Everyone loves the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, but Sam Raimi has created a film that shows how the wizard got to Oz. Starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff, this extremely colourful story prequel to the Wizard of Oz is perfect for the whole family. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
This is the first big blockbuster of 2013 and it does everything a blockbuster should do. The special effects are frequent and detailed; Oz is bright and colourful with surprises around every turn. The producers of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland were largely involved in this one, but unlike that movie, Oz is a much happier place than Wonderland. Raimi, best known for directing the original Spiderman trilogy (also starring Franco), uses his skills to design a world that fits the story.
To start, this movie has one of the coolest opening credits sequences ever. It rivals the best Bond ones. I didn’t see it in 3D, but the 3D would have added even more to this sequence. The cardboard sets and puppets move in and out in to the rhythm of the music. Right away I could tell this would be an exciting effects movie and it lived up on that end.
As seen in the trailer, the film begins in Kansas and in black and white, just like the original film. But Raimi went all out in this scene, framing it like old films and lighting it in an unorthodox way that really works. It doesn’t seem like much, but once Franco moves to Oz and the full colours come out, they are extra bright after seeing the black and white.
James Franco plays Oz, a carnival musician who comes to the land of Oz to fulfill a prophecy. I was skeptical about him playing it before hand, especially when it came out that Robert Downey Jr. was considered for the role. But I was pleasantly surprised by Franco, who plays the musician role to the best of his abilities. He is funny, quick and very selfish. Part of that is the script, but he has to add his own charm to the role too. His facial expressions don’t always match the tone of the scene, but that only happens a couple of times and shouldn’t be held against him.
Williams, Kunis and Weisz play the three witches and the casting for each character was well done. Williams plays Glinda, the good witch and the mother figure to the munchkins. Her big smile and soft but determined personality allow Williams to make playing the role easy. Kunis plays Theodora, who is the first person to meet Oz in Oz. She gives a great performance too, especially with her characters giant mood swings.
But the strongest performance of the film comes from Weisz, who plays Evanora, the main antagonist in the movie. She is very creepy and wicked in the role, stealing the spotlight in every scene. Her body language is very natural and her accent adds a layer to the role that others could not. I hope this movie gets her more leading roles, besides Bourne remakes.
Braff plays Oz’s assistant and voices the monkey, Finley. He is really funny, but not given very much to do in the second half of the movie. Bill Cobbs also shows up as a Tinker who helps Oz, and gives a nice old man performance. Joey King voices a little China Girl. Her voice acting is good (and funny) but the animation on her character was extremely detailed. China Girl’s fragile character will melt anyone’s heart.
Oz The Great And Powerful is a great family movie that everyone will enjoy. The special effects are wild and in your face, the acting is very strong and the attention to detail is second to none. This had the potential to be a bad movie but Raimi clearly worked hard on this to make sure it works. There is already talks for a sequel, which I don’t really know how that will work. But considering how much money this one made, Disney will figure something out.