Like the film it claims to be a prequel to, The Wizard of Oz, this Oz also starts in black and white before flourishing into brilliant technicolour when the main character lands inside the fantasy world of the title.
Where the new film first departs from the 1939 favourite is in its strangely jocular tone. While danger lurks around most corners, there's always time for a laugh or two. Sam Raimi showed a deft hand for mixing black humour and scares in his Evil Dead films of the 80's, but this time around he's gone for something lighter to please a mass audience. Whether its our self-interested anti-hero (also called Oz) or one of his little animated sidekicks, there's always an element of irreverence in the scripting.
The story itself is simple enough - circus performer Oscar (Oz) fleas town in a hot air balloon after another of his callous swindles and ends up in a fantastical land where he is mistakenly believed to be the saviour of the townspeople who will end the reign of the wicked witch.
Oz The Great and Powerful will appeal more to fans of Raimis' Spiderman trilogy, thanks to a uniformly dazzling array of special effects.
Performances aren't quite so consistent. James Franco doesn't look that comfortable as the slippery faux-hero of the story, and Mila Kunis, decked out in a series of unflattering outfits, is even less convincing as one of his scorned love interests. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams fare much better, but it's the animated characters that register strongest. A nameless china doll in particular is so incredibly well rendered, it's impossible to take your eyes off her when she's on screen.
Oz has a nice message about taking responsibilities for your actions, and helping those around you, but it's delivered in such a strange tone, it's hard to be completely satisfied by the experience. One character opines that goodness is better than greatness, and its a sentiment that the filmmakers seem happy to apply to their own work.