By Jose Campos
Disney’s new movie, Oz The Great and Powerful, hit theatres last Friday, and is considerably darker and more intense than The Wizard of Oz. Disney is fresh off its billion dollar box office gate of Alice in Wonderland and tried again to recreate a classic.
The movie is directed by Sam Raimi, and is a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s book, but in this story it follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who is known as Oz, a typical man just going through life scheming on everyone he can take advantage of. Oscar is a magician who, after a bad run in with fellow carnival members, finds himself fleeing in a hot air balloon and getting caught inside a tornado. As he begs for a second chance at life, he is mysteriously brought away to another land. The movie mimics the movement and character arc of the first movie, but instead follows Oscar’s experience in the Land of Oz.
The catch here is the world he has entered (known as Oz), is one in which, unbeknownst to him, he’s made to believe he’s a prophecy to become the air of the throne and is worshiped like a great wizard. However, there’s a catch before this unbelievable act actually goes into play, and that’s a task that entails defying an evil witch who’s been causing chaos with her evil magic, alongside the help of her minions. He must destroy the evil witch and then he may claim his riches and fame.
While it is rumored that Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp were initially offered the role, I believe James Franco did an excellent job in portraying a con artist who deep down inside has a heart of gold. The movie bounces around from being a bubbly children’s film, to then being a suspenseful thriller throughout its course. I felt it hurt James Franco when he was interacting with the cartoon characters, trying to be a children’s actor, and then when he is interacting with real life characters and trying to please the adult audiences.
The 3-D effects bring a duck-and-cover feel with the bright colors making for a good match in a film like this. The climax also brings not one, but two evil witches played by the stunning Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. It also has a flying monkey and a porcelain doll. The third witch, Glinda the Good, played by Michelle Williams, plays the damsel in distress for Oscar to rescue.
The production design and colors make the movie incredibly bright, but the moral lessons aren’t as solidified as in the original. It seems like the lesson of being a good person never really comes over Oscar because he is still coniving in the end. The movie concludes with a weird ending where you’re left with an “oh, it’s the end” kind of feeling. The film is a perfect family Sunday event, or a good Tuesday $5 movie date at Blue Back Square for students.