‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ Review

Poster from Disney.com

Poster from Disney.com

Priyanka Hardikar, Staff Writer

A Walt Disney Pictures and director Sam Raimi production, “Oz the Great and Powerful” captures and intensifies the enthralling journey from L. Frank Baum’s 1900s Oz series. Indirectly a prequel to the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”, “Oz the Great and Powerful” takes the audience by surprise when a male lead named Oscar Diggs – conveniently nicknamed Oz – corresponds to the classic wizard. Portrayed by James Franco, Oz is a con artist and insignificant circus magician who is egotistical, deceptive and quite the ladies’ man.

The film sets in motion in a black-and-white, obsolete Kansas City, MO. As the skies darken ominously and the clouds rotate rapidly, a tornado sucks in a hot-air balloon with Oz in it. The audience accompanies Oz as he finds himself entering a world like no other. Kansas’ colorless and lifeless surroundings are juxtaposed to the breathtakingly beautiful and picturesque scenery he finds at the Land of Oz. The audience is blown away by the sudden explosion of vibrant colors and magical blossoming of magnificent flowers. The skies seem unreal, like the skies from a Salvador Dali painting. It’s almost like a dreamland – or heaven, as Oz mesmerizingly mistakes it for.

Here, he is introduced to Theodora, the Good Witch of the West, portrayed by Mila Kunis, who mistakes him for the great wizard from the prophecy that the people have been awaiting. They hope that he will finally free them from the Wicked Witch and her atrocious actions of destroying the towns and families of the Land of Oz. Instantly attracted to Theodora and unaware of the future emotional baggage or consequences of his actions, Oz blindly impersonates the wizard.
Following the renowned Yellow Brick Road, Theodora leads Oz to the capital, Emerald City. She introduces him to her sister, Evanora, also a Good Witch, portrayed by Rachel Wiesel. She is guarding the throne until the prophecy wizard arrives. After Evanora shows Oz all the wealth and power he can acquire if he destroys the Wicked Witch and her wand, Oz takes on the quest.

Franco’s charming portrayal of Oz grips the audience. His confidence shines through his character’s delivery and walk. Despite his flaws, he is nevertheless a very charismatic character with a playful smile and personality. As the movie evolves, Franco appropriately and admirably demonstrates his character’s development as a person. In the beginning, he maintains his womanizing ways, amusing the audience, but towards the end, he becomes a real person, with real emotions and a real heart. His compassion to the people is touching.

Michelle Williams, who plays Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, is the leading lady. She is ethereal and angelic with her golden hair, flowing white dress and warm smile. Williams’ composed manner and soft, kind words soothe the people of the Land of Oz as well as the audience. Wiesel, as Evanora, with her British accent and sweet face, reveals her capability to play a broad range of roles. Theodora is naïve and credulous. Kunis, with her adorable face and childlike qualities, portrays the innocence of her character. When he is given his task, Oz as well as the audience is unaware of the Wicked Witch’s true identity. Both are searching for the truth and are in for a riveting surprise.

The music is particularly powerful in conveying the emotions of the people. When entering the Dark Forest and encountering the Wicked Witch, the music takes on a sinister feel. During a suspenseful or fierce scene, the music dramatically upsurges in volume and pace and is striking to the audience. The music softens and weakens during the Chinatown scene when the broken china doll is introduced; it communicates the doll’s sorrow and broken dreams.

The china doll’s innocent sapphire blue eyes and youthfulness is love at first sight for the audience. Although she appears to be exceptionally delicate, she is just like any other young girl, seeking adventure and excitement. She and a winged monkey named Finley, who becomes Oz’s loyal servant for life, bring humor and innocence into the film. It is worthy to note that the characters from Kansas, who were introduced in the beginning of the movie, reappear in the Land of Oz in a different form to help shape Oz’s life.

Although there is no clicking of ruby red heels and the plotline begins predictably, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a film filled with impressive twists and characters unlike their stereotypes. It is the sophisticated version of a child’s fairytale story that ignites something in adults, who may have lost touch with precious childhood memories. A sparkle of magic and a drop of innocence is ultimately what transports moviegoers back to the Land of Oz.