At the end of the summer 1939 audiences experienced ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ a film that became an instant classic that has been watched for generations and came from L. Frank Baum’s books. Seventy-four years later comes the prequel ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’, which tells the story of how the wizard came to be. I think most people would agree with me that the biggest fear of touching a classic is of ruining or shaming it, well fear no more! In our interview director Sam Raimi assured me that you can’t ruin a classic and I’m happy to say he carefully crafted a film that can be proud to be a prequel of such a renown movie and can maybe even become a classic itself starting with this generation, because it used all the great elements of its predecessor and extenuated some more.
This prequel follows young Oscar better known as the magician (later on Wizard) Oz (James Franco) at the beginning of his struggling career as a trickster, by chance he’s taken to the magical Land of Oz where he meets three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Here with the help of an assistant monkey, Finley (Zach Braff) and an adorable China Girl (Joey King) Oz gets a chance to transform himself and become a better man by helping the people in this land.
The film does an enchanting contrast beginning with black and white in a more real setting and changing to bright colors once we reach the Land of Oz, something it took from its predecessor and it is truly magical. The 3D effects are sure to captivate the audience, adults will fall in love with Oz all over again and children will want to visit this Land more than once. One of the smartest moves is that the movie uses ingredients from the previous film such as the hot air balloon, traveling companions, the yellow brick road and many more, which set a familiarity. The script incorporated well what we know of the Land of Oz as well as new additions; it has a lot of substance and likability. Admittedly the movie really reaches its PG audience at some point and here it might get a bit childish, but hey it is a PG movie after all. The film has its flaws in that some parts feel rushed, while others prolong more than necessary and there are some smalls gaps, but that’s easy to overlook thanks to everything else it offers, including nods to the original.
Franco’s character is so layered and he easily goes from being a trickster, to being a decent human with ease; in my opinion he filled in the shoes well. Williams is so sweet you might get a toothache just from looking at her, that’s her character’s intent, which means she did a good job. Weisz has a great mysterious atmosphere although her performance is a little too over the top at times, but nonetheless she’s a good representation of a typical Disney character. Kunis beauty really stands out here with her innocence but that dies off once she begins to throw tantrums, which are exaggerated a bit, but her high pitch voice (á la Meg Griffin) goes along with her character development. My favorite character is Finley the flying monkey, he’s delightfully hilarious and has so much heart that he sets a tone in every scene and steals each and everyone of them. The China Girl is so pretty and cute, we are all going to want to buy one!
Honestly I didn’t think they were going to be able to pull it off and they completely surprised me and left me speechless because they did it! Thanks to an amazing cast, director and team this movie went beyond my expectations. There are some parts that might be scary to younger kids, so keep them close to you. As a side note if you’ve never seen ‘The Wizard of Oz’, this movie is capable of standing alone; although you might miss what some of the nods represent you can enjoy the story with ease. Even the introduction to the film in the circus setting is beautiful in 3D and the film in its entirety with its colorful gorgeous atmosphere is bewitching. Exploring the Land of Oz and walking down the yellow brick road to Emerald City once more is bound to take you back to your childhood and you’ll be happy to share this story of love and friendship with your children.