Since 1939, audiences around the world have been mesmerized by the L. Frank Baum’s film adaption The Wizard of Oz. It’s no surprise that this film has been given a second look in the form of a prequel.
In Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful, we are introduced to the character Oscar Diggs and given a backdrop to his journey to the land as well as his importance in the history of it. With an all-star cast consisting of James Franco, as Oscar, alongside the three witches of Oz played by Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis, there was no reason for this film not to deliver in the performance field. Unfortunately, Sam Raimi delivered a flat story with James Franco as an Oz who appeared held back by his character or director.
In the first part of the film, we get a strong sense of who Oscar is and what he wants in life. He is a womanizing magician with a sense that he has not found his purpose or success in life. However, once Oscar is transported into the Land of Oz his character stops developing. We are left with a one-dimensional man that is not particularly convincing in his performance.
Much like James Franco, Mila Kunis also seemed to struggle with creating a convincing character. As Theodora, she never appeared comfortable with her role and the performance fell flat in delivery. On the opposite side, sister Evanora and Glinda the Good Witch played by Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams both delivered in their performances. You felt the pain of Weisz’ character and believed her pursuit of ultimate power. She was perfectly contrasted by Michelle Williams’s pure and noble character of the White Witch.
The Land of Oz was beautifully created, almost entirely CGI, and brought to life the old Oz that we remember. Seeing Oscar transport to the land and cover every aspect of it, just like Judy Garland’s Dorothy once did, was very exciting to watch. The homages to the classic film were also a nice touch, such as the Cowardly Lion who, ironically, seemed to get his cowardice from Oscar himself, after he scares him. Seen as well were the Winkies and, of course, the residents of Oz, the Munchkins.
Going into the film I felt the anticipation and expectations were very high. It’s wise not to go in expecting this to be a Wizard of Oz remake, as it is far from that. It is simply a back story to the all-powerful Oz and what made him who he is.
Despite the somewhat held-back acting, I would still highly recommended this film for anyone that is a fan of the book and the 1939 film. It is a creative prequel and one that has been needed for quite some time.
Oz the Great and Powerful can now be seen in a theater near you.