This one's worth checking out.

This one’s worth checking out.

From left to right: Finley, the China Girl and Oz.

From left to right: Finley, the China Girl and Oz.

Nicely made: enjoyable

Nicely made: enjoyable

Whether or not you grew up with the 1939 film the changed the world of movies as they knew it back then, you have no doubt heard the tale of The Wizard of Oz at some point in your life. But have you ever wondered what the story is behind the great and powerful Oz himself? If so, here is the answer.

Oz: The Great And Powerful is essentially a prequel to the whole Wizard of Oz story, showing us how the wizard himself ended up in the magical realm of Oz under circumstances that were similar to those of little Dorothy. Hint: apparently tornadoes function as inter-dimensional gateways.

Starting out with a 4:3 aspect ration and grey colours, the film takes us to a circus in Kansas where the magician Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) escapes from an angry strongman, the wife of whom Oscar’s been flirting with, in a hot air balloon and gets himself transported to the land of Oz when a hurricane suddenly strikes. Apparently the wizard and the land shared names right from the start and one wasn’t named after the other, or anything like that. Interesting. Either way, he comes across two beautiful witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis) and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who insist that he is destined to become their new ruler and save them from the Wicked Witch (Michelle Williams) that’s been plaguing them for ages. Oz knows he’s not the great and powerful wizard they truly seek, but eventually agrees.

Together with a winged monkey, Finley, voiced by Zach Braff and later an insanely well-made, living China Doll voiced by Joey King (interestingly, both these actor play characters Oz knew back in Kansas as well), Oz makes his way to the home of Glinda, who is supposed to be this “Wicked Witch” everyone speaks of. But she reveals to him that Evanora has been pulling the strings from her home in Emerald City and that she is the truly evil one, who might also get her unsuspecting sister to join the side of the Wicked. The tables are turned and Oz and friends must plan an attack on a much more difficult target: Emerald City.

Emerald City (which doesn't really look like it's made of emeralds.)

Emerald City (which doesn’t really look like it’s made of emeralds.)

Here’s a fun little thing: when the true antagonists are revealed, we actually get to see how the Wicked Witch that’s the villain of the 1939 picture got her green colours. Honestly, in a film that has visuals this good, I expected her make-up to look a little more impressive than that of Jim Carrey in The Mask.

Because this is a movie that’s strong on the visuals big time and if I were to judge the film solely on those, I would give the film a 5/5, in spite of numerous moments of gimmick-y 3D and the aforementioned Hulk-witch. It is when I start thinking about the stories and characters, however, that I move a little closer to the negative side. In some aspects, the story takes a little much from the original film (like the protagonist being in Kansas before the tornado sucks them up) and honestly, I also felt that James Franco wasn’t that strong a lead. I’ve heard that they originally intended for Oz to be played by Robert Downey Jr. and I really think that would have been for the better. As it is, he’s not that great.

Then there’s the issue I adressed in my review of Rise of The Guardians of some writers not taking advantage of their oppurtunity to do a spectacular showdown between to characters that have magic on their side. Towards the climax of the film, we get some cool tricks, sure, but most of it is just people shooting more of that tedious fire and lightning out of their fingers. When are we going to get a magic duel like that between Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. Have filmmakers just forgotten that wizards and witches are capable of doing more than just shooting things?

Oz: The Great And Powerful is not a bad movie, but it isn’t a great movie either. It has some funny jokes, greatly impressive visuals (again, the porcelain girl is a most fascinating creation), alright action scenes and some likable characters. I do believe, though, that it could’ve benefited from a more likable Oz and more creative magic. I do recommend it, but I don’t recommend any particular rush.

But who knows? Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I saw it. After all, it was one of those days when everyone that shouldn’t be allowed in a theater were in the theater. The kids who wouldn’t stop asking their parents what just happened, the tweens who laughed when nothing funny happened, the people who played with their phones; the only thing missing was the people who screamed everytime somthing mildly scary happened and the nightmare would have been complete.

3.5/5 whatever