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Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

March 8, 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful PosterOz The Great and Powerful – A Walt Disney Release

Release Date: March 8th, 2013

Rated PG for violence and some scary scenes

Running time: 131 minutes

Sam Raimi (dir.)

Mitchell Kapner (screenplay)

David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)

Based on the novels by L. Frank Baum

Danny Elfman (music)

James Franco as Oscar Diggs

Mila Kunis as Theodora

Rachel Weisz as Evanora

Michelle Williams as Annie / Glinda

Zach Braff as Frank / Finley (voice)

Bill Cobbs as Master Tinker

Joey King as Girl in Wheelchair / China Girl (voice)

Tony Cox as Knuck

Stephen R. Hart as Winkie General

Abigail Spencer as May

Oz The Great and Powerful

©Walt Disney.  All Rights Reserved.

Finley (voiced by Zach Braff), China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and Oscar (James Franco) in Oz The Great and Powerful.

Our reviews below:


Oz The Great and Powerful Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

The first thing that should be said about Sam Raimi’s visually stunning blockbuster Oz The Great and Powerful is that it plays as a prequel to the 1939 masterpiece, The Wizard of Oz.  This is a companion piece that provides plenty of fantastical entertainment for those of all ages, while playing as a loving homage to the original classic and the world of filmmaking.

Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a local Kansas magician in 1905, tricking his audience into believing in him through slight of hand and optical illusions.  But when he is whisked away in a hot air balloon and sucked through a twister, he finds himself in Oz, a magical technicolor world where he meets a trio of witches who believe that he is a great Wizard come to save them.  There’s the powerful Theodora (Mila Kunis), her scheming sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and their luminous third sister Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams).

A perpetual charmer who can’t resist himself when it comes to the beautiful ladies, Oscar decides to play along, teaming up with an adorable flying monkey named Finley (voice of Zach Braff) and a dainty doll named China Girl (voice of Joey King).  But then he starts to realize that there is an even greater threat to the merry old Land of Oz, and he puts together an army made up of the citizens of the Yellow Brick Road, to help him work his magic and defeat the Wicked Witch.

Even though Oscar is a con man who initially agrees to be the wizard for his own personal gain, he is always a sympathetic character, and James Franco plays him in a way that suggest there is something deeper beneath the surface.  The witches are also a fascinating trio of characters.  Michelle Williams is just wonderful as the truly good witch of the three, and Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are both delightfully wicked in their roles.  China Girl is an appealing sidekick, impressively voice by talented child actor Joey King.  Finley is also a loveable addition to the cast, perfectly voiced by Zach Braff and providing some of the biggest laughs in the film.

As I went into the screening of Oz The Great and Powerful, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  But right from the opening credits sequence that unfolds before our eyes as if we have been taken into an old theatre, I was completely won over by the film.  The first twenty minutes are beautifully shot in black and white and perfectly framed within the traditional fullscreen aspect ratio, before vibrant colour enters the picture and the spectacular landscape expands to fill the entire screen.  The 3D is used to enhance these images.  There are numerous references and allusions to the preexisting film, nicely setting up this world in a way that allows it to play as a prequel and companion piece to the iconic classic.

The finale is an ingenious and incredibly entertaining sequence that plays as a heartfelt homage to classic cinema and the very real magic of Thomas Edison, as Oscar has to pull off his greatest trick yet and give his entire audience a reason to believe in him.  This is exactly what Sam Raimi does with Oz The Great and Powerful and what Victor Fleming did back in 1939 with the iconic original, using the most advanced technology available at the time to deliver beautiful visuals that make us believe in this world.

This is a film that has courage, brains and a heart.  From the black and white opening to the ingenious finale, Oz The Great and Powerful is one of the most entertaining movies of the year so far, and a loving homage to the 1939 masterpiece.


Oz The Great and Powerful Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Set as a prequel to the Oz world as we know it, this film opens on carnival magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who tries his best to put on a good show, but finds himself getting in trouble time and time again when he can’t live up to expectations.  He is a player and a showman, and when he finds himself literally chased out of the circus, he makes his escape on a hot air balloon that soon gets sucked into a giant twister.  And as it seems, Kansas twisters open portals to Oz.

Upon arrival in Oz, Oscar first meets Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis) who like many have been awaiting the arrival of the great wizard that will save them all and take back the land from the reign of the wicked witch.  In the Emerald City, her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) tells him the same story – that he is to fulfill this prophecy.  He plays along – if only because he can’t help but flirt with beautiful women, and that there is a pile of gold in the offing if he succeeds.  But despite his seeming penchant for shallow gains, deep down Oscar just wants to be a good man and the only way he knows how is to put on a show.

Along his travels across Oz he meets a flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff), a china girl (Joey King), and Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams), who together may just help him become the wizard the people of Oz say he is.  But when jealousy comes to light and the stakes are raised, Oscar has to figure out whether what he has is actually enough to succeed, and whether he can finally embrace and exceed the expectations others set for him.  In Oz, Oscar is given the chance to reevaluate the way he did things in the past and act differently than he did.

