By DENISE SEYFER
“Oz the Great and Powerful,” directed by Sam Raimi, will blow viewers away. Magic wands and crystal balls serve as tools of change for all the witches in this movie. As for Oscar or “Oz,” a circus magician played by James Franco, he uses his talent of trickery to change and save the people in “The Land of Oz” from evil.
Though the film runs almost three hours, its plot twists and enchanting characters make this film worth the price. Viewers who are familiar with the orignal “Wizard of Oz” movie will appreciate the mastery of weaving the old information into the new forum. The cleverness demands applause.
Raimi creates this film as a prequel to the classic “Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland. It has soared at the box office, grossing revenues at an impressive $470 million worldwide as of April 14, according to http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=oz.htm.
The storyline, though predictable, starts in Kansas where Oscar deceives others into believing he is great and powerful when he is really a fraud and knows it. Moreover, Oscar isn’t a likable character for most of the movie. On the other hand, as the film progresses his positive traits shine through, which allows him to be liked.
After a helpless girl in a wheelchair pleads with Oz to make her walk again, he acknowledges he can’t cure her which angers his audience who believes he possesses magical powers. In this scene the viewer glimpses Oz’s deep-seeded, self-hatred. His inner conflict brings a 21st Century perspective to the film, which younger audiences will appreciate and relate to.
A potential drawback to liking and understanding the film lies in one’s familiarity and ability to recall information from the original 1939 “Wizard of Oz.” This movie has many connections to the classic version, which may confuse new viewers, while those more familiar will appreciate the tie-ins. One example is the purpose and importance of the yellow brick road, which allows Oz to travel from one world to the next.
A viewer’s ability to suspend judgment concerning the believability of the story, though challenged, is never fully broken. In one scene, Oz escapes in a hot air balloon, which stays inflated and intact once it’s swept up into the tornado. The unbelievablity of this scene prompts a “come on” response from a few adult viewers. Nevertheless, when it comes to believing that the alternate world of the Emerald City and Munchkinland exists, there are neither shouts nor grunts from viewers.
A less disruptive connection to the original film occurs when Oz picks up characters or allies on his journey in need of rescuing, all of which accompany and serve as instruments of change for him from the con-man adult he was before to the caring leader he becomes.
Viewers will enjoy the introduction of the “breakable” china doll named China Girl, voiced by Joey King, who stands only 10 inches tall. She acts as a hero for Oz and Glinda, the good witch, who is played by Michelle Williams. She is by far the most interesting “good” character in the film.
Originality in artistic style and cinematography will impress young and old alike. The opening scene colored in black-and-white utilizes the small center of the screen, which signifies the smallness of his current life. After a twister drops Oz into “The Land of Oz,” the scene’s coloring changes to vibrant reds, greens, and blues, which expands in scope to fill the whole screen. This signifies that a greater and bigger world awaits him.
Viewers are transported by extraordinary 3D effects and dropped into the new world, where butterflies soar overhead and fly up close to everyone’s noses. Children, especially, will want to reach out and try to capture these winged creatures.
Franco’s performance as a flawed but likable main character, answering his call to adventure and change, is questionable. His emotions and lines felt forced and melodramatic, which may be a reason why many adults leave disappointed.
The movie’s trailer attracts children to see this film by entrancing, vivid 3D effects; however, due to the darkness of the film along with the creepy, evil forest, scary monkeys and grossly, mean witches, leave children younger than 7 years old at home.
Older children will enjoy this movie for its wizardly ways and the magic potions, along with its suspense and the fight between good and evil. The evilness of the witches doesn’t overwhelm. Many characters are likable enough to provide viewers with some hope that they will change later. With some loose ends still left open by the film’s end and a storyline that’s comparable to the “Harry Potter” series, more tales will likely follow.