Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: Oz: The Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013)

Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spiderman Trilogy) makes a return to screens taking us back into the magical realm of Oz where a small time magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) plays a reluctant role in swaying a raging battle between good and evil. Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this serves as a visually striking prequel to the events in Victor Fleming’s 1939 film, with Raimi successfully evoking giddy nostalgia while incorporating a winning collaboration of cutting edge CGI/3D technology while honouring ancient cinematic inventions and formats. It is not only colourful and inventive, but features some well-drawn characters and powerful performances and provides enough laughs to entertain the whole family.

Oz: The Great and Powerful opens in Kansas in stunning black and white imagery within the 4:3 ratio utilised during old Hollywood. We are introduced to Oscar as he prepares backstage for his magic show. He bullies his loyal technical assistant, Frank (Zach Braff), and flirts with a new female colleague. When his illusions impress the awe-struck crowd, a young girl requests he use his powers to cure her inability to walk. When he refuses, his goodwill is angrily challenged, leading to a hasty hot air balloon escape. Taken up in a destructive storm and tornado, he finds himself emerging into a fantasy realm – cue colour and format change to widescreen – later revealed to be Oz.

It is here that he learns about the Wizard prophecy and his foretold and expected arrival. Led along the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City by good witch Theadora (Mila Kunis), in the company of Finley (voiced by Braff), a flying monkey he rescues along the way, Oz is offered immense fame and riches by her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) if he destroys the wand of a banished wicked witch. When he meets Glinda (Michelle Williams) he learns that he has been the subject of manipulation and has to team up with the people of Oz and use every trick up his sleeve to stop the reign of evil.

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