A big-screen, big-budget prequel to the 1939 classic, The Wizard Of Oz doesn't sound like something that anyone would really enjoy. The Wizard Of Oz has been done to death and fresh takes on the old film are rare if not impossible. Sam Raimi's big-screen prequel, Oz The Great And Powerful, however, is both fresh and incredibly entertaining.
Sam Raimi (of Spider-Man and Evil Dead fame) knows how to give you what you need in a film. He's a chef of the filmic arts and he gets only the freshest ingredients for his classic adventure film recipe. A strong story, a dash of comedy, a dollop of adventure, a sprig of tugged-heartstrings, all mixed together in one fantastic looking pot and served with a smile that always leaves you wanting more.
Oz The Great And Powerful tells the story of carnival musician Oscar Diggs, also known as Oz. Oz isn't doing so well in his career and aspires to be a showman like Harry Houdini and a genius like Thomas Edison. Instead he's a mediocre illusionist with greed, power and ego issues working in a second-rate carnival in Kansas.
When a tornado sweeps his hot-air balloon into a magical land of his namesake, he is mistaken as a Wizard set to fulfil an ancient prophecy.
Cue duplicity and deceit from three sister Witches: Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Both Evanora and Theodora convince Oz that he must kill Glinda for she is the Wicked Witch who rules the land, when in fact it is quite the reverse.
When Oz learns the truth, he and the Good Witch Glinda must put on the show of a lifetime to defeat hordes of Evanora's beasts and the newly-minted Wicked Witch of the West, Theodora.
The ending is full of clever schemes, awesome steam-punk gadgets and a sprinkling of awesome magic battles and it's insanely enjoyable to watch.
Where Oz The Great And Powerful really succeeds is in its casting. James Franco makes an excellent magician-turned-saviour and the inimitable Zach Braff shows off his range of awesome voice and live-action talents.
The CGI used to animate everything from Oz's flying monkey counterpart, Finley, right through to the tiny, adorable China Girl is incredible, and the land of Oz has never looked more magical. If all you get out of this film is visual stimulus, you'll be happy.
The stand-out, however, comes in Mila Kunis' Theodora character. Her transition from "Good Witch" Theodora into the Wicked Witch of the West is truly remarkable. She begins the tale a shy little witch, showing flashes of a woman trying to suppress her evil urges, right through to the conclusion of the film where we witness her final transition into the green-skinned, broom-mounted, cackling Wicked Witch. It's incredible to watch.
Oz The Great And Powerful is an entertaining romp, a moving tale and a brilliant prequel wrapped up in two-hours of beautiful visuals and excellent 3D. Even if you're not a fan of the original Wizard Of Oz, Oz The Great And Powerful will keep you entertained from start to brilliant finish. Four out of five top hats.
Oz The Great And Powerful opens nationwide on March 7.