Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Stephen R Hart, and many more.
Directed by: Sam Raimi Screenplay by: Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abair Based on the novel by: L Frank Baum Cinematography by: Peter Deming Original Music by: Danny Elfman
Premise: A womanizing, part magician, part conman finds himself swept away from Kansas when his hot air balloon is caught by a raging tornado. Promising to reform if his life is spared, Oz ends up finding himself in a land unlike any he's traveled to before. He's found by the beautiful Theodora, who states his visit was prophesied long before, and that Oz will the the king of the Emerald City and all the riches it holds - if he first rids the land of the Wicked Witch. (Rated PG)
1) Acting - Thumbs Up: James Franco did great as the womanizing conman who wants to make good. Rachel Weisz was fun as the oily Evanora. Mila Kunis came across as incredibly sensual, while also dripping with innocence. Joey King was eerie in Kansas, but also a lot of fun as China Girl.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Like the original "The Wizard of Oz" film from 1939, this one begins in a black and white Kansas but once we reach the Land of Oz, every thing is changed to vibrant color. The change was gradual, pushed on with the rising sun, and was marvelous to behold. In IMAX the colors almost scream off the screen.
The special effects team did a splendid job with the tornado. They showed both the lying calm which can be found withing and also the angry winds which raged and tore things apart into deadly projectiles. Certain moments were very reminiscent of the "The Wizard of Oz." Which was also something we saw over and over again as the film continued.
Oz's introduction to the Land of Oz will keep you captivated as he sees the land for the first time. The musical plants were utterly fascinating. The water fairies were incredibly cute, even with the sharp teeth.
The flying monkeys are now flying baboons, which made them that much more scary looking. The traveling soap bubbles and protective soap bubble shield were fun and looked amazing. China Girl was almost seamlessly a part of events showing in the screen and in her interactions with the actors. Add in the green lightning, the fireballs, the fog, and the giant field of poppies, and we got a special effects smorgasbord.
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: I've never read any of L Frank Baum's books, so I can't make any comments as to whether the film is true to his works or not. For those who cherish the 1939 film, however, I think you'll see a lot of similar treatments in this film as in that one, and bits of foreshadowing, which connect the two films on several levels. The way the credits are done at the beginning, Kansas in black and white, the appearance of characters in Oz who look like people Oz knows in Kansas, etc. The main major difference between the two is the lack of singing, though the Munchkins did at least get in a few verses.
The story itself was pretty simple and had several lessons to teach. On many levels it was imbued with innocence and naivete, in others, the total opposite. The horror of some of the things which had happened in OZ were dulled -- mentioned, and flashed with emotion by the characters, yet not visible, thus glossing it out for the younger viewers.
4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: From the Baum Circus to the grand square in the Emerald City, the locations, whether real or not real, were perfect. The only thing found lacking was the yellow brick road itself. While it did exist, and we even got to see the same town square upon which Dorothy will later start her quest, the road itself did not stand out. In most ways, the yellow brick road appeared rather boring and not all that special, which was rather sad. The Poppy fields though were vast and amazing and did not disappoint. The spanning shot of the fog flowing over it and the 'warriors' starting across it was great.
5) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: Though not all that evident when Oz first reaches the Land of Oz, the more characters we meet, the more unique the dressing and hair styles became. With all the actor extras forming the main three types of people living with Glinda and then the citizens of the Emerald City, it the tremendous amount of work which had gone into giving the people of OZ a unique look of their own was very obvious . It seems a pity they didn't do the same with the three witches, who dressed rather generically by comparison.
Conclusion: "OZ the Great and Powerful" is a visual treat. Those who love the 1939 "The Wizard of Oz" will find much to like in this film. Watch for the cameos by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi - a long standing tradition in Sam Raimi films.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)