Mania Grade: B
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- Rated: PG
- Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz
- Written By: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire (Screenplay) L. Frank Baum (novels)
- Directed By: Sam Raimi
- Distributor: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
- Original Year of Release: 2013
- Special Features: See Below
Oz the Great and Powerful Blu-Ray Review
Whimsical sequel to the 1939 classic
By Tim Janson
July 15, 2013
The most difficult problem I had with Oz The Great and Powerful was trying to connect the dots between James Franco’s performance as a selfish, womanizing, two-bit magician and conman, into the befuddled but good-hearted character we know from The Wizard of Oz. Frankly it’s a long journey but once you complete it, you have an attractive, if imperfect picture.
Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the 1939 classic which details how the wizard Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco), first came to the enchanted land of Oz and encountered the two evil witch sisters. Diggs is more snake oil salesman than magician as he finds himself on the run from the travelling circus’ strongman for flirting with his wife. He makes his getaway in a hot air balloon just as a tornado hits, sweeping him away to Oz. Director Sam Raimi takes his cue from the original, filming the opening in black and white and standard orientation before changing to widescreen color once he arrives in Oz.
He meets a pretty young witch named Theodora (Kunis) who believes that Diggs is the wizard of prophecy who will save Oz from the wicked witch. They return to the Emerald City where Diggs meets Theodora’s older sister, Evanora (Weisz) who is skeptical of the newcomer. Diggs, smitten by a hoard of gold and the promise of the throne of the Emerald City, agrees to find and destroy the wicked witch’s wand which will, in turn, kill her.
But it’s soon revealed that the true wicked witch is Evanora herself. The wand she wants Diggs to destroy actually belongs to Glinda, the Good Witch (Williams), whose father was the former ruler of Oz. Diggs becomes smitten with Glinda and Evanora uses this this to her advantage, convincing Theodora that Diggs doesn’t love her. Heartbroken, Theodora gives herself over to the…uhhh…darkside and transforms into the evil, green-skinned witch who plagues Oz in the 1939 film. Faced with two wicked witches, Diggs for the first time in his life has to put aside his own selfish goals in order to save Oz from the tyrannical hags.
There are two things that power the engine of this film…one is the performance of Franco and the other is the production design and visual effects that brings the Land of Oz to life. The Technicolor brilliance of the original was as much a star as any of the actors. On the other hand, the Production Design and Visual Effects teams nail it! Raimi doesn’t attempt to give the original film a makeover but rather he takes what that film did and builds on it, adding his own whimsical touches like the water sprites and the China Girl, one of this film’s most adorable characters. Oz positively sparkles and feels like a magical place.
Franco has always seemed to be an actor who tries to get by on good looks and charm and for most of the roles he’s played that formula has worked well. He’s obviously supposed to have this epiphany about his life that changes him but even after it takes place you still feel Franco isn’t fully committed. There’s a poignant seen where Diggs finds the little China Girl, unable to walk because her legs have been broken off. He repairs them with glue, redeeming himself for being unable to make a young girl in a wheel chair walk during the film’s opening segment.
Michelle Williams shines as Glinda the Good Witch, giving the character a fun pluckiness that Billie Burke’s performance as Glinda never had. She provides the shoves that Diggs needs to truly become the wizard. It’s interesting to see Theodora transformed from the beautiful but naïve young witch into the nasty, green-skinned, pointed chin horror. Of course, even under all the makeup and green paint, Kunis might be guilty of being too pretty. Margaret Hamilton she is not!
Oz the Great and Powerful works as a prequel but also works equally well as a standalone film. Seeing the original helps but it’s not required and come on…who hasn’t seen the original anyway? While the film may not have performed quite as well as Disney had hoped, it certainly performed well enough that they have already planned for a sequel.
Disney Second Screen – The Magic of Oz the Great and Powerful – This is a combined Blu-ray and ipad app that you can explore various extras regarding the making of the film.
Walt Disney and the Road to Oz (10:00) – Looks at Walt Disney’s plans to make an Oz film that date back to the 1930s when he tried unsuccessfully to secure the rights to the books.
My Journey to Oz by James Franco (21:00) – Franco directs this personal memoir of working on the film and interviewing Raimi and the other actors about their roles.
China Girls and the Suspension of Disbelief (5:30) – Looks at the creation of this character which was all done by marionette.
Before your Eyes: From Kansas to Eyes (11:00) – a featurette on the film’s elaborate production design.
Mila’s Metamorphosis (7:43) – A look at the two hour makeup transformation of Mila Kunis into the wicked witch.
Mr. Elfman’s Music Concoctions (7:13) – The creation of the film’s musical score.