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Oz The Great And Powerful

Oz The Great And Powerful

By Arpad Lukacs • June 27th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Release date: July 1st, 2013
Running time: 130 minutes

Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Composer: Danny Elfman

Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Joey King, Zach Braff

Oz The Great And Powerful

With the 1939 cinema classic The Wizard Of Oz being a mere faint memory somewhere in the depths of my childhood, I had no expectations before going to see the unlikely prequel Oz The Great And Powerful. Those are big shoes to fill indeed, but I was happy as long as I was entertained by a film that manages to hide its true purpose well enough without insulting my intelligence. This initial cynicism was somewhat put to rest by knowing that Disney hired cult director Sam Raimi to carry the project. With that, I could look forward to Evil Dead hero Bruce Campbell showing up in a random scene to say ‘hi’ and hope for a little bit of a Xena-esque touch whenever possible.

The prequel focuses on the ‘man behind the curtain’ who doesn’t grant wishes but wants you to believe he can. To have a morally dubious character take the lead is probably the film’s biggest challenge especially when it comes to speaking to a younger audience. Kansas-based Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is the kind of circus magician who doesn’t just deceive on stage, but tries to pull a con job every chance he gets. Not long before he’s in trouble and has to flee, only to find himself inside a tornado – Dorothy-style. The strangely familiar world where he lands is the Technicolor of our time, a vibrant Land of Oz that tingles our depth perception.

For a while, I wondered what it is exactly we can like about Oscar, who’s mistaken for a prophesised wizard called “Oz” upon arrival. It takes him very little time to break Theodora’s (Mila Kunis) heart and turn her into the creature we might subsequently recognise as the Wicked Witch of the West. In spite of Disney not having the rights of the original classic, Theodora’s calculating companion Evanora is undoubtedly the Wicked Witch of the East and actress Rachel Weisz has great fun with the role. Michelle Williams completes the set as Glinda the Good Witch and a mighty battle between good and evil could very well begin, but of course, Oscar isn’t the powerful wizard they expect him to be.

Oz The Great And Powerful

It would be difficult to like Oscar without a little girl made of porcelain (Joey King), who’s a mirror image of a wheelchair-bound girl from the real world he left behind. While Oscar wasn’t able to help her real-life counterpart to walk again, he mends her broken porcelain legs with something that almost seems like real magic: glue. From then on, he becomes a surrogate father to her and finally offers the audience a likable trait.

While Oz The Great And Powerful stands no chance of becoming the classic in the footsteps of its predecessor, I don’t think the creators aimed for that goal at any point when working on the story. Raimi, along with all the actors, set out to entertain and they deliver on that front above average, which is commendable in the current world of prequels, sequels, spin-offs and other franchise-related financial adventures. Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz are great as the evil witches, but at times it seemed like James Franco didn’t really want to be on the set of this film. I was happy to see there are only a few scenes that were designed to show off the 3D CGI extravaganza over the Land of Oz, the film stays focused and resists the temptation by and large. Sam Raimi fans will notice his fingerprints at certain moments and yes, both Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi have their trademark cameos as well, adding the finishing touches to a fun ride.

Oz The Great And Powerful

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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