Oz the Great and Powerful

  • Title:  Oz The Great and Powerful
  • Director:  Sam Raimi
  • Date:  2013
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Children
  • Cast:  James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • Blu-Ray Format:  NTSC

“You want me to lead an army that can’t kill?” – Oz
“If this was easy, we wouldn’t need a Wizard, would we?” – Glinda

“So you’re not the wizard I was expecting. [pause] So you don’t have the powers I thought you’d have. But you’re here. There must be a reason. Maybe you’re capable of more than you know.” – Glinda

“Look, I know I’m not the Wizard you were expecting. But I might just be the wizard that you need.” – Oz

Oz the Great and Powerful starts in black and white in 4 x 4 ratio (it should be 3X4 but the Blu-Ray has it boxed as an exact square). Oz is a magician and con-man in a small, and shabby travelling circus, and he’s not even that good a magician. He’s actually running away from his latest conquests boyfriend, when he leaps into a hot air balloon and is whooshed away in a tornado.

He crash-lands in the land of Oz, and when he does, not only does the film change from black and white to color – but the film literally opens up to wide-screen too. The image rolls to the side and up to fill the screen. It’s both reminiscent of the famous 1939 film starring Judy Garland (which starts in black and white and becomes Technicolor in Oz), and an almost physical transportation into a new world. And what a colorful world it is. The colors are bright, and beautiful, and it really does look like technicolor. Especially in the opening, and early scenes, the scenes in Oz almost feel like animation – classic Disney animation at that and it’s truly beautiful.

Oz crash-lands in a river, and meets Theadora, a woman dressed in red and black. When Oz introduces himself, she tells him of her father’s the king’s prophecy – that one day, a great Wizard, bearing the name of “our land”, will come to save all the people, and become the new king. Oz gives Theadora one of his music boxes, as he has to many other women that he’s been interested in, telling her the made-up story that it belonged to his late grandmother. He then dances with Theadora. She’s smitten.

Theadora takes Oz to the Emerald City and introduces him to her sister, Evadora, the royal adviser. She also becomes instantly interested in Oz. She gives him a tour of the palace, shows him the royal treasury, then tells him he must save the Land of Oz by killing the Evil Witch. Oz isn’t so sure about the whole “killing” thing, but when he learns that destroying the witch’s wand will kill her, he agrees.

Oz, along with a highly amusing talking monkey in a bell-hop’s uniform head out on their quest.  Along the way, they see smoke, and wander into the destroyed China Town.  There they meet and rescue the China Girl, and Oz repairs her legs with glue.  China Girl joins their quest.

They soon enter the Dark Forest. Oz has a plan to distract the Evil Witch and steal her wand. But when he meets Glinda – he learns she is a Good Witch, and it’s Evadora who’s wicked – and who killed her father.

Meanwhile, Evadora is laying plans, and manipulating her sister, Theadora.

Glinda convinces Oz to help her. Evanora’s men and flying baboons attack. Glinda creates a ground fog for cover. Oz, China Girl, Finley, and Glinda end up on the edge of cliff, with a wind-swept tree in silhouette and a sunset behind them.  Yes, it looks like the famous scene in Gone with the Wind.  Glinda dives off the cliff, and they all travel by bubble to her castle in Quadling Country.  There, Oz meets the good people of Kansas, I mean, Oz – farmers, tinkers, seamstresses and tailors, and the Munchkins.  Oz doesn’t really know what to do, especially to turn the people into an army to defeat two wicked witches.

Theadora, turned green and evil by her sister, arrives and threatens Oz – then leaves.

Oz is unsure of himself, and doesn’t really know what to do.  But after Glinda tells him he might have more potential than he thinks he does, and after telling China Girl a bedtime story about the great wizard Thomas Edison, Oz gets an idea.

Oz puts the Quadling people to work, each to their own special ability. They work to his plan.

The next day, Oz orchestrates his plan. He even has some surprises for his own followers. The plan, which I don’t want to spoil, is perfect, makes great sense for an idea that comes from con-man/magician from Kansas, and most importantly – it works. Which isn’t really a spoiler, as this film is a pre-quel to The Wizard of Oz.

Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful, was just a beautiful film. It looks gorgeous. You really don’t see a lot of movies that look so beautiful anymore. For once, CGI, that screams, “look at me – I’m pretty CGI,” works, because it adds to the storybook feel of the film. And the colors are simply gorgeous, beautiful, incredible. At times, especially in the first few scenes in Oz, this film really looks like an animated feature. I’m assuming that was intentional. The animated look brings the Land of Oz to life – and sets it as a new world.

