Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful hit cinema screens today. It tells the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician who, through events reminiscent of those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, gets transported to the land of Oz where he is assumed to be the wizard and is tasked with defeating the Wicked Witch, before becoming the wizard of Oz later encountered by Dorothy Gale.

The movie is a fitting tribute to the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum’s novel, the Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white, mimicking the earlier movie starring Judy Garland, and upon reaching the land of Oz not only achieves full colour, but also widens from a 4:3 aspect to widescreen, a nice trick hinted at in the black and white segment by small, brief elements exceeding the 4:3 aspect frame. The colours thereafter have a brightness that similarly reflects those of the 1939 movie; indeed all the visuals make a very obvious nod to the famous predecessor.

The story is told with fun, interesting characters. The witches all have a degree of rigidity and decorum about them, but remain distinct, though Michelle Williams’ Glinda was a little flat and boring – her tone and demeanor never changed, and Mila Kunis’ later performance of Theodora was lacklustre in comparison to her performance earlier in the movie. The monkey Finley, voiced by Zach Braff who earlier appears as Oz’s assistant, is funny, occasionally cute, and loyal. The china girl, voiced by Joey King, is adorable and a little bit bad-ass. Meanwhile Oz is a lovable rogue with a grin you know you shouldn’t trust, occasionally a little bit too cheesy but generally a lot of fun.

Occasionally where the actors had to interact with the CGI, the film came off worse; and some 3D effects didn’t quite work the way they were meant to. Some scenes or sequences were obviously created as trailer materials, as they had no function in the story but to show off the 3D.

Overall, the film was fun; it played to its strengths and for those in the know it gave some wonderful nods to its source material – the circus at the start, for example, was named for author L. Frank Baum. It was just the right amount of over the top.

I’d rate Oz the Great and Powerful 8/10.

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