Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Plot: A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Awards: -
Runtime: 130min
Rating: PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.





This film was reviewed in the 3D format.

“Aren't you the great man we've been waiting for?”

This Disney offering has been quite well-marketed, with its movie posters and promotional spots focusing on the film's visual flourishes. True to its marketing intent, Oz the Great and Powerful is a stunning piece of visual art. It is a journey into a world filled with intoxicating colours and elaborate beauty, one that is best served with 3D glasses, though it is not necessary to do so.

The film stars James Franco in his biggest role to date since the Oscars debacle with Anne Hathaway. Contrary to popular belief, Franco actually knows how to put on a good show, and he does just that in this latest film by Sam Raimi.

Most know Raimi from his 'Spider-Man' trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, whereas true fans worship him for his 'Evil Dead' movies. In Oz, he finds not a balance between popular and cult cinema, but a reaffirmation of what he believes in - the subject of fear.

Oz is by no means frightening, though it contains scenes that might possibly make your kid jump out of his seat and hit his or her head on the ceiling. Anyway, the subject of fear acts as a counterpoint to the beauty of Oz, although sometimes it does so too blatantly, but thankfully never blandly.

The wicked witches of Oz create fear, but it is Franco's character - a pseudo-wizard of sorts who inexplicably arrives at the Land of Oz - who would have the last laugh and finally bring peace to the people.

Like Dorothy in the classic The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film that I recommend with my heart, Franco's character gets suck into a tornado, and finds that he is not in Kansas anymore. Raimi pays tribute to the 1939 film by presenting the prologue in 4:3 format in black-and-white. The ‘screen’ then literally expands to 16:9 as we enter the vibrant, colourful world of Oz.

Viewers might question the artificiality of Oz's setting, but I feel that it is intentional on the filmmakers' part to portray a world similar to that of the 1939 film, one that is consciously designed like a studio set, though Raimi's film is unsurprisingly more (technologically) polished. The superb visual result paired with a likable, goofy performance from Franco makes Oz the Great and Powerful an engaging picture and a funny one too.

Verdict: Visually stunning with its intoxicating use of colours and intended artificial elaboration of beauty, this Sam Raimi film also works on a goofy performance by James Franco and a good dose of humour.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)

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