Oz the Great and Powerful (Story)
Since the very beginning of the twentieth century the whimsical world created by L. Frank Baum has been ingrained deeply in our popular collective consciousness, the wonderful land of Oz. richly populated by magical creatures that ideally reflected aspects of our own human nature these books, followed by stage plays, major movie studio productions and television offerings have remained a part of us for several generations. It is exceedingly rare that grandparent, parent and their children can share found and lasting memories of stories featuring the same location and characters. ‘The Wizard of Oz is securing in its preeminent spot in such a short list. In recent years there has been another wave of revitalization of the citizens of Oz and its powerful leader, the wizard with an award winning Broadway musical offering an alternate prequel to the events that comprise the story beloved by us all. The 1939 musical may have solidify the multigenerational fame of Oz but it by no means represents more than a sliver of the richness and magic contained in Mr. Baum’s world of imagination. One of the projects closest to the remarkable vision of Mr. Baum is a movie released by the arguably greatest purveyors of family entertainment, The Walt Disney studios. Their history of providing quality faire suitable for all ages stretches back to the thirties when they redefined how to bring the entire family together to share a moment of pure fun. This film ’Oz the Great and Powerful’ is this latest addition to this ongoing legacy.
In keeping with the latest trend in movie making ’Oz’ was created with the use of the third dimension in mind from the moment of conception. It was filmed with the methods required by Real 3D in mind and many of the directorial decisions and special effects were created with that illusion of depth in mind. In this early era of this technique many filmmakers, inexperienced in these new methods resort to uses of 3D that are little more than gimmicks. This is to be expected; it happened after every major new innovation in technique; Sound, color, and the expansive viewport of widescreen. 3D is basically more of the same so a realistic question to ask is how well it is incorporated into telling the story and can the story survive on its own devoid of the gimmicks. In order to explore these questions properly I am dividing the analysis of the film into two fondant segments; how the movie works as an entertaining story and whether 3D was layered on as a gimmick or carefully infused into the story as a vital aspect of telling the story. To achieve this perspective I watched the high definition standard Blu-rat first followed by another set of viewing experiences to append the consideration on my thoughts on rather 3D was a gimmicks or integral to telling the story; put aside the ‘sizzle factor and ascertain the amount of steak is president.
The film opens in 1905 where Oscar Diggs (James Franco) travels the Mid-West plying his trade as a magician a weaver of winder and illusions. Known to his handful of friends simply as Oz he currently is part of a nomadic circus. The mischievous frequently delivers him to the door step of trouble, a situation all too familiar to the generally likable Oz. the latest predicament he has found himself is a common enough one although with an interesting an potentially painful consequences. Oz has been in a heated dalliance with the wife of the tropes strongman. While exceptional in sheer muscle mass he is nit the forgiving sort especially when it comes to being cuckolded. Oz quickly concludes a hasty departure is in order and purloins the circus’ exhibition hot air balloon. Oz takes off but receives a personal appreciation of "out of the frying pan and into the fire as a strong tornado grabs Oz and his flimsy craft. After a ride worth of Disneyland and discovers he is no longer in Kanas, he has been transported to the Land of Oz. the circumstances of his arrival and the coincidence of his nom de voyage leads local residence Theodora (Mila Kunis) into a hasty conclusion, as a witch well versed in local lore and prophecy she arrives at the conclusion that Oz to be the prophesied savoir of the land. It was foretold that this great and powerful wizard would over through the Wicked Witched who seized control by murdering the rightful king of the land.
Theodora brings the bewildered traveler to the Emerald city introducing him to her sister and fellow witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who is dubious of Theodora who has already become enamored of the stranger. Oz is told that it is up to him to find the murderous witch and remove her power by destroying her magic wand. This preordained quest takes a drastic turn when a crystal ball reveals the witch they are after is Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) and Evanora is actually the wicked witch. Some other characters of the familiar telling of the story are introduced in an efficient and enjoyable fashion. A flying monkey, Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) pledges himself to Oz after he saves him from a lion and another resident of the forest, /a living China doll (voiced by Joey King), whose home was destroyed by the witch.
The film goes beyond the 1939 classic to incorporate many of the details found in original novel that didn’t make it into the MGM piece of our culture. The Munchkins are shown in a different light along with the Tinkers, Quadlings and Winkies. This film blends this with the familiar locations like the poppy fields to expertly weave a tapestry crafted from threads we know so very well and others better appreciated by diehard devotees of the entire Oz oeuvre. As to the question at hand for this segment of this consideration, yes, this holds together spectacularly as a story without the dependency on 3D illusions as a gimmick or crutch. This is a fully formed work of fiction that challenges the imagination and inspires a sense of wonderment that most adults have left behind ages ago. After my initial viewing of the film I perused some other comments find more negative reviews than warranted. It appears that the expectations of this movie were in error or at least inappropriately applied. If you consider this a child’s film you will discover themes and situations more complex that typically found in a kids movie. On the other hand if you are looking for a grown up film you might be disappointed by the whimsy and sheer delight that pervade the piece. In short, this is a film that succeeds in its purpose; a work of entertainment that truly appeals to all ages by blending elements designed for each chronological demographic together. Now I’ll go back, put on the magic glasses and reemerge into the Land of Oz and the adventures of Oscar Diggs.