“Oz the Great and Powerful” is the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco, “127 Hours”), a Kansas circus magician, who is a bit of a fraud and charlatan, the archetypical American charmer and trickster.

Through a mishap, he flies away in a hot air balloon to the wonderful land of Oz, where he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis, “Black Swan”), one of the witches of Oz, who, upon meeting Oscar, begins to believe that he is the Wizard of Oz, a prophetic savior of the Oz people. After seeing the fortune that the prophecy says the wizard will receive, Diggs plays along, acting the part of the wizard and embarking on an incredible journey to defeat the Wicked Witch and save the city. With a few creative twists and turns, director Sam Raimi adds a creative interpretation to the classic story, making the movie a fun and interesting adventure.

As a prequel, the movie is stellar and completely worth watching. Franco as Oscar Diggs is passable, albeit not completely convincing as the swine and player he is clearly meant to be. Kunis and Evanora (Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardener”) make excellent witches, as they toggle back and forth between beautiful and ugly. Additionally, Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) shines as the archetypal good witch, Glinda.

Unfortunately, the music was lackluster, especially when compared to the fantastic soundtrack of the original 1939 film. Thankfully, the cinematography made up for this, and completely stole the show. The special effects were outstanding, the vivid colors gorgeous and the depiction of Oz was like a fairy tale come to life.

The backgrounds are well-detailed and immerse the viewer into the world, despite some moments where you can tell the actors don’t quite blend in and that the scene is computer-generated. Still, watching it in 3-D added an entertaining element to the film.

Oz has a lot of the main elements of the original story: the fraudulent wizard, the good witch, the two wicked witches and the flying monkeys. But embellishments on the plot make it unique and engaging. For instance, in this Oz, the wizard is a bit of a ladies’ man and has relationships with multiple women, adding a love triangle to the mix. And since the main character is a man rather than a young girl, Oz is targeted toward more mature audiences, which justifies its PG rating with some frightening scenes and romantically-themed conversations.

Although it appears that the film was not intended to be scary, in many ways, it is. The flying monkeys are grotesquely frightening and the evil characters are generally cruel. For instance, there is one intense twister scene and several moments that are especially frightening in imposing 3-D.

The transformation of the wicked witch was well done, but quite eerie, though ultimately she isn’t as scary as the one from the original film. Raimi successfully intersperses humor in the more frightening moments, keeping the mood light – after all, this is a Disney production.

Though the film may not get a whole lot of critical acclaim, the movie is a massive production of entertainment and fun, and definitely a blockbuster in its own right. It’s an enjoyable film, and one that I certainly recommend. And if that sequel does ever get the green light, this movie was engaging enough to keep me interested a second time around.

– By Dhvani Ghatlia 

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

+ posts

The Emory Wheel was founded in 1919 and is currently the only independent, student-run newspaper of Emory University. The Wheel publishes weekly on Wednesdays during the academic year, except during University holidays and scheduled publication intermissions.

The Wheel is financially and editorially independent from the University. All of its content is generated by the Wheel’s more than 100 student staff members and contributing writers, and its printing costs are covered by profits from self-generated advertising sales.