Birthdays come but once a year, and each one sees an annual tradition of going to the cinema. I opened a little discussion last week to help me decide what film I should choose this year and Oz The Great and Powerful was the clear winner. (Although I am most upset that Stoker is no longer playing at my local cinema!) I am glad that Oz was the choice though as it was bright, jolly and a lot of fun to watch!
The Disney / Sam Raimi combination is an absolute winner, with clear influences from both through out. I really enjoyed the story as well, having not seen the original I can’t compare the two, but the characters were well developed and the plot flowed very naturally. In case you don’t know the story, it follows Oscar Diggs, a magician/con-man who gets whisked away from Kansas to the wonderful land of Oz, where aspects of his life are emulated in the new dreamlike land. Here he meets three witches and discovers his destiny – he must defeat the Wicked Witch and take his rightful place as King.
The film starts off in a smaller ratio screen in black and white and introduces the character of Oscar Diggs. He is a womanising con-man who thinks himself a magician within the travelling circus. He gets into a scrape and finds himself hiding out in a hot air balloon, when all of a sudden a tornado drags him and the balloon into the eye of the storm! I felt these scenes could have been cut a little shorter, but they do introduce Diggs’ side kick and dogs body played by Zach Braff. They also include a nod to The Wizard of Oz, when an ex girlfriend Annie (Michelle Williams) tells Diggs that she has had a marriage proposal from John Gale, coincidentally Dorothy’s last name is Gale. (I love it when films cross over!)
The tornado takes Diggs to Oz, and so the film transcends into the beautifully vibrant land. The ratio widens and the colours start to appear, then all of a sudden the screen is a rainbow of vivid landscape. Diggs finds himself taken through a portion of Oz before he finds civilization, I felt this part was an excuse to use the 3D to its full effect (I saw it in 2D and it becomes very apparent when unnecessary scenes are used for the 3D version) but none the less it brought some really imaginative creations to life, such as the musical pond plants and the cutest biting river fairies!
Oscar Diggs, who will later become the Wizard of Oz, is played by James Franco. Personally I don’t think anyone else could have played the role quite so well (except maybe Johnny Depp in an obvious kind of way). Franco was quirky, funny and charming. Even when playing the con-man he is still a lovable guy. We easily see the difference in Oscar Diggs’ frame of mind through the film as he softens to the cause and becomes the ‘great’ man he always wanted to be (although I did hope he would develop his magical powers more).
The first of the witches we meet is Theodora played by Mila Kunis, probably my least favorite of the three. I didn’t feel that she connected to the role quite as well as the others, and although beautiful, I can’t help but hear Family Guy’s Meg in her slightly whiny voice. Her sister Evanora on the other hand was played magnificently by Rachel Weisz as always. I find her enchanting, and her costume was stunning. I hope that she will be the next Meryl Streep in a few decades! The Good Witch Glinda lives up to expectation too, Michelle Williams who also plays Annie at the beginning of the film is elegant and graceful which perfectly emanates the Good Witch that everybody knows.
The promo’s for this film advertised the fact that Oscar has to guess ‘which Witch is which’? I thought this was a bit of a tease as actually it becomes obvious very early ‘which Witch is which’, and if you pay attention to the opening credits it pretty much gives the game away right there. Speaking of title credits, loved that Raimi put Bruce Campbell in there despite his small cameo appearance. Other Raimi traits can be seen in the camera shots and horror-esque design of the old witch (which I have to say Tom appreciated more than me!) Fantastic!
Just as Dorothy had Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow, Oscar Diggs finds some chums along the way to help on his journey to kill the Wicked Witch. Zach Braff voices the good flying monkey Finley who commits himself to Diggs when he thinks he is the prophesied wizard. What I liked about Finley was the animation of his face, he wasn’t overly ‘Disney cute’ so you didn’t mind him getting such a raw deal, he also had some very funny lines and made a great double act with Diggs. The next companion though tips the adorable scales over the edge as Joey King plays the voice of China Girl (King also plays the girl in a wheel chair at the beginning, broken legs – nudge nudge!). Actually I very much liked this character and coincidentally has the titular quote of my review.
The land of Oz was beautifully breathtaking as I had hoped and the story line was entertaining. Casting was excellent bar Mila Kunis potentially but over all a good show! I have to say though I was not blown away as I had anticipated I would be, but it had a completely Disney feel to it with an obvious Raimi twist which worked brilliantly. Worth a watch 🙂