This movie can be used as a lesson on how to correctly make a prequel.
“Oz the Great and Powerful,” tells the story of the title character, Oz, who we know from the beloved 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.” In this film, we find Oz, played by James Franco to be a rather selfish, prankster of a magician and yet seems to have a heart of gold somewhere inside. Through a series of events of being chased out of a traveling carnival and ending up in a hot air balloon, Oz finds himself sucked into a twister and ends up in the land of Oz.
As he begins to explore his surroundings, Oz meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), who tells him where he is and that she is a witch. Oz is trusting of her and is led to the Emerald City and is told that he is a wizard of prophecy that will eliminate the threat of the wicked witches. Oz decides to take on the task so that he can be rule the land. However through his journey, he begins to become a better man as he makes new friends.
The story of “Oz the Great and Powerful” really works well. It doesn’t try to be a repeat of the original, it doesn’t try to be a crazy action movie and it captures the spirit of the 1939 film. It’s a good fantasy adventure which really invites the audience into the world that it portrays and it makes for an enjoyable time. The story of keeps interest not only by showing a good adventure to follow, but the story of Oz himself to become a better person is honest and adds another level of depth which moves the film up a peg.
I was skeptical at first with James Franco but he won me over fairly quickly. Franco plays the sort of fish out of water character pretty well. Zach Braff who plays the butler monkey Finley and Joey King who portrays the girl made out of china are both good in the film as well, and have a believable amount of chemistry with Franco. Michelle Williams also does a good job playing Glinda. I did have trouble finding Mila Kunis’ performance to be believable in the movie though. Not that she did a necessarily bad job, but she just seemed more or less miscast.
Director Sam Raimi, who did the Spiderman trilogy and Army of Darkness, seems to know how to make a fun, exciting, and at times over-the-top and yet at the same time have meaningful characters and for the most part a good plot set up, and it really shows here.
He is also apparently good at doing prequels, as things we have seen from the previous movie aren’t shoved in our face like George Lucas did with the Star Wars prequels. In this case, the throwbacks to the original movie are subtle and clever, one that will make the mind remember, but not be distracted.
The special effects was something that worked well here, which was good as it made the world of Oz seem real and also inviting, much more so than the 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” did when Tim Burton tried to take on a fantasy world.
Overall, “Oz the Great and Powerful” pays homage to the original film and at the same time introduces a good back story that is interesting on more than just a single level. Combined with Sam Raimi’s direction and fairly good acting from the cast and really engaging special effects, the film comes out at a 4 out of 5.