With the overwhelming success of the Broadway
overwhelming success of the Broadway musical Wicked paired with the timeless
quality of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, it was only a matter of
time before a new story went feature-length for a new generation of ruby
Directed by Sam Raimi,
Oz: The Great And Powerful himself
is played by James Franco, trying
his first turn in a big glossy movie lead (well, apart from his monkey-fiddling
turn in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes).
Burdened with the traits of what could be a thoroughly unlikable character, Franco
is expertly cast as a self-indulgent con artist turned saviour, boasting allure
and charisma with just a streak of humanity whilst making the unbelievable
possible, all with toothy confidence and a twinkle in his eye.
The witches in turn are respectively typecast; Weisz’s dark
features and British accent make her prime evil fodder, Kunis is the coy and
misled younger sibling and Williams’ poise and grandeur really make her truly seem
not of this world as Glinda the Good.
The three dimensional aspect of Oz throbs with magic. Raimi’s
vision of colour, texture and sound make this a realm that you feel you can
step right into. Garish visions of a city of emeralds are shunned for a gorgeous
marbled green palace and with this many dimensions this attentively expanded upon,
the film’s questionable 130-minute running time is forgiven.
Not quite submitting to the same style over substance-based
flaws witnessed in Tim Burton’s Alice in
Wonderland, the indulgence lavished over Raimi’s Oz comes at the expense of
some character development. Such is the hastened speed at which characters
change some empathy is lost, especially in the story’s more wicked characters.
The script is minimal and unadventurous, placing the special
effects firmly in the foreground. The
opening credits in themselves boast a wonderful 3D experience, meandering
through an animated circus with an elaborate reflection of early cinema. As
with the original, the opening sequences too are shot in black and white and
have a distinctive Luhrmann feel to them, following the Wizard from his shady
roots as an illusionist-cum-womaniser into the ominous tornado that will
forever change his fate.
Into the gaudy world of Oz he tumbles, wooing the first woman
he sees and embarking on a quest to destroy the Wicked Witch of the East with
the promise of gold and tail as a reward. Along the way he earns the help of a
talking flying monkey (voiced adorably by Zach
Braff) and a sassy china doll (voiced by The Dark Knight Rises’ Joey King), obvious comic relief for the
small audience members.
With Raimi at the helm there are scares and shocks aplenty.
The Wicked Witches flying baboons are ghastly in nature and when flying at you
with gaping jaws it takes some restraint not to run and the Wicked Witch is
certainly not for the faint of heart. Given that the Glinda-led scenes, though
lovely, get a little boring it’s the evil thread that pulls the film along and
where you can see the director really sink his teeth into a familiar story.
Of the recent rash of fairy stories and fantastical voyages
that have leaked onto the screen over the last few years this is undoubtedly
one of the best. Enjoyable for most walks of life and a visually magnificent at
times, Oz: The Great And Powerful
leads a shiny start to this year’s blockbusters.