Oscar (James Franco) is a carnival magician in Kansas, who aspires to be something in between Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini and become a great magician. However, Oscar is far from being anything like his idols and feels he deserves a bigger stage to perform. His fate is about to take a 180 degree turn when his hot air balloon is swallowed by a tornado. Unexpectedly Oscar finds himself in a strange world and in sudden company of Theodora (Mila Kunis). Being told he is the Wizard of prophecies; Oscar is led to believe that he must face the wicked witch in what is poised to be his greatest adventure yet.
Oz the Great and Powerful marks the return to the land of Oz in a modern day prequel. The film was directed by Sam Raimi and stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz. I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical over the potential prequel to the 1939 American classic film The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming, not because I didn’t think it could be done, but simply because the bar is so high when dealing with Wizard of Oz that it takes a lot of care and respect to really tackle the legacy left behind by the name Oz itself. I am not a self-proclaimed fan of The Wizard of Oz to any extend, but the work of L. Frank Baum is a classic deserving of the best treatment.
Now with all that being said, Oz: the Great and Powerful did not manage to deliver the magic and the absolute marvel that The Wizard of Oz once did and most likely still does to a certain extend. What it did manage to do is deliver a passable family feature full of eye popping effects and grander view into the land of Oz. The movie heavily relied on the special effects that it ended up taking some of the marvel and magic out of the film. Mind you, the film was visually appealing, but the essence of Oz was not really there. I realize that trying to compare the two films is not fair, but when you make a film that is based on the work of a classic title, it’s almost impossible to not bring it into the conversation. I realize that due to the rights being owned by a different studio, Disney was forced to somewhat distance their project from the original film and it shows. The Disney touch was definitely felt throughout.
As for the acting, I have to say there was some miscast for two key roles of the film, Oscar and Theodora. The first one, Oscar, player by James Franco never truly met the standard needed to represent the character properly. I often felt that he wasn’t as passionate for the role and he truly just wasn’t the right person for the job. The second major role of Theodora was played by Mila Kunis, who in reality was just not good. There was a sense of innocence that was missing from the character and later on there was no real emotional attachment when her character was heartbroken. It could very well be because of the flat plot, but the fact is it all just felt rushed and it things just didn’t pan out correctly for Kunis. I must say that Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams were completely the opposite as they both almost single handedly carried on the film. Weisz was phenomenal as the Wicked Witch with an unforgettable performance.
As far as the plot, it just simply didn’t deliver every note like Sam Raimi would have hoped. He started strong, he set the story, but ultimately by the time the climax of the film had arrived my interest level had peaked. The themes of the story were just simply not executed correctly and it ended up affecting the film. Like I said before, the film makes for a great popcorn film, but it’s far from meeting that bar set by Fleming’s take on Baum’s literary work.
Oz The Great and Powerful arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode framed at 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The beginning of the film was less appealing visually appealing, in terms of a colorful world, with a black and white presentation to really get things going. Here the black levels are deep and no sign of crushing. The white levels are well reproduced. When the film moves onto the land of Oz, the changes are visually stunning. The colors are vivid and rich through the film and they are beautifully displayed in the many panned out shots. There’s a great sense of depth in the image. Black levels hear are also well reproduced and there’s a good shadow reproduction. No crushing or aliasing is detected. Detailing is exceptional, just look at the garments worn by the many different actors or even the streets of Emerald City or the flying monkeys! Oz simply looks great on Blu-ray!
Oz The Great and Powerful arrives on Blu-ray with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. The track features a robust yet very accurate track, the dialogue is well prioritized and it does not become overwhelmed by the action. The dynamic range is actually very good. The rears and surrounds offer a good amount of support by delivering the ambience and atmospheric effects. The score flows through the spacious track without a problem. Even the LFE is very active and very accurate with its thunderous delivery during the very key and active moments of the movie.
The Magic of Oz The Great and Powerful: Second Screen Experience
Walt Disney and the Road to Oz
My Journey in Oz by James Franco
China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief
Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz
Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions
Oz the great and powerful managed to turn out like a good popcorn film for the family and rightly so, it has all the elements to deliver an entertaining time for the entire family. The film didn’t achieve the level that perhaps I was expecting being an Oz movie and all, but it left good things behind and you can take the movie for what it is, just a good family movie. The video is exceptional and the audio simply delivers every note perfectly. The supplements really round up the title with a few good extras. If you haven’t seen Oz The Great and Powerful then I recommend it.