“This is a story of how the wizard came to be the wizard; of how a small time carnival magician – a faker, a charlatan – came to a fantastic world and was just the thing that they needed to save the day. It’s the tale of how an average man who was selfish became a great wizard who is selfless.” -Sam Raimi, director
WARNING: Spoilers are contained in this review. I don’t claim to be film critic, just a regular person who enjoys being entertained at the movies!
I vividly remember seeing the Wizard of Oz each year as a child. Initially, the Wicked Witch scared me… who wouldn’t be scared of her as a youngster? But as I grew older, I came to learn the wonderful story and the lessons it holds, all of which are still true today.
It didn’t take long to find myself immersed in this fantasy prequel. The film begins in Kansas, and everything is black and white, much like the original. James Franco plays the sleazy carnival huckster, Oscar “Oz” Diggs.
Once the tornado comes and Oz is swept away to a new world, the colors and set designs pull you in quickly. One of the most stunning scenes takes place early, when Oz and Theodora travel to Oz. This movie definitely is one to see in 3D and on a large screen, if possible, because of the visual effects.
There are two computer generated image (CGI) characters in the film, Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) the winged-monkey, and and China Girl (voiced by Joey King). In many respects, these two steal the show with their quick wit. The three form an unlikely band of heroes who set off to steal the wicked witch’s wand and free the people of Oz. (The citizens of Oz believe the wizard is the fulfillment of the prophecy that will save their beautiful land from the clutches of evil.) Along the way, you’ll be reminded of “The Wizard of Oz” as you learn how and why certain events unfolded the way they did in the original movie.
The witches each have their own magical powers. Evanora has lighting that comes from her fingertips, Glinda manipulates fog/water and has her magic wand, Theodora creates fire from her magic ring.
One of the most amazing transformations — as well as great acting — comes from Theodora, played by Mila Kunis. When Oz meets Theodora, she is beautiful, naive and innocent, wanting only the best for her people. She falls to Oz’s charm. However, after getting brushed aside by Oz, and with the “help” of Evanora (already a nasty witch), Theodora succumbs to a bite of the apple and her heart is hardened. She transforms into the Wicked Witch of the West we all know!
While I found myself laughing out loud at some scenes, the movie also has a number of scary moments – a few startled me! As with any good vs evil story, there are very “dark” aspects in the film. The witch’s evil baboons are huge, loud and quite scary, especially in the 3D world when they appear to be coming right towards you.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. The special effects, set designs and costumes are first rate!
Interesting Facts about Oz The Great and Powerful:
** Production on “Oz The Great and Powerful” took place entirely on site at Raleigh Michigan Studios, the 675,000 square foot sound stage facility in Pontiac, Michigan.
** Costume designers Gary Jones and Michael Kutsche designed, created and assembled nearly 2,000 costumes.
** Over the course of the five-month shoot, staff applied character makeup more than 2,500 times.
** Each one of the trees was hand-carved out of foam and layers of plaster.
In the Parks
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DISCLAIMER: I was a guest at a screening of Oz the Great and Powerful.” This did not influence my review, and my opinions are my own.