Are you ready to head back down the yellow brick road? Well then you are in luck because Oz the Great and Powerful is about to take to you on a magical journey to the Emerald City. But this isn’t the same Oz Dorothy and Toto crash landed into. Pre-Dorothy Oz includes a land of not two witches, but three. And one of them isn’t brandishing a lovely shade of emerald green just yet. Very inline with the original movie, the movie opens in black and white. It finds our wizard doing magic tricks at a carnival in Kansas. Oscar “Oz” Diggs is your average cad, expressing his devotion to the holy buck, and behaving in such an egotistical and cavalier way, that Toto would have peed on Oscar’s leg. While performing a magic act, things go awry for the young magician and he makes his escape on a hot air balloon. With a tornado looming right behind him, his balloon is sucked into the Technicolor world that is the land of Oz. It is when the movie transitions that the IMAX 3D experience really kicks into high gear. While the title sequence also encapsulates the 3D technology excellently, it truly sets in when the Land of Oz is explored along with all the beautiful foliage and animals wandering about. Creatures big and small pop-up on screen and in your face in such great detail, that you feel as if you are a part of the movie, not merely a guest peeking into its world.
While the IMAX 3D experience is above and beyond the best aspect of the film, it’s too bad that the underlining story and its main actor are the undoing of what could have been a very unique addition to the Wizard of Oz legacy. James Franco’s Oz is nothing short of self-centered and irritating at moments. Ironically his best scenes are when he interacts with characters that aren’t human at all. We only wished his human interaction with the China Doll, which was actually very endearing, was nearly as good as his interaction with his female leads. Franco just comes off as schmuck with a smirk. It is only until later in the movie that he seems to remember he is somewhat of a decent actor, and he finally pulls his version of Oz off. But in my opinion, it was far too little, too late.
The ladies truly held court in this movie, with Rachel Weisz being the best witch of them all by actually performing her role as it was meant to be. While the Mila Kunis character certainly transforms into something much better in the later part of the movie, it’s hard to believe she is the same actress who pulled off the Black Swan or even Ted… At the same time, Michelle Williams does a decent job as the good witch Glinda and basically salvages any scene she is forced to share with ‘Oz.’
Oz the Great and Powerful is a feast for the eyes. Visually it is a stunning film, especially when it is presented in IMAX 3D. While the acting in the film might be mediocre, at least you can bask in the animated characters and special effects that are really the stars of this movie. Oz the Great and Powerful is currently in theaters.