I also, really, really, really loved that this film opens in black and white.  The move from black and white to color, and from cropped 4×4 ratio to widescreen is handled very well.

James Franco does a great job playing Oz as a lovable rogue – who, at the start, in Kansas, has no moral scruples, really. But, in Oz, he comes into his own, and learns his own lessons. Oz is a fallible hero, and he learns how to be a leader, with Glinda’s help (not to mention Finley and even China Girl), which makes for a good film.

Overall, this is a wonderful, feel-good movie, that is also great for children.

Recommendation:  See it, especially good for children.
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Either The Hobbit the Desolation of Smaug or The Prestige.

Original Reaction Oz The Great and Powerful Review

Note:  This Review was originally written after I had just seen the film in the theater in 2013.  I’m fixing typos and that’s about it.

  • Title:  Oz The Great and Powerful
  • Based on the Oz novels by L. Frank Baum
  • Director:  Sam Raimi
  • Cast:  James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bruce Campbell
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Date:  2013
  • Cast:  James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi
  • Director:  Sam Raimi

I really enjoyed this film, it’s awesome!  The film opens in 4×3 ratio and in black and white, but when The Wizard arrives in Oz, everything turns to bright, hyper-reality colors.  The film’s opening is in 1905, establishing Oscar, or “Oz”, as carnival magician – who isn’t even that good at his stage magic.  He can perform some acts of distraction and prestidigitation, but he isn’t that good at it, which is why he’s with a traveling circus in Kansas, not working in New York or some other major venue. He’s also a bit of a coward.  When a local girl he’s fond of tells him she’s received a marriage proposal and she told the young man “I’ll have to think about it”, he’s afraid to let her know his true feelings.  When the circus strong man chases after him, he runs… eventually reaching a hot air balloon, which is caught up in a tornado.

Oz wakes, well, in Oz.  As his balloon crashes into a river, a waterfall, and then a pond and river (again) the format opens up to the widescreen 16×1 we are used to, and bright, bright color.  The first thing that Oz sees are flowers – huge, colorful, gorgeous flowers.  He’s getting his bearings and soon meets a young woman, who (a) claims she’s a good witch, (b) asks for his help, and (c) informs him he’s the answer to the old king’s prophecy.  He and this young woman, Theodora, head off to the Emerald City. Theodora tells Oz that the prophecy of the previous king was that a “Great and Powerful” Wizard bearing the name of our land, would come to bring order and peace to the land and rescue the good people from Wickedness.  She also tells him of an Evil Witch who killed the previous king, and that this evil witch was her sister, the king’s own daughter.

They arrive in the Emerald City and meet Evanora, Theadora’s sister.  Evanora is immediately attracted to Oz, and jealous of his interest in her sister.  Evanora send him off to “kill the evil witch” by destroying her wand.

So, off Oz goes.  He meets the China Girl, a winged monkey in a bellhop uniform, and eventually Glinda. Glinda convinces Oz she’s the good witch.  She takes him and his friends to her castle and introduces him to the Quadlings, Tinkers, and Munchkins.  Soon it becomes apparent they must form a plan to re-take the Emerald City and oust the two Evil Witches who control it — without actually killing anyone since the “good people” of Oz cannot kill.

Anyway, the rest of the film is the Wizard’s plan, with Glinda’s help and the organization of the various groups under Glinda’s control.  But the film is awesome!  The colors pop and are bright and gorgeous with a very story-book quality to them.  At times the film feels almost animated rather than naturalistic.  Especially the first scene in Oz, with the waterfall and rushing river, then the flowers — it’s incredible.  There are even rainbows that appear in the spray of the water then quickly disappear as the water moves on.  The characters feel very much like the characters in L. Frank Baum’s books.

Oz himself gets a great story, of the charlatan who makes a road to redemption — he may not be the hero Oz deserves, but he’s the hero Oz needs, because he’s the only one they got.  I also liked how well this film handled the point that anyone who’s seen “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1939) with Judy Garland actually knows how this film will end, it’s really a prequel to that film (and it is The Wizard’s story; whereas The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is Dorothy’s story).  Yet, until some other films that are actually prequels (Star Wars I, II, III – I’m looking at you) — this film gets the process right, it becomes, in part, about knowing how certain things will happen.  It’s a well-told film, despite the somewhat familiar structure.  It’s also a visually stunning film, that doesn’t scream “what great effects” since the effects support the story.  The young, largely unknown cast did an excellent job as well, especially the young man playing Oz.  Here’s hoping Disney will produce additional books from Baum’s Oz series.  Oz the Great and Powerful is highly, highly recommended.