Friday, March 29, 2013

Theater Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

This was definitely a risk.

No matter how great this film could be, it was never going to live up to its predecessor. And that film came out in 1939. But, it risks are meant to be taken - and after many years it finally hit the big screen.

Oz the Great and Powerful is the prequel to the classic 1939-film The Wizard of Oz. As Wizard told the story of a young Dorothy Gale being transported to the wonderful land of Oz, here we see how Oscar 'Oz' Diggs (James Franco) finds himself transported the Emerald City.

Now, with any prequel, you already know how things are going to end - but it is interesting to see how exactly we get to the start of The Wizard of Oz.

Oscar Diggs is a circus performer and just so happens to be visiting Kansas for a performance. Diggs is a player, in more ways than one. He tricks women into falling for him - he's the type of guy to have a woman or more in each stop - and he uses tricks in his magic act as well.

After a young girl from the audience asks Diggs to allow her to walk again, and the audience quickly turns on him when he refuses to do it - Diggs and his partner rush out only to get cornered by the strong man, whose wife Diggs had recently been flirting with. So, Diggs jumps in a hot air balloon, only to get sucked up into a twister - a twister.

Here he lands in Oz and meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who believes that Diggs is the wizard that they have all been waiting for to rescue them from the Wicked Witch. She takes him to meet her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), yet another witch.

Evanora, who doesn't believe that Diggs is the wizard that can rescue them, shows him a room full of money that he can have if he defeats the Wicked Witch by destroying her broom.

Along the way, Diggs meets up with Finley (Zach Braff), a small flying monkey that owes him a life debt after Diggs saves him from a lion. The two of them also meet up with China Girl (Joey King) a small china doll whose entire village and townsfolk were destroyed by the Wicked Witch's flying monkey.

That is where I will leave it - in essence it is up to Oscar Diggs to save the people of Oz from the Wicked Witch. And, despite even him not believing he is the wizard that everyone is looking for, but he will do his best to pretend he is.

My wife is probably the biggest Wizard of Oz fan that I have ever met. So, as soon as this was announced she was already in the theater. In fact, she went and saw it the day before without me - and then went again with me the next day.

It's tough to meet those type of expectations, but she loved it. I had the same issues in a similar way with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  - which I found horrible and can never watch again.

In my opinion, Oz was pretty darn great. I thought to even come close to the original would be an accomplishment. It is odd, however, that the low point of the film may in fact be James Franco. Although he did a good job as Oz, the rest of the cast was so great that he looked to be lagging behind.

The best two, however, were the CGI characters. Finley and China Girl were both amazing characters. They had heart and humor - which tended to be lacking in a lot of the rest of the cast.

Also, I saw this in 3D. And, this was the absolute best use of 3D that I have ever seen in the theater (though I never saw Avatar in the theater - which I am told was amazing).

Finally, the bridge between the two films was done very well. We see things that build towards Wizard of Oz throughout the film, and I am sure there were even more that I missed. But, those were very cool to see and fun to pick out.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. Does it reach the original? No, probably not. But, they took the risk and honestly I thought they succeeded.


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