Director Sam Raimi brings audiences back to the poppy fields, witchery, munchkins and the yellow brick road in the magical world of Oz. This time, instead of following the ruby red slippers of Dorothy from the 1939 classic, the film tracks the story of the not-so-wise wizard, Oscar or, more notably, Oz (James Franco) and serves as a prequel to the classic story.
Oz is not the Houdini he pretends to be. He is more of a con artist magician who entertains to collect money. After his circus show flops when he fails to make girl in a wheelchair walk again, karma hits him with a tornado and he is swept away to the land of Oz. When he lands, he meets residents who have been eagerly waiting for his arrival.
The film was aesthetically pleasing not only because of Mila Kunis, who played the witch Theodora, but the sudden switch from black and white to color brought the magic of the world of Oz to life. Whether it was the characters flying in bubbles, Glinda’s magical fog filling the air or the witch Evanora’s green sparkles shooting out of her wand, the graphics kept up the entertainment. The visual elements were also key in setting up the magical creatures. The animation of all of the magical characters, especially china girl and Oz’s monkey sidekick (Zack Braff), was well done. They were not human, but audiences could still identify with them and cheer for them to help Oz save the day.
The cast portrayed each of their characters well. Oz’s relationship with his sidekick monkey was similar to Donkey and Shrek from “Shrek.” The monkey kept up the laughs as he poked fun at Oz. James Franco played the role of a mediocre magician well, and the script was built to enhance his absurdity. The three witches explored three different personalities and offered twists on the original movie’s characters. Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora and Glinda (Michelle Williams) all brought the magic to the movie. Michelle Williams perfectly portrays the beauty and innocence of Glinda, who Oz kept calling “Wanda” throughout the film.
The role of the Wicked Witch of the West, brilliantly captured by Margaret Hamilton in the classic film, was not as frightening in this movie. Before Theodora’s transition into a broom-riding witch, she is an innocent girl who falls for Oz’s tricks and receives the music box he gives every woman that catches his eye. In the classic film, the Wicked Witch’s voice was the most haunting part, but in this film the director did not change it. The wicked, angry moments of the witch were more laughable than scary. Her reasoning for turning wicked was riveting, but her wickedness, not so much.
The new director does pay homage to the original classic in clever ways. Whether Raimi used the witches’ tear drops to burn their skin, hinting at the famous “I’m melting” scene from the 1939 Wizard of Oz, or used scarecrows as part of an illusion to save the day, the new film offers a fresh look at the old film and brings the magic.
Stunning visual effects and all-star cast drive the brilliance of “Oz The Great and Powerful.”