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Over the last few years it appears the people at Disney have been on a mission to rebuild classic films and tales – and eventually they took on the challenge of L. Frank Baum’s beloved masterpiece, The Wizard of Oz. They casted James Franco as the lead, Óscar Diggs, in Disney’s adaptation Oz The Great and Powerful. Audiences are led on a journey through the magical land of Oz to discover how the Wizard came to be in Oz.
From the beginning, Disney labeled this film as a prequel to the classic tale that we all know and love, but once it begins it is clear that it’s simply a modern remake with a few twists and no Dorothy. Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a two-bit carnival magician who is at ease whether he’s on stage manipulating an audience or if he’s in his trailer manipulating a starry-eyed farm girl. When a twister comes barreling down on the carnival, Oscar hops in a hot air balloon, gets swept up in the cyclone, and awakens to find himself transported from black-and-white 1905 Kansas, to the bright, colourful and widescreen world of Oz.
Starting off in black and white at a Kansas circus, Oscar is whisked away in a tornado to the land of Oz, eventually transitioning into colour. The wondrous graphics and 3-D effects immerse viewers in the magical world of Oz until Theodora (Mila Kunis) arrives before the Wizard’s own eyes. Sam Raimi confidently gives the film a steady balance by having his characters ground the story so that the film doesn’t get carried away in Robert Stromberg‘s lush production design and Peter Deming‘s eye-popping cinematography.
As the narrative progresses we discover that the witches Theodora, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) are not who they say they are, and it is Oscar’s job to find out the truth before it’s too late for him to claim his position as ruler of Oz and bask in his treasures. With the help of the locals, a little cunning behaviour and illusion, Oscar must transform himself into the Great and Powerful Oz in order to save the land. He sets off on a journey accompanied by talking monkey Finley (Zach Braff) and a broken China doll (Joey King), the latter of which should’ve been replaced with a munchkin, which fulfills the traditional roles of the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow.
This is where the PG rating should be taken into account, as there are more than a few scares and jumps throughout the film, which could be as frightening to the little ones (especially in 3D), as Margaret Hamilton’s witch was for me when watching the original film for the first time.
James Franco shines in his role as Oscar Diggs, putting on a performance of ‘Franco’ standards and charming the pants off anybody who watches it. Although the on-screen chemistry with Michelle Williams fell short, both played magical performances as each of their characters. As for the rest of the film, the graphics provide something enchanting to look at when scenes become slightly tiresome and repetitive. The storyline that Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire may not be as original as viewers had hoped, often mirroring that of the 1939 version, but it will keep viewers interested for 130 minutes and allow them to see the yellow brick road and Emerald City as they’ve never been seen before.
Oz the Great and Powerful was extremely magical, and this reflected in the script. I am a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz and love the new magical adaptation – full of wonder and mystery! I’d rate it 8.5/10!