OZ: The Great and Powerful was one of the more interesting films to come out of 2013. Directed by Sam Raimi, (director the Spider-Man trilogy) this movie serves as a prequel to the 1939 classic. The Wizard of OZ is in every sense of the word a true 'classic.' It is considered by many as one of the greatest movies of all time. With its pretty visuals, fun characters, and engaging story, it's a timeless tale. Many wondered if we would ever see a remake. (Not that anyone would ever want it.) Instead, this film took a more interesting route, deciding to tell the story of how the Wizard came to OZ and ultimately became its king. It also showed us how the Wicked Witches came to be. With its pretty visuals and likable characters, The Great and Powerful is a nice little movie for the family on a Saturday afternoon. It's not great however, just mildly entertaining.
The story follows Oscar "OZ" Diggs who gets sucked into a tornado. (Sound familiar?) The tornado brings him to the land of OZ, which is strangely named after him. It turns out there's a prophecy saying a man with the same name as the land will come and slay the Wicked Witch. Things aren't what they seem however, and in the end it'll be up to some tinkers, munchkins, and scarecrows against flying baboon monsters. The film starts out nicely, in black and white and with a smaller aspect ratio. An appropriate start, since that's how the original movie started. It's here that we're introduced to Oscar. The intro was a nice start, but once Diggs lands in OZ is when the true magic begins. But first, the cast.
James Franco (Harry Osborn from the Spider-Man trilogy) plays the title character. The main thing about him is his quirkiness, basically a toned down version of Robert Downy Jr.'s Tony Stark. Yes he's a ladies man from the start. Sure, some of the quirkiness is sometimes funny, but often it's not and it comes off as overacting the role. For example, the most awkward thing is when he lands in OZ. He protects Theodora from the baboons like he's an expert and she's not. Then he's not shocked at all to run into a flying, talking monkey. He takes it all in stride like it's an everyday occurrence, So yes, I definitely think they should have gone with someone else for the main role, or changed the script. Mila Kunis plays Theodora, the lady that becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. She play's the part well, fooling the viewer into thinking she's the good witch. However, the highlight is definitely when she transforms into her familiar green self. The acting is kinda cheesy, but it's appropriate and a nice homage.
Michelle plays the lovely Good Witch. It's interesting since she's a younger version of the one we know from The Wizard. No real complaints. Rachel Weisz plays Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East. She plays the part really well, with beauty but deceit lurking. The other major characters are quite interesting. We have the little China Girl, whom was definitely one of the best, You can't help but feel very sorry for her in her first scene. Although, she went from broken little girl to having a sassy personality really fast, it was almost too fast. Though her scene in the house is the most touching. Then we have Finley, the flying monkey that becomes OZ's assistant. He's the Donkey to Shrek, the character everyone's going to like from the start. So yeah, the characters are pretty fun but OZ himself lacked that charm.
The land of OZ is a truly magnificent place to behold. Despite its age, the 1939 film's visuals look great. So you could imagine how glorious it would look with today's effects. It looks cartoonishly bright, but that's part of the charm. From the Emerald City to the Dark Forest, the scenery is quite lovely. CGI is abundant, but looks pretty good for the most part. The China Girl for example is amazingly done.There are a few key things I liked. The transformation into the Wicked Witch of the West was fantastic, and the laugh ranks as one of the best. It was also cool how the baboon creatures were portrayed as threats from the start. The climax of the film is pretty exciting. The scene with the scarecrows walking in the fog was really well done. And the scene with OZ's head in the smoke was pretty much his only 5 star acting performance. Danny Elfman composed the soundtrack. (Who also did the soundtrack for the first two Spider-Man films!) It fits the movie well, there's even a few memorable themes.
Overall, OZ: The Great and Powerful is not really a 'great' movie. It's fun, with its bright scenery and characters. In the end however, it's unremarkable and I can't help but think they could have done a prequel story better with a different direction. For a much better fantasy movie, watch Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.