From the wonder and awe of “Alice in Wonderland” to 2006’s disastrous “The Pink Panther,” Hollywood is infamous for remaking classics. Audiences are fierce in their love for original films and often have a hard time warming up to a completely redone version. Luckily for Disney, it sidestepped this awful tightrope of doom by making a prequel of “The Wizard of Oz” with “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Rather than completely redoing one of the most beloved films of all time, Disney made a prequel to the classic, telling the tale of how the great wizard came to be.
James Franco plays Kansan Oscar Diggs, a circus musician struggling with various moral inadequacies. He is swept away so suddenly by the vast and vibrant Oz, a magical land that seems to be filled with unspoken riches. Thinking he’s hit the big time, Oscar set off to be the almighty wizard the inhabitants were expecting, but three witches are not so sure he is all that fantastic. Despite his formerly self-centered ways, Oscar agrees to help the land solve its problems, though he must find the people who have evil lying in their hearts before it’s too late. By utilizing his small-time magical talents, Oscar finds a way to help the land and become the almighty wizard audiences learned to love years ago.
The true magic of “Oz: The Great and Powerful” comes with its stunning imagery and wondrous effects. Every scene is packed to the brim with imagination and wonder, leaving audiences starry eyed. The film features gorgeous sweeping views and stunning shots of the land as Oscar embarks on his journey. This scenery is nearly as marvelous as “The Wizard of Oz” was in its heyday. Today’s technology has truly brought this film to an entirely new level of wonder. Some may find the CGI of today to be too much, but the vast majority agrees it makes the film all the more magical.
Another strength of this film is its cast. Mila Kunis is marvelously wicked as Theodora, enchanting audiences with her beauty before transforming into a malicious green beast with a bite of an apple. Michelle Williams is glorious as Annie and Glinda, charming audiences just as Billie Burke did in the 1939 classic. Rachel Weisz is most surprisingly beautiful as Evanora, the not-so-nice sister who manipulates others’ feelings with her wonderful wickedness. This evil role is a delightful departure for the typically timid actress, gifting audiences with a rare glimpse into her monstrous side. More debated is James Franco, as he’s either praised for his clever portrayal or disliked for being too much like himself in other roles. Despite this minor setback, the cast is undeniably entertaining and talented.
While the cast is lovely, some viewers will sorely miss familiar favorites like the cowardly Lion and free-spirited Scarecrow. These characters became synonymous with the brand. Despite this absence, the film does bring in new characters to love and cherish. In addition to the three beautiful witches, there are the lovable Finley the flying monkey (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King). With so many new exciting characters and storylines, “Oz: The Great and Powerful” has escaped being compared to “The Wizard of Oz” and audiences learn to sit back and enjoy it.
The appeal of this film to all groups is also a major plus for families looking for an agreeable film for a night in the cinema. It offers enough visuals at every twist and turn to keep the little ones from being distracted and contains a storyline complex enough to keep the adults entertained as well. Teenagers will love the familiar cast of today’s top young stars. It’s the perfect choice for a family movie night.
Audiences may miss the music numbers they grew to love with “The Wizard of Oz,” a major part of the film’s charm. There is no magical lullaby like “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from this film, so viewers shouldn’t get their hopes up of leaving humming a tune. The film is much story-based and story-driven, something that may upset a few audience members. This absence of music may be embraced, however, as modern audiences aren’t really as reliant on peppy musical scenes in films.
All in all, ” Oz: the Great and Powerful ” achieves success. It creates a completely new story for audiences to love and introduces new faces to be woven into the intricate history of Oz. The film offers a rich storyline that’s bound to hold viewers’ interest and shows the great and powerful Oz from his roots in Kansas to his rise to power in the magical land of Oz.