Monday, October 24, 2016

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

When I first saw coming attractions for Oz the Great and Powerful, I knew I wanted to see it.  I had been reading some of the books and had seen the 1930s movie.  I had a sense that this hadn’t used any of them as direct source material, instead creating a new story about how Oz came to a land called Oz.  The original movie is still under copyright protection, but the books have fallen into public domain.  Still, there are some references to the original movie.

It starts in black-and-white Kansas circa 1905.  Oscar Diggs is a second-rate magician at a traveling carnival.  He seems to have a way with ladies.  That is to say, he has one routine he uses to charm a girl in each town.  When this comes back to bite him, he finds the nearest balloon and proceeds to get lost as quickly as he can.  He travels directly into, of all things, a tornado that takes him to the Technicolor land of Oz.

The first thing he does is meet the beautiful Theodora, who tells Oz that she and everyone else in Oz would be saved by a great and powerful wizard bearing the same name as the land.  Along the trip back to The Emerald City, they meet Finley, a talking, flying monkey.   Finley pledges his life to Oz until he realizes what that might entail.  Oz is a bit reluctant, himself.  He knows he’s no great wizard.

Promises of the royal treasure does help persuade him.  Theodora’s sister, Evanora, tells Oz that in order to get the treasure, he has to kill a wicked witch.  Along the way, he meets China Girl, a ceramic person whose village was destroyed.  (Yes, that is the name listed on IMDb.)  Oz fixes her, so they head off to find this witch, only to find out that she’s the good witch Glinda.

It’s up to Glinda, Oz, Finley and China Girl to defeat the two wicked witches.  Mostly, it’s up to Oz, who seems to bear the brunt of this prophecy.  He doesn’t really start to take things seriously until late in the movie, when he devises a plan.  Not everyone knows what’s going on, as he keeps most of it a secret.  (On this note, it is a prequel.  As such, you know what will become of most of the characters.  I don’t think I’ve really revealed much in the way of surprises.)

There are a few references to the 1939 movie you may catch.  One of Oz’s love interests in Kansas says she’s going to marry a man named Gale.  There are a lot of Oz-based characters that resemble Kansas-based characters.  Other than the characters, that’s where the similarity seems to end.  If you’ve seen the original movie, I don’t know if James Franco would be your first choice to play the man who would become The Great and Powerful Oz.  (It does look like there will be a sequel to this movie, so we may get to see how he transitions.)

L. Frank Baum created characters that wanted most what they already had.  (The scarecrow wanted intelligence, but already seem to possess great skill and cunning.)  In this sense, this movie holds true to the books.  Oz wants to be a great magician.  What he doesn’t realize until coming to Oz is that he has the ability to do great things.  He just has to use his considerable skills to his advantage.  With some help, he’s able to pull this off.

Those coming into the movie without having read the books or seen the other movies will probably miss out on a lot of the references.   We get to see the flying monkeys, which are very dark in this movie.  They’re used mostly for brute force here.  (In the books, they were capable of dialogue.  If I recall, they tied to a hat which would grand the user three wishes within the monkeys’ power.)

I had wanted to see the movie in theaters, partly because of the 3D aspect.  I didn’t feel like paying a lot of money for that.  (I don’t think theaters give any sort of special discount on 3D for early birds.)  I ended up getting it through Redbox with a free code.  I wasn’t able to watch it in 3D, though.  (I’m not even sure how they’d do this.)  If I could see it in 3D, I’d probably consider doing it.  There were a few scenes that would have been great for that, but I’m not holding my breath. 

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