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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
After I watched Burt Wonderstone this past weekend, I didn’t really want to go home yet. As such, I snuck into a showing of Oz: The Great and Powerful. I have been excited about this movie for a while. I am a big Wizard of Oz fan (both the classic 1939 film and the original novel), so the idea of a prequel of how the Wizard came to Oz really appealed to me. Add to that a creative team I have the upmost respect for, and you have sold me on it. So, did the movie live up to my own personal hype?
It largely did. The visuals are amazing. I happened to also see this in 3D, and, while that would not have been my original viewing choice, I have absolutely zero regrets about doing so. The film stunning and director Sam Raimi utilizes the 3D to its full potential. Plus, Oz was not a case of post-conversion. It was filmed for 3D in 3D, and you all know how much I appreciate that.
That said, the film is a little long. Granted, the running time is only a hair over two hours, but there are parts that somewhat drag and you want the film to move along. Part of the problem, I feel, is that Raimi really wanted to show off the visuals. I cannot blame him. In a Wizard of Oz movie, you need impressive visuals to demonstrate how colorful the Land of Oz is. However, he dwelled on it a bit too much causing it to lose some of its effectiveness.
Though Raimi loved his visuals, he did not sacrifice story or characterization for it. The story is very simple, but for a movie like this, it is needed. In essence, a con-man/small-time magician named Oz (James Franco) gets swept away to the Land of Oz where he is believed to be a prophesized wizard who will save the magical land. He decides to play along so he can become wealthy as the new leader, but learns he has to destroy the Wicked Witch in order to do so. As such, he starts a familiar journey down the Yellow Brick Road gaining friends and allies along the way.
The film has enough nods to the 1939 classic to make it familiar, but bring in some new, fresh elements straight from books by L. Frank Baum to make the production fresh and original. Much like Raimi did with his Spider-Man series, he plants several easter eggs in the film that the average filmgoer will completely miss, but Oz aficionados will immediately pick up on.
Though I enjoyed the story, I really felt the threat-level that the wicked wiches presented was not really there until it was too far into the film. In short, we learn that they have taken control of Oz in an almost dictatorship state, and that the people of Oz hate their rule. This is never quite made clear enough, and when it is revealed, it comes off a bit forced. However, in the end, it is a small detail and did not ruin my enjoyment.
Oz: The Great and Powerful has, arguably, been the first big hit of 2013, and I think that is largely deserved. Despite its faults, the film is still pretty fun and it seems obvious that the cast is having a ton of fun in their respective roles. I would highly recommend people checking out this movie in theaters only because the visual spectacle deserves to be seen on the big screen. Go see it.
And, yes, I fully realize that a prequel to The Wizard of Oz has been done with Wicked. Well, I got news for you: Wicked could only hope to be as entertaining as Oz: The Great and Powerful. Yep, that’s right: I didn’t care for Wicked. Deal with it.