Oz the Great and Powerful Blu-Ray Review - Mania.com

Oz the Great and Powerful Review

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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
  • Series:

Oz the Great and Powerful Blu-Ray Review

Whimsical sequel to the 1939 classic

By Tim Janson     July 15, 2013
Source: Mania.com

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.

Blu-Ray Extras

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.

Bloopers (5:06)


Showing items 1 - 10 of 10
jsmulligan 7/15/2013 7:12:42 AM

I found this movie very disappointing.  Was expecting a bit more of a sense of awe and wonder, and really just didn't feel it.  For me, Franco is part of the problem.  Maybe it's just me, but I haven't cared for him in anything I've seen him in (which, admittedly, isn't much).  Kunis seemed a little out of her depth when paired with Weisz as well.

blankczech 7/15/2013 7:39:25 AM

 I always thought that "Wicked" would become a feature film, based on the critical praise and popularity of the book and long running Broadway Musical.  Whoever owned the movie rights to "Wicked" dragged their feet on the project and this beat them to the punch.

I actually saw this in a movie theatre (though nowadays I save almost everything for DVD rentals or Cable on the big HD TV) because my girlfriend wanted to see it (there are so few movies she wants to see now that Nerd Flicks and Family entertainment have taken over the movie megaplex).

I remember thinking that it was an enjoyable movie back when I saw it, but oddly enough I can barely remember it now, and have no desire to revisit it.

Interesting how Mania reviews some movies twice...first when it hits the theatres then again when the DVD is released...I've never checked to see whether they recycle the same review or if it's different.

I have no knowledge of the Wizard of Oz books.  Is the first movie a faithful adaptation of the book?  The end of the original movie explains that the story is only a dream that Dorothy had when she was knocked unconscious during a storm.  How then do we get prequels and sequels...do we have to knock out Dorothy again?

monkeyfoot 7/15/2013 8:24:40 AM

I enjoyed the movie in the theaters but I also found Franco lacking. He just doesn't have...something when he's on screen. I know they originally wanted Downey but he was working on Avengers at that time. His style would have been perfect IMHO.

I know a guy who is a high school buddy of Raimi's and got a teeny part in the film along with other friends. He had a wonderful time on set for the few weeks he was there. He talked with extras, stagehands, set designers and such discussing their work and careers. He sometimes ended up sitting next to Michele Willams while they had their makeup done and had fun chats.

tjanson 7/15/2013 9:39:43 AM

Blank...no we do not recycle reviews.  The esteemed Rob Vaux handles our theatrical reviews and Bob Trate or myself generally handle the DVD/blu-ray releases.

As to your second question about the book and original movie...Dorothy waking up and realizing it was a dream was ONLY in the film.  In the book, the wizard does leave in a hot air balloon stranding Dorothy...then she, toto, the Scarecrow, tin man, and Cowardly Lion have an entire other adventure as they have to journey to see Glinda the Good Witch.  They actuall journey through the China Country which we saw in this new film.  Once they get to Glinda's castle she tells Dorothy the SILVER SHOES (Not Ruby Slippers)   that she wears can take her home to Kansas.  She goes home to be reunited with her family.  So in L. Frank Baum's books Oz is a very real kingdom

redhairs99 7/15/2013 11:42:07 AM

The whole Oz is a dream angle from the original is one of the things that made this movie a little difficult to "believe."  Taken on it's own, it works much better, but they tried to make it a direct prequel and that's the problem. 

I thought Mila's green witch make-up was utterly horrendous.  Just didn't work for me at all.  And I was also surprised at how flat "Oz" was.  Now, I didn't see the movie in 3D, so maybe that was the probably, but the "awe" of Oz when we first arrive fell flat for me when Franco was floating down the stream and looking up at the local flora, but it just seemed to have no depth in the CG.

All that said, I was able to enjoy the movie overall, just a few small nitpicks.

karas1 7/15/2013 1:47:56 PM

In the original books Oz was a real place, a country surrounded by other, equally magical countries.  There were several books in which Dorothy returned to Oz and then went home.  Eventually she and her Aunt and Uncle just moved there.

Then there followed a number of books where other girls (and boys) accidentally travelled from our world to Oz.  They ended up with a HUGE cast of characters, both native Ozians and American children, who ended up having some very strange adventures together.

At some point Baum stopped writing them and a woman named Ruth Plumley Thompson took over, writing as Baum.

I have two of the later Thompson books, my father had them when he was a boy.  They are quite joyful to read but quite daft.  Thompson was very fond of puns.

hanso 7/15/2013 3:12:32 PM

 I didn't have any expectations for it and ended up enjoying it, liked how he became Oz the Great & Powerful.


I agree with Red about Mila's witch.  I would've liked for Rachel Weisz to be the green one.  


redhairs99 7/15/2013 5:28:05 PM

 I think that could've worked better, Hanso.  Still it was entertaining enough.

almostunbiased 7/16/2013 7:25:06 AM

I was okay with this movie.  My kids enjoyed it but didn't love it.  My wife was bored.

DarthBob 7/17/2013 6:59:44 AM

I saw a video recently that compared many of the film sequences in Oz to those found in Army of Darkness.  It's amazing how many shots look exactly the same in both movies.



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