Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_PosterWritten by: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire, and Mitchell Kapner, based in the “Oz” books by L. Frank Baum

Directed by: Sam Raimi

I’m older than most of the bloggers I follow. Hell, I seem to be older than most people these days. 😉 I grew up in an era when VCRs were not yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye. We had network TV, which meant we got three channels — y’know, if we jiggled the rabbit ears just right. And springing for a movie theater ticket — a whopping $3 — was a luxury. So we kids lived for those revered television specials. Of which the best of the best was, of course, The Wizard of Oz.

It came around every spring, and — aside from Christmas, my birthday, and the last day of school — it was my most anticipated event of the year. My parents couldn’t afford a color TV set, so we’d troop over to a friend’s house to witness that glorious moment when Dorothy opens the door to a vibrantly technicolor fantasy world.

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Just typing those last two paragraphs makes me feel like a freaking fossil. 🙂 As does my children’s bemused reaction to my lifelong adoration for this movie. Not to mention my delight in the scene where Dorothy arrives in Munchkin Land. My oldest summed it up best: “Check out that set! It looks like she crash landed in a Michael’s craft store!”

Huh. Well, yes, I suppose it does. But it’s still splendid. And cut them a break…CGI effects weren’t yet invented, and there was a Depression on.

My love for that movie was surpassed only by my discovery, around age 6, of the novel from which it came, along with its many sequels. It was the first time I fell wholly, deliriously in love with a series of books. I spent hours reveling in the words and illustrations and poring over the maps of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy world. It was around this time that the public library became my house of worship. It also turned me on to the concept of fantasy and science fiction. And that, folks, is how a confirmed bibliophile and lifelong geek is born.

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Needless to say, it was a foregone conclusion that, as long as the makers of Oz the Great and Powerful didn’t spectacularly bugger up this project, I was an easy sell for this film. An homage to the original film, with occasional touches of the series of novels, this movie serves as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It shows how “Oz the Great and Terrible” found his way to the Land of Oz and the genesis of the Wicked Witch of the West.

After reading mixed reviews, I went into this movie with modest expectations. So I was pleasantly surprised that I found it delightful.

In lieu of writing an actual review, I’ll cut to the chase (warning: mild spoilers):

What I Liked:

    • The film was reminiscent of the original movie. Nostalgic black-and-white scenes morph into somewhat garish technicolor when “the wizard” lands in Oz. The sets are lush, overblown, and colorful — evoking a craft store rather than modern CGI creations. 🙂 Actors from Kansas reappear in Oz, just as in the old movie. And the acting is fittingly cheesy but charismatic and engaging.
    • A hammy performance by James Franco — blown away from a life of carnival chicanery into a world were he will reign as Oz the Great and Terrible — complete with Franco’s trademark grin. The only thing I didn’t like was those weird, awkward smiles. What was up with that?
    • The look in his eyes, in the ending scene, when he finally offers his love to his lady.
    • The creepy clown, at the Kansas carnival, swigging from a flask. Don’t ask me why.
    • Although I’m pretty much a solid zero on the Kinsey scale, I’ve gotta admit … Mila Kunis with huge, innocent eyes and contrasting tight leather pants? Rachel Weisz in an emerald-green sequined gown? Pretty hot.
    • Flying baboons!! Need I say more?
    • The china doll. Cool special effects there yet quaint and genuinely child-like. One member of my tribe thought she was annoying, but I really liked her.
    • The munchkins coming in as titans then breaking into a song and dance. It almost got me over my disappointment at their not reprising The Lollipop Guild.
    • Occasional references to things found in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but not in the movie adaptation. The Quadlings. The Winkies. The good witch’s protective kiss. (Even though it was the wrong good witch. Oh, well.) I really wish they had done more of that in this film. And why do they always exclude the Good Witch of the North in the movies? I’m just sayin’
    • “Prestidigitation” is word that doesn’t get nearly enough use in conversation. Love it.

Even Better:

    • The quaint moving picture machine introduced at the beginning. Oz’s primitive special effects. Showmanship and sleight of hand as a form of magic. A fitting tribute to the early film industry.

Best of All:

  • Trisha laughing out loud in delight when Oz was reborn in a burst of smoke.  Priceless!

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