Sometimes what we have built up in our mind creates an unfair disadvantage … such was my struggle to get past one of the most iconic movies in history – “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) – and truly enjoy “Oz: The Great and Powerful”.
That’s not to say that this movie isn’t without merit, its just difficult to be fair with a movie that tells the backstory of a movie I have seen once in the theater and 30+ times on my home tv screen.
WARNING TO PARENTS: some of the images in the movie may be too scary for kids 5 and under, the movie is rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.
(My spoiler-free review)
The scenery of “Oz: The Great and Powerful” looks incredible… we are immersed in this larger slice of the Land of Oz than we’ve ever seen before… the colors are so vibrant and vivid… everything around the characters just pops… like a storybook come-to-life. The movie will likely get an Oscar nomination for Production Design and/or Visual Effects.
The costumes look good and the acting and writing is pretty solid.
The story is interesting and engaging and connects nicely to the original – explaining some things about what had happened *before* Dorothy arrived.
This “Oz” is fun and whimsy, but even though its a prequel, it will never live up to the original… and that’s almost unfair to try to compare it.
We get a fleshed out back story to who the Wizard is and how he ended up in Oz and why he uses the projection machine with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. We learn about how the Wicked Witch and her sister became the Wicked Witch of the West and the East. We find out why Glinda the Good is protective of munchkinland and why she travels by bubble.
One of the biggest strengths of story is that “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is a better prequel than “Revenge of the Sith” (2005) because we get a very clear and legitimate explanation of how the Wicked Witch of the West turned to the “darkside”.
I also enjoyed the loving nods to the original movie, in the areas they were able to do that without copyright infringement (see below).
There are also some fun little elements of comedy woven into this fantastical story… some will help lighten the mood or just make us smile.
BUT…. “Oz” still creates some new questions about things going in the classic movie: like the ruby slippers, and where did some of the other characters go? We meet them here, but we don’t see them in “Wizard of Oz”.
I also didn’t like the witch’s transformation into the green skinned villain we all know… it needed to be less CGI and more practical… it also didn’t need to be risque… which we get several little moments of throughout the movie. Which is unfortunate because the movie is a PG movie aimed at families, but “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is not completely family friendly – there are some not-so-family friendly themes and innuendos PLUS some scary images that may be too much for the young kids in the audience.
Some of the scenes seemed were way too much CGI compared to the original… to make it more seamless, it would have been a nice touch to be more practical with many of the effects to add to the believability that this is the same land we see in “Wizard of Oz”.
Those 30+ viewings of “The Wizard of Oz” had me trained to expect a musical number coming up in every other scene… while there was one… I almost wanted at least some music that border-lined on the feeling of the original.
And (sorry minor spoiler)…. (more…)