The Wizard of Oz is by far one of the most enduring and best-loved films in cinematic history. Seen by generations of children, it continues to delight and entertain even 75 years later. My own five year old grand-daughter has recently become a fan of Dorothy Gale and her band of travelers off to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.
Needless to say when I heard that Disney was releasing a prequel to the greatest fantasy film and story of all time, I was eager to see it and find out all I could. I was there on its opening day, March 8th and sat in the theater with both young and old and revisited the yellow brick road.
After watching the film I sat in the theater as everyone left and studied their responses and actions. When the film ended, the theater goers began to applaud, and rightfully so. And as they departed I heard words like, “awesome movie”; “So visual”; “perfect prequel”; and from one young movie goer, of about 7 or 8…”Mommy I want this movie!”
What I saw and felt was a little mixed. Awesome movie? Not what I would say awesome, but I would say it was very good. The story was true to the 1939 classic, in that it didn’t over tell the story or use difficult characterizations to tell its story…or did it? It moved quickly and didn’t have a slow pace, but a continual flow to the film and action, as well as the story. A young Oscar Diggs, a small time traveling magician, played by James Franco, wants to be more than just a man, his dream is to be a great man, however his ways of getting there are lacking to say the least. When he is swept away in a hot air balloon by a swirling tornado he lands in the land of Oz and his life is changed forever. Sound familiar? Using the technique reminiscent of the 1939 classic, the films starts in black and white and once in Oz, the world takes on Technicolor. Once he lands, he is met by the young and beautiful witch, Theodora, played very convincingly by Mila Kunis. She explains to him that he is the prophesied Great Wizard that is to take back the throne of Oz and save it’s people. He on the other hand looks at her as another one of his beautiful trophies and steals her heart. Literally. As the film develops, you begin to feel for young Theodora and when you meet her sister Elvanora, played, again expertly by Rachel Weisz you realize very quickly that she is the evil one…or is she? Michelle Williams, as Glinda the Good also shines in this role and can see through Oscar but believes he can still save Oz and it’s people, but she has to convince him.
One of the best parts of the film for me was when Theodora begins to realize she was duped by this “Wizard” and her sister takes this opportunity to capitalize on her misery and brings about her sisters transformation to evil. I felt a little of Margaret Hamilton in her performance as she became the Wicked Witch of the West.
The film was very well made and I see it being nominated for special effects, cinematography, costumes and make up. The computer engineered graphics are at it’s best, but then this is Disney, so it should be. The world of Oz is faintly reminiscent of the Oz that I remember as a child. Even the little jokes regarding how the Munchkins,love to sing was enjoyable. Unfortunately, due to Warner Bros. owning the rights to the Wizard of Oz, some things were not used or replaced, such as the ruby slippers were reverted back to their orignal color from the books of Frank Baum, to silver. Other things we carefully placed such as Oscar’s troupe being Baum Brothers Circus, the horses of a different color in the fields. the poisoned poppy fields and even the Wizards Throne Room. There was even a lion…
Overall I really enjoyed the movie, from beginning to end. Does it match up to the classic? No, not in the sense of what the Wizard of Oz has come to be cherished as, but it is a good match for its prequel. Sam Raimi did an excellent job of directing, and the characterizations were well done, my favorite being Mila Kunis. I really enjoyed returning to the yellow brick road. I plan on seeing it again this weekend in 3D, which I am sure will even be more visually stimulating. Like the young movie goer, who told his mother he wanted this movie, I too want this movie for my library.