Not quite 113 years ago, a name named L. Frank Baum saw his novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” published. In 1939, the story was made into a movie that has remained a classic for more than 70 years. The scene where the Wizard of Oz departs in a balloon near the end is indelibly etched into the collective consciousness of people who began viewing this film as children. Now, a ‘prequel’ has come to the big screen.
Oz The Great and Powerful tells the story of just how the famed Emerald City came to be home to a wizard. The story begins at a carnival in the early 1900s where “Oz” (James Franco) is toiling away as a magician who has some imaginative illusions for the era. However he makes little money, has no real goals, and spends much of his time and effort engaged in womanizing.
He is forced to flee in a hot-air balloon due to some of that womanizing and encounters a storm of epic proportions. When his balloon finally crashes, he finds himself in an amazing land that bears no resemblance to the only world he’s known to this point. It is there that he meets “Theodora” (Mila Kunis), who is one of the daughters of the land’s former ruler. There has been a prophecy that a great wizard will come to the land and free the inhabitants from the tyranny of an evil witch. Once he has killed the witch, he will become ruler of the Emerald City, which has uncounted riches locked away in its treasure room.
An avaricious sort, Oz isn’t eager to tangle with a witch; but following a conversation with Theodora’s elder sister “Evenora” (Rachel Weisz), he’s off to kill the witch. He’s accompanied by a flying monkey “Finley” (Zach Braff), whose life he saved, and a “China Girl” (Joey King), who Oz and Finley found in the wreckage of the China village.
Only things aren’t as they seem.
It turns out that “Glinda” (Michelle Williams) is a good witch and also one of the three daughters of the king. Evenora is the evil one and she wants to be the ruler of the land. Glinda is the last obstacle in the way. Thus far neither can overcome the other, but when Evenora convinces Theodora that Oz has betrayed her, they join forces. Now it will take an enormous effort by the Munchkins, the Tinkers and the Quadlings to defeat the vastly stronger army of the Emerald City.
Franco makes a decent Oz but it is the three women who provide prodigious performances in their juicy roles. The transformation of Theodora’s nature is where Kunis shines brightly. Bill Cobbs, a talented actor some may recognize from his reoccurring role on the TV show JAG, makes an excellent “Master Tinker”. Sam Raimi’s influences can be seen in the film and they make what would have been just a good film better.
But the real stars of this film are the amazing visuals. Gorgeous colors, amazing effects and more will captivate the audience. Pay the extra money and see this in IMAX 3D. It is definitely worth it.