Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 15, 2013

‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ a spellbinding prequel

Movie Review

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — One of the greatest things about being a storyteller is once an idea catches on with an audience, there’s no limit to when that tale has to end.  As long as the material is respectably fresher than direct to video, this is true especially for the format of film where such stories deserve to continue.

Today’s topic, whether or not people realize it, is proof  of how expansion of one of cinema’s most beloved masterpieces, must continue for no other reason than the amount of material the original author created as background. The delivery in many ways was just as enjoyable and memorable as when I first had a chance to see “Return to Oz” as a child and perfectly in line with what one might expect in a beginning adventure for the fabled land’s greatest cheat. “Oz the Great and Powerful” feels sufficiently new enough to stand on its own, but sufficiently a tribute to what came before in a mix where I’m glad it’s no place like home.

In this particular chapter, things start off appropriately in black and white at a circus tour in Kansas, though at a much earlier date than before at 1905. We meet up with our wizarding con artist Oscar Diggs (James Franco), who is literally living on loose change made from his magic act due to rather picky audiences.

He’s also apparently gets away with being a pretty smooth customer with the ladies, that is until his playboy moves send him on the run straight into that weather pattern that would normally kill someone, but takes them instead to a magical land. Though he’s in a place not at all familiar, he actually keeps up the things that originally got him in trouble, hitting on all the hot witch babes like Theodora the Good Witch (Mila Kunis) and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), until the third sister Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (Michelle Williams) shows him he could have so much more purpose in life. Through recognizing that his only limits are the ones he place on himself, he can either save Oz from its darkest days or doom it even further.

Other than blending the origin story of the Wizard so well, the one thing I found most impressive was how well the story matched the breathtaking quality of the special effects. Something that could only get more amazing the better the format of media and screen (where 3D might not be just a gimmick); everything fell into place throughout each scene.

The interaction with the environment and supporting characters like the winged monkey Finley (Zach Braff) or the adorably cheeky china girl (Joey King) was what it needed to be and despite the crowd that demands to be shown every gory detail, I salute that the filmmakers allowed us to draw some of the impacts with our own imagination. Being early in the year, I’m not sure how it will stack up best picture wise, yet one thing I certainly can say it is shooting for is best original score with another amazing job by Danny Elfman. For making it worthwhile and a fun ride “Oz the Great and Powerful” earns a verdict of four out of five scarecrows.

Movie viewing experience courtesy of the Royal Twin Theater of Pauls Valley.