Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful

In Theatres: 
Mar 08, 2013
Running Time: 
2 Hours, 7 Minutes

Before Dorothy ever put on the ruby slippers and walked the yellow brick road, the Wizard of Oz was nothing more than some small time carnival conman. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) dreams of become a great man, but his sideshow magic act is nothing more than a simple illusion that he uses to get people’s money and more often than not, get the girl as well. It isn’t until he’s whisked away to the faraway land of Oz by a rogue tornado that he begins he journey to become more than a magician but a wizard.

Oz the Great and Powerful opens just as Victor Fleming’s 1939 The Wizard of Oz does. The film is first presented in black and white with the more traditional 4:3 aspect ratio while Oscar is still in Kansas. There are the occasional bursts of fire or snowflakes break the aspect ratio during this sequence, adding an extra layer of depth to the 3D that works exceptionally well. It isn’t until Oscar reaches Oz that everything changes to the vibrant colors and full widescreen view.

This is an origin story for Oscar Diggs and how he rises to become to famed Wizard of Oz. It’s established early on in the film that he’s a conman who’s more interested in personal gains than friendships. Even initially in Oz he puts on this show of how powerful a wizard he is and that he’s the one to fulfill the prophecy and rid the kingdom of the wicked witch. To him, it’s all an act to become wealthy but to the citizens, he’s their savior. Oz the Great and Powerful does a great job at establishing the “man behind the curtain” we’re all familiar with.

The original Wizard of Oz has a fantastic cast of characters and Oz the Great and Powerful thankfully does too. One of the first people Oscar meets after arriving in Oz is the good witch Theodora (Mila Kunis). She becomes infatuated with Oscar and believes him to be the one to save the kingdom. Don’t let her innocence fool you, however, as she has a fiery temper burning within. It happens to be one of Kunis’ best performances yet.

While on his journey to become the wizard Oz needs, Oscar encounters Finley the flying monkey (Zach Braff) whom he saves from being eaten by a lion and is therefore indebted to him. Finley is much of a comical relief type character, and Braff brings a refreshing humor to the film, not to mention some spectacular voiceover work. Finley is also a constant reminder to Oscar about what is means to be good. Oscar is also joined by a tiny china doll voiced by Joey King. She’s one of the first people Oscar helps and joins along with him, even though she knows how dangerous it is. While they may not be as memorable as the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion (save for Finley, perhaps), they’re crucial for developing Oscar as a character.

Oz the Great and Powerful relies heavily on CGI and special effects, and thankfully the majority of it looks beautiful, especially in 3D. The colors are vibrant and sharp and the character animations of Finley and China Girl among others help create the wonderful world of Oz. The Emerald City gleams just as beautiful as you’d expect. There are a few instances where the camera shots distort your focus, but they don’t take that much away from the overall beauty of the film.

Oz the Great and Powerful is an excellent prequel of sorts that draws many parallels to the original source material. We see many familiar characters such as Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) and familiar places including the yellow brick road, and yet the film still feels new and exciting. Oscar may not be a great wizard, but clearly he is a great man.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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