March 18, 2013
L. Frank Baum introduced the Land of Oz in 1900. Nearly 40 years later, MGM drew audiences everywhere to experience the Land of Oz on the big screen.
Disney’s latest movie, “Oz The Great and Powerful,” attempts to pull off a prequel as great as MGM’s 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” While some characters succeed, others fall flat.
The movie opens with credits similar to a puppet show and transitions to 1905 Kansas. The state is black and white and small in width, giving the audience an idea of an old photograph.
A sign for the “Baum Brothers” and an assistant named Frank allude to Baum. The audience then meets Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, or “Oz.” The circus magician doesn’t want to be a “good man” but wants to be a “great one.”
Oz (James Franco) is not only a liar and a con man, but he also uses women. The one woman who he seems to have genuine feelings for is Annie (Michelle Williams), a country girl who was recently proposed to by John Gale.
Annie, who is likely the future mother of iconic “Wizard of Oz” character Dorothy Gale, asks Oz to stay, but their talk is interrupted when two men come after him.
Oz jumps into a hot air balloon and is taken into the heart of a tornado, which eventually brings him to the Land of Oz – slowly transitioning from a black and white constrained screen to a full-screen picture with vibrant color.
Upon entering the Land of Oz, the human Oz is greeted by Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis), who believes Oz must be the wizard spoken of in a prophecy who will help the people of the Land of Oz.
Before Oz can tell her otherwise, she reveals the wizard will receive the title of king and a throne. Oz jumps at the chance for both. Additionally, Oz teaches Theodora to dance and she falls in love with him – a scene which just seemed thrown in.
Theodora and Oz come upon a flying monkey, trapped in vines and trying to escape a lion. Oz frees the monkey, Finley (Zach Braff), and Finley swears his life to Oz – a promise he can’t take back when Oz tells him he is not the wizard they think he is.
Theodora, Oz and Finley enter the Emerald City, where they meet Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weitz). Evanora, in contrast to her clueless sister, knows immediately that Oz is not who he claims and tricks him into going to destroy the Wicked Witch’s wand.
On their journey, Oz and Finley come upon Chinatown, a town that is literally made of Chinaware. The town is destroyed and only one resident, little China Girl (Joey King), remains.
There is a beautiful scene of Oz gluing China Girl’s legs back together, the first flicker of good and generosity in him since he had tricked a family that believed he could help their daughter walk back in Kansas.
China Girl insists on coming with them and, like Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, the trio continue their journey until they come across the Wicked Witch.
While attempting to destroy the Wicked Witch’s wand, the trio learns that the person they think to be the Wicked Witch is actually Glinda the Good.
The audience then learns that Evanora is the woman who will become the Wicked Witch of the West, crushed by Dorothy’s house.
She lies to Theodora and allows her to believe that Oz used her and then gives her an emerald apple that, with one bite, withers Theodora’s heart away and turns her green – the entrance of the Wicked Witch of the East.
While it is interesting to see how the Wicked Witch of the East came about, the scene is ridiculous. Although “Oz” is a Disney film, they certainly could’ve used something other than an apple to make Theodora evil. The scene seems more like a nod to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” than anything Oz-related.
Kunis, who was solid as Theodora the Good, does not make a good Wicked Witch of the East. Her dialogue and actions seemed forced. This does allow for the iconic Wicked Witch of the East maniacal laughter and her flying, though.
Franco, who spends the majority of the movie flashing his dimples, falls flat as Oz. In contrast, King and Braff make for a hilarious duo and are excellent as China Girl and Finley.
The best part of “Oz The Great and Powerful” was by far the energy and vibrant color of Oz, as well as the costumes. However, some of the costumes, like Glinda’s crown, looked more like a child’s toy.
Fans of “The Wizard of Oz” might come away from this disappointed. However, anyone who likes vibrant and colorful feel-good movies will not be.