Oz the Great and Powerful is a return to that magical land of fairy tale characters that generations of fans have adored for decades. With Sam Raimi at the helm delivering his signature style and a cast featuring James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz, Disney Studios hopes to have audiences amazed at the spectacle that unfolds before their eyes.
Oscar Diggs (Franco) is a magician performing in a travelling circus and has aspirations of achieving great things in life, but has so far settled for small time theatrics and charming an endless stream of ladies as he travels from city to city. When a freak storm carries him off in a hot air balloon, Diggs reaches for a higher power to keep him safe by making a promise to achieve the greatness he has always longed for.
After the storm passes, the man his friends call Oz, ends up landing safely in a most unexpected place filled with colorful sights that can only be seen and not described. Realizing he is not in Kansas any more, Diggs sets off to find out where he is and what he has got himself into. Along the way, he meets a cast of characters who all believe he is a legendary wizard of who a long told prophecy has predicted would arrive to save their kingdom from an evil witch.
Of course, things are never as they seem and he ends up right in the middle of a war between two the forces of good and evil, but the real trick will be discovering which is which before its too late.
I suppose there will be inevitable comparisons to the original adventure which starred Judy Garland in a defining role as Dorothy who went on a similar adventure that Franco's Oz finds himself on now. Seriously, that would be a big mistake as these are two very different films from two very different times. If you are looking for that same magical quality from the original that helped to literally change cinema forever, then you will be sadly disappointed. Rather, you should prepare yourself for a modern take on the origins of that timeless classic and look to enjoy a visual spectacle that will dazzle audiences of all ages.
What will be remembered most about this movie is the visual feast that Raimi puts on the screen as he brings amazing life and gorgeous color to what we already know as being a world filled with dream like qualities. You should definitely see this movie in 3D as every scene is tailor made for the format without being overly intrusive. There are a couple gratuitous moments where things are intentionally thrown out of the screen at the audience, but for the most part, its all about creating a rich experience filled with depth and lush environments.
James Franco is serviceable in the title role, but I doubt if his performance will be anything people rave about which is a little disappointing given his overall likable personality and charisma. Weisz, Kunis, and Michelle Williams are all good in their roles as the various witches of Oz, but again, none of them really stand out as giving anything special to the movie. Even with performances that can only be labelled as decent at best, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a really fun movie that shows how the magician earned his place in the land that carries his name and is absolutely worth seeing in the theater.