THE classic 1939 film The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is given a makeover in this unofficial prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful.
After the legal teams from Warner Brothers (who owns the 1939 version) and Walt Disney Pictures (who produced this film) settled on what could be referenced from the past and what couldn’t, an entertaining and colourful fantasy-adventure film was made
But while Oz: The Great and Powerful works hard to be original and borrow from the books more than its musical counterpart, it will always stay in the shadow of the more famous version.
Directed by Sam Rami (Evil Dead, Spider-Man), this film sees James Franco take on the role of Oscar Diggs, a sleazy, selfish carnival magician and con man.
When Oscar skips out of town after courting the wrong woman, he and his hot air balloon crash land in Oz where he is met by witch Theodora.
Given the chance to rule the kingdom if he destroys the Wicked Witch, Oz prepares to take over the throne.
Franco is joined on screen by the talented and lovely Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz as well as Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs).
Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis put in the best performances of the film with both having faces that suit the silver screen and the golden age of cinema. Rachel Weisz is also impressive while Zach Braff does some great voice acting as Oscar’s assistant.
Raimi has worked hard to bring the magic and enchantment that Oz contains forward for the audience.
Before Oscar leaves the carnival, the film is shot in a black and white 4:3 ratio before adapting colour and a 16:9 widescreen ratio.
It gives the film a more familiar feel before introducing aspects from Frank Baum’s book series that was included in the 1939 film.
Also familiar to audiences will be the Emerald City, the yellow brick road and the winged monkeys, which have been made more terrifying.
As a kid I remember being concerned about how scary the flying monkeys were. Maybe it was the soundtrack that was associated with them but I thought I was alright about it now. But Raimi has made the creatures more confronting and aggressive for his film.
Oz: The Great and Powerful suits a family audience and, more specifically, is aimed kids at a younger age.
People that adore the classic 1939 film or popular stageshow Wicked will enjoy being able to revisit Oz but the more cynical viewers might not like the cheesy dialogue, plot’s predictability or Raimi’s effort to use old-school special effects and not rely solely on CGI.
There are much worse ways to spend a family outing and if you were really keen, you could spend an afternoon singing along to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz before heading out to see how the wonderful wizard actually arrived in the famed land of Oz.
The Verdict: 2½ stars.
- Oz: The Great and Powerful (PG) is now showing at Bendigo Cinemas.