Review: Oz - The Great and Powerful

Oz: The Great And Powerful

Oz: The Great And Powerful - Credit: Archant

The 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz is a timeless piece. It is such a weird and unnatural oddity that it really doesn't seem to fit into any period of history. This may explain why apparently audiences were slow to warm it on its initial release.

This new Oz is absolutely of its time, an exemplar of a modern movie entertainment. It is casual, funny and packed with effects and I doubt it will be much remembered this time next year. It is Oz the Glib and Colourful.

After a failed sequel (1985's Return To Oz), this new Disney film goes down the prequel route; it's The Wizard Of Oz Begins.

The story, which takes inspiration from both from L. Frank Baum's Oz books and the film, tells us how failing circus magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is whisked from Kansas to Oz in his balloon by a twister and has an adventure down the yellow road to Emerald City in which most of the elements for the Dorothy story are put into place.

Franco, who came to the role after Robert Downey Jr and Johnny Depp passed, isn't a whiz of a wiz. It's not his fault that his dialogue doesn't sound like a 1905 Kansas circus performer, but he delivers it in a casual modern cadence and with a dopey smile slapped across his face that strips proceedings of any magic. Of the lead performers only Michelle Williams seems to have found an appropriate tone.

Raimi's film delivers all the spectacle modern day CGI can muster. It is a great spectacle but maybe not a great enough spectacle if spectacle is all it is to offer. Visually, it's as sickly sweet as the original, but the darker moments don't have the same threat. Raimi tries to surpass the great moment when the sepia tone black and white of Kansas gives way to the Technicolor of Oz; here the Kansas scenes are not just black and white but the old boxy 4:3 ratio.

When Diggs flies into Oz not only does colour fill the screen but the image slowly expands out into widescreen. The moment, though, doesn't wow the way it should and the time the screen takes to expand deadens the moment, like sluggish scenery shifting on the stage.

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Director: Sam Raimi

Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff and Bill Cobbs

Length: 130 mins