23 March 2013

Oz: The Great and Powerful - Film

*Beware the spoilers*

The prequel to the classic 'Wizard of Oz', based on the books of L. Frank Baum, is now in our cinemas, and what a prequel it is. With stunning visual effects with a nicely thought-through plot, the film is sure to please any audience.

Oz (James Franco), otherwise known as Oscar Diggs, is a small time magician at the Baum Brothers circus. He is a womaniser, a crook and a liar. Of course, we expected that. The wizard calls himself a 'humbug' in The Wizard of Oz, and we all know that is who this man will become. After causing a fiasco by flirting with the resident strong man's wife/girlfriend, Oz steals a hot air balloon and rides it straight into a tornado which, like Dorothy, takes him to the land of Oz. (The tornado ride is pretty intense, I loved it). He meets a witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis), there, who realises that he must be the Wizard from the prophesy, come to banish the evil witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), from their land and take the throne. Oz, ever the opportunist, decides to follow the Theodora to the emerald city and become the great man he thinks he should be.

The one thing,in my opinion, that could have been improved was the acting. James Franco's 'unconvincing smile' was driving me insane, while the wicked witch of the west was a little too shouty and cackly to be convincing as a character. Although this was a clear nod to the original film, I felt that perhaps it would be better to make the evil acting a little bit more subtle.

And there were a few more nods to the original film, as well as the books. Glinda was the witch of the South in the books and this restores her to that role. The little China girl has been taken from 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', the first book. The film begins in black and white, and then changes to colour when the wizard arrives in Oz. This was a particularly nice touch. Also, characters from this world are transferred to Oz, as in the original film, such as Glinda and Frank (Zach Braff). Frank is a little harder to notice, but he is the flying monkey who ends up travelling with them. There is a nice reference to the cowardly lion, as well as the methods that Oz uses in his tricks and the way the witches travel.

So, all in all, this film is about the journey that Oz takes to become the man we see in The Wizard of Oz - a great man. Though this Disney film isn't a direct prequel to the MGM film starring Judy Garland, it conforms extremely well to the plot. We learn how the Wicked Witch of the West comes into being and how Oz gained the throne. I like the way it wasn't as straightforward as it could have been. At first, we wonder why Glinda is described as evil and why there isn't a green witch. Well, all will be revealed. The ending is nice and, in some places, quite unexpected. But it ties everything in well and doesn't leave you with any questions.

Stunning landscapes, character design and a good, sturdy plot, but it could have done with more realistic acting and maybe a bit more depth. 4 out of 5. The kids will love it.