L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard Of Oz is perhaps the most popular work of fiction to have been adapted for the silver screen and stage alike across the decades. From the iconic movie adaptation starring Judy Garland as the naive Dorothy to the off beat version with an all african american star cast, Hollywood has been inspired time and again by the author’s beloved children’s book.
And the fictional universe of Oz has served as the breeding ground for other writers/ own take on the memorable characters. Chief among them being the Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch which also sprang a hit broadway musical. So it was about time someone made a movie with the titular character, the Wizard, as the protagonist; Oz The Great And Powerful is that movie.
Opening in Kansas, we get a glimpse of the life of one, Oscar Diggs, a travelling circus magician who is interested in a life beyond the confines of simplicity and humility. A con-artist and a ladies man, Oscar “Oz” dreams of greatness and is willing to step over anyone to achieve that dream. However fate decides to choose otherwise and our con-man’s aspirations are literally “twisted” when a stray tornado spits him out of Kansas city and into the wondrous land of Oz.
A seemingly fairy-tale land, Oz is filled all sorts of colourful flora and fauna which enthral Oscar till he meets a beautiful stranger who believes Oscar is the prophesied “Wizard” who shall rid the land of the wicked witch and bring peace and prosperity to their land. What begins from that point on is our beloved “Oz’s” journey from selfish grifter to a selfless hero. Along the way, Oz faces some perils and befriends a variety of colourful characters, some of whom foreshadow events and people from the original story.
Directed by Sam Raimi, this story serves, in many ways, as a prequel to the 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz. Like the earlier movie, Raimi’s film opens in black and white and goes into full colour once our protagonist enters the land of Oz. The look and feel of Oz are also pretty similar. And the resemblance between the Wicked Witch of West in both movies is also quite consistent. These similarities, as stated by Raimi, are intentional and serve as an homage to the classic movie.
First timers, who watch the movie with no knowledge about the Oz universe, let alone the Wizard, will probably scoff at the ludicrous characters and locations. However the script does manage to stand on its own and should not bore the noobs. For those who have read or watched the original story will be delighted with the numerous allusions and homages sprinkled throughout the movie.
Visually the movie relies on CGI extensively and as a result does a great job. The musical forest sequence is quite cool and well orchestrated. But don’t fret if you are reminded of Avatar at some point since the two movies share the same art director. Raimi’s trademark in-your-face scary visuals are present in portions and are a throw back to his Evil-Dead days. Speaking of Evil-Dead, Raimi’s trusted cohort, Bruce Campbell also stars in this movie. (Extra points if you can spot him at first try!). The rendition of Emerald City and Glinda’s Castle are truly masterful.
This story is set approximately 20 years prior to the original Wizard Of Oz, so there’s scope for a set of additional prequel stories being planned with the same cast, which is a good thing since all the cast members (even the voice cast!) are excellent. Mila Kunis and James Franco are truly talented actors and are a fine fit to the story.
I’d definitely recommend the movie to fans of Baum’s Oz universe. And if you’re one of those noobs, you’ll still come out of the movie hall smiling. So go watch Oz: The Great And Powerful!