Oz the Great and Powerful review

Oz The Great And Powerful 2

Returning the wonderful world of Oz to the big screen was never going to be an easy task, no matter who took it on. When Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider-Man, Drag Me To Hell) was announced to be taking on the directorial reigns of Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, people had doubts.

Thankfully they have nothing to fear as Raimi’s prequel to the 1939 classic is just what we all hoped it would be, a visually spectacular and fantastically entertaining movie for all ages.

Beginning with a homage to its 1939 predecessor, the movie opens in a sepia-toned Kansas city, where we are introduced to Oscar Diggs (James Franco) a circus conman/magician, who has a soft spot for pretty ladies (who doesn’t?) and his loyal friend/assistant Frank (Zach Braff). After an altercation with the Strongman, Diggs escapes into his hot air balloon and heads skywards to safety, only to be swept up in a freak tornado. 

From the get go we see that Franco and Braff have a wonderful on screen chemistry, which just gets better as the film goes on. Their interplay at times has a feel of over theatricality to it.

Oz the great and powerful (1)After what can only be described as a visually perfect storm sequence, Diggs finds that he has been transported to a strange and colourful place of beauty, Oz. The CGI and 3D effects add a real, magical feel to what we see. Oz is a place of wonder, and Raimi has done an incredible job in bringing that to life, with eye popping 3D effects from colour drenched landscapes and snapping plants to airborne fence posts, flying spears, and beautiful butterflies. This is possibly the best use of 3D that I have seen yet.

Diggs soon finds himself in the company of the beautifully innocent and impressionable witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who tells him of the age old ‘hero from the sky’ prophecy; that a great and powerful wizard will come to Oz and save them from the evil clutches of the Wicked Witch.

Diggs quickly claims to be he, (well who wouldn’t when faced with an opportunity to impress someone as beautiful as Mila Kunis?), and wins her heart.

A dance, a kiss and a music box later, Theodora escorts Diggs to the Emerald City, where he is presented to her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who is a little sceptical of this so-called great and powerful wizard, but welcomes him nonetheless. Kunis and Weisz lack something in their on screen relationship and it’s not until later in the film that they blossom as characters.

Diggs is soon reunited with his comic sidekick Zack Braff in the form of Finlay the Monkey, who for me is one of the stand out characters. Braff pulls off the whole comedy sidekick role to perfection, gifting the movie with a bunch of laugh out loud moments; there is an almost Shrek and Donkey feel about the pair as they begin their adventure.

Oz the great and powerful (James Franco and Michelle Williams)Much like the 1939 classic, their journey along the Yellow Brick road introduces them to a number of colourful characters such as the Little China Girl, a bunch of flying monkeys and of course another beautiful witch, Glinda  (Michelle Williams), who aid them in their quest to stop the mysterious Wicked Witch and return peace to Oz.

Michelle Williams’ perfect princess portrayal of Glinda is second to none, beautiful, deep and with the perfect balance between vacuous and wise. At no point is she over the top or lacking in performance. She’s just perfect.

A battle ensues, an unlikely hero is born, munchkins make an appearance and of course we get to see the creation of the famous curtain, but I’ll leave it there, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

Raimi has done a fantastic job of bringing Frank Baum’s wonderful world of Oz back in to our lives, and has managed to put his own stamp on it, whilst paying dutiful homage to the original 1939 classic. As always there are many Raimi trademarks hidden throughout the film, such as the inclusion of Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi (spot them if you can). Even the prophecy is a little bit Army of Darkness.

Oz the Great and Powerful is a fantastic film, filled with flying witches, beautiful butterflies, giddy camera zooms and enchanting 3D effects, but it does lack a little substance. The story is very contained with no what, where, or why any of this is happening, but that is just a small smudge on a fantastic and beautiful portrait which will be enjoyed and admired by all. Go see it, you’ll love it. I believe that somewhere, over the rainbow, Frank Baum is smiling.

Oz The Great And Powerful arrives in cinemas on 8 March. 

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