Discovering that the rights to the other ‘Oz’ novels other then ‘Wizard’ was in the public domain, it was only time will tell that ‘OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL’ was released by Disney. Acting basically as the prequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz’, but not being able to mention Dorothy, the Tin Man, etc (though references are there), this film tell the story of James Franco’s lothario magician getting sucked in to ‘Oz’ and being seen as the Monomyth chosen one to end a war between Michelle William’s Witch, and the sister witches of Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. Directed by Sam Raimi, there was certainly interest to see if this film could at least respect a film which can easily be defined with the term ‘perfect’.
To do this Raimi employs some incredible tricks (or dare I say magical illusions) to keep the respect with the original picture. The first 15minutes of the film is in black and white, and has a smaller aspect ratio, while when things come to ‘Oz’ the whole thing widens and everything comes in glorious technicolour. While icons of the yellow brick road appear, this film certainly does have a Disney feel to it. The moral message in this is a lot broader then that of the ‘Wizard of Oz’, because of this everything comes across very safe. It is as if it does not want to be associated with the original film at all to a certain degree. The castle looks like the classic Disney design and the way the characters inhabit the world, feel like as if it’s something from a more 1990’s Disney film. Visually it is stunning though, the pot girl is a incredible CG model (despite taking up the annoying Disney child quota here). The story itself borrows elements from different fairy tales while mixing that of ‘Wicked’ the stage play, that and arguably there isn’t must of a conclusion coming from it.
Raimi does bring a fun aesthetic to it though. Full of homage’s to classic (at times silent) cinema, and enough scares for the younger audiences to enjoy, with good balancing of light and dark moments. There are the usual Raimi hallmarks in here – Bruce Campbell does bring his ever likable appeal, there is good use of first person, fast handheld and the use of a overlapping passage of time montage sequence. But one of the more apparent one is how he characterises one of the Evil Witches, with the idea they have mid shot of her frightening one of the central protagonists. It is something right out of ‘The Evil Dead’ in a way. Again though smaller audiences might find joy from it then anything else, as once a scary seen happens something more comical comes along.
Generally the acting it good, Franco is as always charismatic (even though I find it strange that he remains pretty much a prick throughout the film), Mila Kunis is showing her acting prowess with each seen and its good to see Michelle Williams return more to mainstream pictures. In regards to other similar Disney fairy tale feature, this is a lot better than ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It’s more deserving as it tells a actual (if yet dark) story. This is certainly a well deserved watch and highly recommendable of family viewing, and no – not just for Zack Braff’s flying monkey.