At its forefront James Franco plays Oscar well, as a smart but slightly lost character who is quick enough to figure his way out of situations if only he’d do it for those other than just himself.  Because although he might hide or deny it, Oscar has a caring side that he’s become far too used to being able to gloss over with prestige.  The film speaks a lot about how you can become what others view you, for better or for worse, and how what we need to succeed might already be in our skill set – we just have to figure out the best way to work with what we’ve got.

In the last act, the film becomes a wonderful homage to film, the illusion, and the power of a great show.  On a technical note, the score by Danny Elfman is beautiful, with a few elements of his score for Corpse Bride in the quieter moments.  The production design is gorgeous, the special effects throughout are stunning, and from the first few seconds of the film, the 3D has you sold.  The film uses the extra dimension to amazing advantage here and is bright enough to sustain it both through the black and white opening and the world of Oz.

Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful feels like a classic film of magic, adventure, and a character journey, and for that I love it.  It is well paced and acted, and introduces us to fun new characters and backstories of a familiar world, while also supporting the original film quite well.  There are many nods to the story to come in Oz that will be enjoyed by those who catch them.


Oz The Great and Powerful Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

No movie could ever replace MGM’s 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz.  That movie, based on L. Frank Baum’s classic book, is one of the best films of all time.  However, Oz The Great and Powerful is a prequel to that classic.  In this fantastic tale, Oscar Diggs aka Oz (James Franco) is a Kansas magician who makes his living fabricating stories.  Shot in black and white, with a full screen aspect ratio, the film’s beginning introduces us to Oscar, a mischievous yet likeable con man.

When a tornado hits, he escapes in a hot air ballon, only to be swept away to the mysterious land of Oz.  At this point, the movie changes to widescreen and a rainbow of colour, in a colour palette much like that of the original film.  Oscar lands in a beautiful technicolored garden of giant flowers, each of which are musical, adding to Danny Elfman’s exciting, awe-inspiring and mysterious score.  In Oz, Oscar is mistaken for a great wizard by the beautiful witch Theodora (Mila Kunis).  Being the player he is, Oscar decides to go along with the mistaken identity and pretends to be the wizard.

Some new characters are also in Oz The Great and Powerful, such as Finley (Zach Braff), an adorable flying monkey who has been assigned as Oscar’s bellboy.  I also loved China Girl (Joey King), the only survivor of China Town.  In the book The Wizard of Oz, there is a city in Quadling Country called China Country, but it is not destroyed.  I have always loved the China Country and I was pleased to see one of the China people on screen.

The old characters are back too.  Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams) is here, just as lovely as ever.  This time she is referred to as the Witch of the South (Quadling Country), just like in Baum’s book.  However in the 1939 movie, she was the Witch of the North.  The wicked witches of the East and West are also here, and this movie is a story of how they came to be so bad.  The Munchkins, Winkies, Quadlings and the Wicked Witches flying monkeys are also introduced.  There is even a funny cameo from the Cowardly Lion.

Oz The Great and Powerful does take some liberties from L. Frank Baum’s book.  In The Wizard of Oz book, the Wizard actually built Emerald City.  In this movie, Theodora takes him to Emerald City.  It also seems like Oz The Great and Powerful has reversed Winkie and Munchkin Country, a phenomenon also seen in Baum’s later works.  In this film, Glinda’s hair is blond, but in both Baum’s Oz and the 1939 film, her hair was red.  Each country’s colour scheme has also been changed from Baum’s original work, yet keep with the essence of the 1939 film.  However, these discrepancies do not really detract from Oz The Great and Powerful.  MGM also took liberties with L. Frank Baum’s book, both as artistic licence and to make things easier to film.

Oz The Great and Powerful is clever, fun, exciting and just spooky enough.  It doesn’t take anything away from the 1939 classic, it rather serves as an introduction and companion piece.  Beautifully filmed, this movie feels like a classic.  From its quiet beginning to its ingenious conclusion, the film introduces a whole new audience to the world of Oz.  As a fan of both the book and the 1939 film, I would definitely recommend Oz The Great and Powerful.

• I suspect, if there is a sequel, the Hungry Tiger may make an appearance.  Two rock formations, one seemingly shaped like the Cowardly Lion and one seemingly shaped like the Hungry Tiger, can be seen as Oz flies by.


Oz The Great and Powerful Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

It takes real cinematic wizardry to create a film that can stand proudly alongside the beloved 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.  Disney and director Sam Raimi have created a magical fantasy and adventure that the whole family can enjoy with Oz The Great and Powerful.

