and adding to the land to make it feel more alive.
Despite the film’s great qualities, it is not without it’s flaws. The cinematography has it’s moments when it feels awkward and distracting. Most of the shots are fine, but none of them are spectacular and some of them are just annoying. Also, the score of the movie doesn’t match the overall sense of wonder and magic that the sets and characters provide. It wouldn’t be bad in another movie, but it doesn’t work here.
Despite minor nitpicks, the film is amazing and a worthy follow up to the classic movie.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” earns a well deserved 9.5/10.