This is the first movie I’ve seen this year that deserves my 4 BUCKET rating as the first MUST SEE MOVIE of 2013! Sam Raimi has done an amazing job of breathing life into the classic “Wizard of Oz” storyline with this prequel that tells the story of how “Oz”, the great and powerful wizard we all came to know and love as played by Frank Morgan in Frank L. Baum’s story traveled from being in a circus on the plains of Kansas all of the way to The Land of Oz. James Franco is a young charlatan magician, Oscar Diggs, with a traveling circus in a black & white dustbowl Kansas when he has to make a hasty escape after flirting with another performer’s girlfriend.
So he jumps in the balloon used to take people up for balloon rides, and makes good his escape, without noticing in his haste that a severe storm is bearing down on the small circus, not unlike the storm that whisked Dorothy away in the original story. Suddenly Mr. Diggs turns to see a Kansas twister which promptly grabs the hot air balloon and begins whipping it around and around inside the tornado funnel. He is thrown into the bottom of the balloon basket begging for the chance to change his life and do something meaningful and good with it, and suddenly things have calmed down and he rises to peek out and see where he is, and just as in the original, suddenly the movie is in beautiful widescreen brilliant color and the wizard has arrived in OZ!
He soon encounters the first of 3 witch sisters who live in Oz who have been biding their time while waiting for the prophecy foretold by their father, the original Wizard of Oz, that a new wizard would fall from the sky to take his place and defeat the wicked witch who was terrorizing the inhabitants of Oz.
But all of the sisters are beautiful as you can see in the photo! Where does the green-skinned, ugly, wicked witch come from? If he is just a sideshow phoney, how can this fake magician defeat the wicked witch who has real magic powers? Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz are cast as the 3 sisters who are all trying to take control of the throne of Oz for the power but also for the huge treasury of gold. Michelle Williams is Glinda, who of course we all know is the Good Witch of the North, which leaves the other 2 as candidates to be the evil green-skinned monster which haunted my dreams every year after seeing the movie when I was growing up!
Sam Raimi has done a brilliant job of weaving nods to the original movie into this prequel plot with the Winkie Guards and the tinkers who were referenced in the original as having made the tin woodsman. There is a lion who attacks Theodora and Oscar Diggs shortly after he arrives, but the fake magician uses a handful of flash powder to frighten the lion away, setting the stage for the cowardly lion later. Even the Munchkins are part of the prequel story, but not the Munchkins we met in the original story!
There are two new characters introduced in this prequel who both have endearing roles. They are Finley, the Flying Monkey who swears his lifetime allegiance to Oscar after being rescued, and China Girl who lived in ChinaTown until it was destroyed by the witch’s winged baboons.
One thing I want to make note of for those reading my review who will go see this treasure, and that is to explain why there are some things missing, for example, you will NOT see any ruby red slippers! The color of the wicked witch is also different and you may notice there is no wart on her chin. Those particulars that were iconic parts of the original “Wizard of Oz” movie are all trademarked by Warner Brothers, however “Oz the Great and Powerful” is made by Disney, and Warner Brothers would not allow them to use their trademarked bits that were not parts of the original Frank L. Baum story in the books! In the books, Dorothy wore SILVER SLIPPERS, not ruby shoes, but as they were making the original movie way back 75 years ago with the technology of the day, the silver slippers weren’t brilliant enough to be discernible in the Technicolor imagery they were using, so it was decided to change them to the RUBY SLIPPERS we all recognize. So don’t look for them in “Oz the Great and Powerful”!
In my estimation, James Franco was the perfect choice to be the young Wizard of Oz with his sly, sneaky smile and he plays the role to perfection! There is clever use of the 3D effects throughout the movie giving it depth and brilliance that can’t be captured in the photos I’ve used on here!
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to OZ from start to finish. The CGI is seamlessly intertwined with the live action and the costumes and set design were all spot on! If you keep a close eye peeled, you will even see a herd of “horses of a different color”! Since we haven’t been introduced to the Scarecrow or the Tin Woodsman yet, and due to the elderly age of the Wizard in the original storyline, I hope to see more stories from OZ!
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