This prequel to the 1939 American classic The Wizard of Oz may not be as bad as you think. Sam Raimi, director of other cinematic masterpieces, such as the Spider-Man trilogy and The Evil Dead trilogy, transformed the world of Oz into a breathtaking visual spectacle. Although Oz the Great and Powerful is visually dazzling and wondrous, it lacks the magic that made the original 1939 film one of the most celebrated movies in history. Let’s just say, this movie is much more style over substance and the script isn’t as dazzling as its visuals. However, this prequel did attain some fine performances from James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz.
Despite how incomparable this movie is to The Wizard of Oz, there were some cleverly put-together themes and backstories that both resonate and expand on the characters of Oz. Unlike the backstories of Broadway’s acclaimed Wicked, this Oz film follows the journey of Oscar Diggs, a womanizing con man/circus magician, searching for meaning in his life a chance to reach the peak of his potential. When a tornado strikes Kansas (deja vú, anyone?), Oscar travels in a hot-air balloon into the color-saturated world of Oz, filled with mystical creatures, witches, munchkins, and quirky townspeople. All three of the witches play sisters, two of them (Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz) bent on destruction and the other (Michelle Williams) fighting for justice. As the new leader of Oz and with the use of his “magic,” Oscar must save the people of Oz from the Evil Witches in order to restore peace and balance throughout the land.
Somehow, these backstories surprisingly work well and skillfully interlock the stories behind the witches and the wizard of the original Oz. Although the movie is rated PG, there were indeed a few realistically frightening scenes, especially with the enhancement of technology. Just watch out for the flying baboons and when the witches in their true form, you’ll know what I mean. Another great witty addition to Oz the Great and Powerful were the Wizard’s cute sidekicks, China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and Finely the winged monkey (voiced by Zach Braff). Although there’s no Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, or Tin Man, these cute and hilarious supporting characters uplift the film with comic relief.
But occasionally, Oz the Great and Powerful would suffer from clichéd melodrama and corny moments, such as the Munchkins’ brief musical number, which is indeed as cringeworthy as you can imagine. Also despite the fantastic visual effects, one could tell that some scenes felt visually inauthentic and cheesy, especially during the fight scenes.
Even so, Oz the Great and Powerful is not only an impressive Disney financial feat (it earned $79.1 million in the opening weekend), but it neither upstages the original Wizard of Oz, nor does it fail to provide its own clever twist. Watch the trailer here.
Rated: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language