The movie starts out in black and white in 1905, Kansas where a con man magician and wizard, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is performing in a local travelling circus.  The circus is cheesy and Oscar’s act is even cheesier.  When another performer, the strongman (Tim Holmes) gets jealous of the Wizard’s flirtations with his gal (Abigail Spencer), he is forced to make a hasty escape in a hot air balloon.  The balloon gets sucked up in a tornado and the story begins in its technicolor glory.

After a harrowing ride (really good in 3D), Oscar lands in an unusual river filled with river fairies.  There he meets a lovely lady in red, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who presumes he must be the great wizard named Oz who they have all been waiting for to save them from the Wicked Witch.  Theodora invites Oz to the Emerald City, walking him through a magical garden that has beautiful giant flowers, colourful birds and butterflies.  This is a visually stunning segment that is accompanied perfectly by Danny Elfman’s musical score and sets the bar high for the rest of the film.

Theodora is smitten with Oz, oblivious to the fact that he’s not really a wizard and is quite the lady’s man.  When she introduces him to her other witch sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), a jealous triangle is set up.  Evanora informs Oz that he can rule their Kingdom and have access to all the gold if he can complete one task – rid the Land of Oz of the Wicked Witch.  Motivated by all that gold, he sets out on the Yellow Brick Road accompanied by the adorably funny flying monkey in a bell hop suit, Finley (Zach Braff) who Oz rescued in the forest.  The dialogue and interactions between Oz and Finley are really funny and touching.  Finley is a highlight in this film.

On their journey, the pair find a frightened China doll girl (Joey King) who convinces them to bring her along.  Reluctantly, Oz says yes and the friendship between them is sweet.  The animation of China Girl is superb and Joey King does a great job bringing her voice to life.  The trio meet up with the lovely Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) who can see right through Oscar’s lies, but tells him that the good people of Oz – the Quadlings, the Munchkins and the Tinkers – are counting on him to save their land.

The intensity heats up when the three sisters, Theodora, Evanora and Glinda, battle against one another to maintain control over the Land of Oz.  It takes a great and good man to fight evil powers and save Oz.  Thank goodness a magician and illusionist always has some tricks up his sleeve that even a witch wouldn’t see coming.  With the help of the Quadlings, Munchkins and Tinkers, Oz, Finley, China Girl and Glinda stage an ingenious plan to fight the evil witches.

The battle plan is amazing and pays homage to magical illusions and the 1939 film.  This is wizardry at its best.  The last act is suspenseful and fun to watch with the right amount of scariness for younger viewers.  The special effects are excellent in this film, with the 3D being a nice extra.  There is a charm and old-fashioned feel to the script and the visuals are stunning throughout.  James Franco works as the not always truthful wizard.  Franco manages to capture the feeling of a con man who is trying to be a better person.  The three witches are all excellent and memorable in their own way.

The original 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz has always been one of my favourites and Oz The Great and Powerful works as a prequel and companion movie to the original.  The film can be enjoyed by anyone who is old enough to appreciate the unique and sometimes scary world of Oz.  This is a good family film.


Oz The Great and Powerful Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Oz (James Franco) is a humbug, living a shallow life as a circus magician in 1905 Kansas. Escaping by balloon from a jealous strongman, he is taken up in a cyclone and lands in Oz, where he is assumed to be the Wizard who will deliver the people from the tyranny of the wicked witches. For a while, it is not clear which of the three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), or Glinda (Michelle Williams) are good or wicked.

Along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, Oz is joined by a talking flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) who swears loyalty to Oz when he saves his life by scaring off a lion, and a China girl (Joey King) whose broken legs Oz mends with glue. The peaceful Quadlings (farm folk), Tinkers (artisans), and Munchkins (dwarves) would appear to be no match for the witch’s armies of tall Winkie soldiers and flying babboons. However, the power of faith, aided by period stage tricks, may just be enough to turn the tide in their favour.

The question on everyone’s mind has been how Oz the Great and Powerful measures up as a prequel to the classic Wizard of Oz. Though arguably it could be said to be more faithful in some ways to the original series of L. Frank Baum books, its story is compatible with the earlier film including some nice visual references, beginning with the use of low aspect ratio B/W for the opening Kansas scene that opens out to full colour wide screen in Oz.

Director Sam Raimi has struck a perfect balance over 130 minutes between action, wit, and sweetness with a film that looks beautiful, especially in 3D, while, like Hugo, paying tribute wherever possible to the stagecraft of a century ago. The strong script is obviously a treat for the large excellent cast. Finally, the Danny Elfman score provides a perfect accompaniment, notably in the opening Oz scene where marsh plants appear to participate in the orchestra.

In summary, Oz the Great and Powerful is an excellent film for all ages, and a perfect companion to the earlier classic.


Consensus: With beautiful 3D visuals and a memorable cast of characters, Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful is an incredibly entertaining film that plays as a loving homage to the world of filmmaking and the 1939 masterpiece The Wizard of Oz.  **** (Out of 4)

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