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Oz the Great and Powerful

2013 | 130 min | PG | 2.39:1

Oz the Great and Powerful


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3D rating
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User reviews

5 user reviews

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 08 March, 2013
 08 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Technical aspects

3D (native)

Box office




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Oz the Great and Powerful


Screenshots from Oz the Great and Powerful 3D Blu-ray

Oz the Great and Powerful Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 7, 2013

After the raging success of 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” reworking, it makes sense to find Disney sniffing around for another literary property open for a high-tech update. Mixing the world created by author L. Frank Baum with the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oz the Great and Powerful” comes into view, and mercifully, a few lessons were learned after Tim Burton’s blockbuster fairy tale left many cold. While limping along in a few areas of production, the “Oz” rebirth/prequel/tribute is truly extravagant family entertainment, gifted an epic swell courtesy of director Sam Raimi, who manages a troubling balance of reverence and originality with style and sweetness. Obviously, it’s impossible to touch the Judy Garland perennial, yet Raimi manages to return to this well-worn fantasy world and find new notes to play, while retaining his unmistakable filmmaking interests in dented valiance and spooky developments.

An illusionist with a traveling circus, Oscar (a stunningly tolerable James Franco) is bored of the rural showmanship routine, taking to womanizing to ease his travels. Despite the promise of love from Kansas farm girl Annie (Michelle Williams), Oscar refuses the settle down, trusting his magic will take him to the big time. Avoiding a sticky situation with the husband of a romanced circus performer, Oscar takes to the sky in a hot air balloon, accidentally sucked into a tornado and dropped in the land of Oz, where witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) welcomes the stranger with hopes he’s arrived to fulfill a grand prophecy to defeat the evil Wicked Witch. Overwhelmed with his responsibility yet drawn to the riches victory offers, Oscar begins his mission, teaming with friendly flying monkey Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and the tiny, breakable China Girl (Joey King), while taking witch-hunting advice from Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Heading into Oz’s many enchanting lands, Oscar greets Glinda (a heavenly sugared Williams), a kindly witch who recognizes the magician’s penchant for lying, remaining hopeful that he’ll stand up to the Wicked Witch with his own brand of firepower, protecting the Munchkins, Quadlers, and Tinkers that populate this colorful world.

Instead of exhaustively trying to top what’s come before, Raimi plays “Great and Powerful” with a great deal of respect, even opening the picture in B&W to underline Oscar’s Kansas melancholy, with an aspect ratio shift and a burst of color awaiting the balloonist when he enters the magical land. It’s a smart play by the production, tapping into nostalgia while nudging the feature into a digital realm of delights that many credit as the reason “Alice” enjoyed such immediate popularity. Those weaned on “The Wizard of Oz” will be knocked back a few steps by Raimi’s glossy vision for the fantasyland, with copious amounts of CGI employed to bring flying baboons and the Emerald City to life, while the expanse of Oz is painstakingly detailed with a gorgeous push of eye-popping colors meant to simulate the silk slap of Technicolor. “Great and Powerful” is impressive in the visual department (a visit to Glinda’s bubble-encased village is especially striking, along with character animation on China Girl and Finley), and while it doesn’t provide much in the way of touchable textures, Raimi is generous with a broad sweep of geographical character, building his own Oz as he genuflects in front of the old one.

Additional technical highlights are found in the Wicked Witch’s green make-up and overall pointed design, creating a fearsome enemy who joins armies of flying primates and armed Winkie guards to help secure Oz for the glory of evil. Costumes are equally outstanding, establishing the divide among witches with a surprising dollop of sensuality, while Oscar’s tattered magician wear and top hat cements his playful personality as a shallow gentleman of limited means and habitual trickery. Again, the look of “Great and Powerful” is impressive, keeping the event elegant and agreeably exaggerated.

The story of “Great and Powerful” isn’t quite as inspired as its visual design, embarking on a mystery of sorts as Oscar pinballs around the allure of the three witches, with one member of the sisterhood eventually altered into the broom-riding Wicked Witch. It’s a question answered halfway through the picture, and it’s not a terribly thrilling puzzle to begin with, thankfully replaced by ghoulish antics with the antagonist, despite her limited abilities to howl with conviction. The Wicked Witch looks the part, but sounds like a pubescent girl wronged by her boyfriend at times. Thankfully, the screenplay doesn’t play into tedious prequel games to maintain continuity nobody cares about. No character is pregnant with Dorothy, we don’t meet a cobbler looking to make his mark with a pair of special slippers, and while a lion and a scarecrow factor into the tale, it’s not executed in a cutesy, wink-happy fashion these productions are prone to indulge (“X-Men: First Class,” I’m looking your way). “Great and Powerful” is more about discovery than slavish connection, following Oscar’s bumpy ride around Oz as he makes friends and enemies, while facing increasing pressure to perform as the prophesied wizard despite his lack of power beyond cheap seductive tactics, which, true to character, he lays on the witches. A few narrative lulls are found along the yellow brick road, but Raimi never loses control of the pace, with an adventure sequence always chambered to help perk up the proceedings.

And for fans of Raimi who dread a softening of spirit while working on a PG-rated Disney film, never fear. The “Evil Dead” director has injected plenty of mischief into the picture (hero to all Bruce Campbell cameos as a dim Winkie), finding screeching witch activity captured with feral deadite fury, complete with exquisite snap zooms and Dutch angles. The movie’s 3D presentation is also satisfying, eager to fly beyond the frame to beguile audiences with tricks and flying props, while the far reaches of Oz provide a marvelous opportunity for screen depth.

As with “Alice,” the end of “Great and Powerful” goes to war, pitting the forces of good against evil in a massive show of force, topped off with duels of witchcraft, tributes to the early intensity of cinematic projection, and a literal fireworks display. It’s immense but never deadening, kept afloat by Raimi’s skills with rhythm and movement, while performances are fresh enough to remain in view as the visual effects take control. In the end, Raimi doesn’t simply survive “Oz the Great and Powerful,” he gives it genuine effort and personality, crafting a family film that has moments of authentic enchantment and threat, while remaining excited to engage its audience with a sense of awe. Against all odds, it works, also positioning the material to continue down its own path in possible sequels, instead of being forced to funnel into the 1939 gem.

Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Abigail Spencer, Joey King
Director: Sam Raimi

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