Oz the Great and Powerful
Come and see the most astonishing sites of all! This cry from the criers at the circus would lead people to see things that even books couldn’t describe. Each sideshow would promise children of young and old a joyful moment (even if it wasn’t what it seemed). One moment can guide someone to a live mermaid or another curtain reveal can show a human cannonball. The most magical of all are the magicians. Already presenting themselves of unearthly, they can make gravity unbounded and the brightest of jewels disappear. The only downside is that sorcery doesn’t exist. But these state performers know that they can at least try to show that their magic is real, as long as people believe in them.
One of the biggest reveals in cinematic history is that the wizard in the Wizard of Oz really isn’t magical. He is simply a old man from Kansas who uses a lot of smoke and projection to make himself larger then life. At least his personality is that large as he is willing to provide help for those who ask from him. The Oz stories by L. Frank Baum are literacy treasures that can make any child happy, even those without ruby slippers. Yet no story has ever tried to explore the man behind the large curtain. Disney has stepped in to give it’s audience the newest story from the magical land, Oz the Great and Powerful.
The movie already references to the 1939 classic by starting in the same sepia tone black and white by taking everyone to the bleak looking Kansas of 1905. The circus is in town and Oscar Diggs (played by James Franco) is performing alongside, as “Oz the magician” yet is also a con man. A powerful storm is approaching and he tries to escape via hot air balloon. The storm turns into a tornado and takes Oscar with it. Also like the original movie, Oscar’s world turns into bright colors when he finds himself in the Land of Oz.
He is greeted by Theodora (played by Mila Kunis) who reveals herself to be a witch who seems to be an outcast. When she sees the man’s name is Oz, she thinks that an age-old prophecy is going to be fulfilled. He will supposedly take the throne in the Emerald City and collect the vast treasure of Oz. Upon hearing about the riches, Oscar decides to head down the yellow brick road, leading him to the city to pull the greatest con of all. Along the way he encounters a talking flying monkey (played by Zach Braff) and a living china doll (played by Joey King). Upon meeting the other witches Evenora (played by Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (played by Michelle Williams), Oscar see’s that his con will be harder to pull off and he may need some real magic to do so.
Given the material I have told you without spoiling it, Oz the Great and the Powerful throws a lot at it’s audience. What’s interesting though is that it works very well. Director Sam Raimi really shows his passion about the Land of Oz (not to mention a couple of dark images that may frighten younger viewers). Thanks to the magic of Computer animation and 3D, Oz feels much larger then before. Rather then becoming an overwhelming world of eye-candy, the movie creates a marvelous fantasy that leads everyone down the yellow brick road.
What’s strange to me though is that the only one holding back the movie from being one of the best is Oz himself. James Franco simply looks too contemporary to play an early era magician. While he can play the slimy salesman, this is a role that requires both slippery and caring. He tries, though all I see is James Franco trying to play the wizard. The real wizards of the movie are the artists who’ve created this new idea of the Land of Oz
I’ll give this movie four heads of the wizard out of five. What lacks in an actor playing a wizard makes up with the wizardry of the spectacle as seen. Though I cannot say it’s this year’s best, I went to see this on IMAX in 3D and was satisfied.