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Oz the Great and Powerful - Film Review

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by Chrystal Byrne (subscribe)
Freelance writer living on Brisbane's north side. Studied creative industries - currently studying library and information services.
Published March 9th 2013
Oscar Diggs, or Oz as he is known, is a small-time circus magician with questionable ethics. He's a con, a trickster and a coward – causing chaos in Kansas and other towns alike. Oz is early revealed to be a womaniser who tricks women into false affections by giving them a music box which he claims to have belonged to his dead grandmother; though in reality he has plenty of them. After another botched show, during which Oz refuses the request of a lame young girl to help her walk, Oz is visited by Annie, a woman he is revealed to be genuinely in love with. Annie tells him that she has had a marriage proposition, and Oz, realising that he is a bad man and undeserving of her, congratulates her and advises her to accept.

Directly following this, the circus strongman begins an attack on Oz, after he discovers his woman in possession of a music box. With his top hat and bag of belongings in hand, Oz escapes from the strongman and his entourage by boarding a hot air balloon – straight into an oncoming tornado. Whilst the balloon is being buffeted, speared and starts breaking apart, Oscar Diggs shouts into the storm that if he 'survives this he will become a good man'. The storm is silent, the skies clear and Oz begins his descent into the Land of Oz.

Once there, Oz meets the witch Theodora, who tells him that he is the focus of a prophecy, destined to kill the wicked witch, free the people of Oz and become King. She believes him to be a great and powerful wizard. From this point, Oz must discover the identity of the wicked witch, help the good witch save the people of Oz and is forced to decide if he will be a bad man, a good man or a great one.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
James Franco as Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) is a Disney adaptation and recreation of both the children's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), by author L. Frank Baum, and it's film adaptation, The Wizard of Oz (1939), produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum with illustrations by W. W. Denslow, was first published on May 17, 1900, by the George M. Hill Company and has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz which is the name of the well-known 1939 film adaptation.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Victor Fleming and written by (based off the work by L. Frank Baum) Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. It stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale and Frank Morgan as The Wizard of Oz and tells the classic story of Dorothy who, after being swept away to a magical land in a tornado, embarks on a quest to see The Wizard of Oz who can help her return home. The movie produced the Academy Award-winning song "Over the Rainbow" and has become one of the most famous films ever made due to annual telecasts, great-for-its-time special effects, technicolour, fantasy storytelling, unusual characters and almost constant references in American popular culture.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
The first edition cover of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Judy Garland and cast in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz

As previously mentioned, Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) is an adaptation and recreation of both the original book and film discussed above. It is directed by Sam Raimi and stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs/Oz, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Annie and Glinda. As you may see, creators of this film knew the risks they were taking in attempting a recreation in that they had pretty big shoes to fill. With the lasting fame and classic nature of both the original book and film, Oz the Great and Powerful needed to be great and powerful to make any sort of impact. Although I love(d) the film, love(d) it in all aspects, I think time will tell whether it can/will truly live up to its predecessors.

One huge positive with Oz the Great and Powerful is that it tells the story of the Land of Oz from a different angle than we've seen before. The 1939 film tells the story from Dorothy's angle, with her friends the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. The 2013 film tells the story from the view of the wizard himself, Oz the Great and Powerful, with his friends Finley (the flying monkey, a reference to his circus assistant Frank, whom he called a monkey), the porcelain girl (whom when he meets has broken legs, a reference to the lame girl in Kansas) and Glinda the Good (whom mirrors completely his lost love Annie).

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) has fantastic visual effects, colour and costumes. The setting and scenery reminds me very much of the technicolour mastery that was Alice in Wonderland (2010), and everything in this respect is modern and intriguing. The cast is brilliant with both Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz not only stepping into roles unusual for them but owning those roles too, Michelle Williams plays a Glinda that I'm sure her little girl Matilda would be proud of and James Franco is outstanding in his usual cheeky and adorable self. I very much enjoyed watching this film; it is a great fantasy film for all the family.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Poster for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
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