2013 / Director. Sam Raimi.
I am almost fanatical about the world of OZ as created by L Frank Baum in the early 1900s. I choose OZ over Narnia, Middle Earth, Fantasia and all others. It is a magical, sinister and fantastical world of munchkins, witches, goblins and more. Contrary to the classic 1939 film starring Judy Garland, OZ is a troubled land and its stories are far darker than a musical leads us to believe. Don't get me wrong, that film is one of the greatest ever made and I could recite it line for line... and so when adapting the stories of OZ there are all kinds of directions to choose. Do you remain faithful to the 1939 movie or do you stay true to Baum's vision? So far just about every adaptation has played it safe and the closest to Baum's work was 1985's Return To Oz. This brand new film, Oz The Great & Powerful tries to do both. Immediately the film sets out to replicate the aesthetic of the classic MGM movie with a nice little black & white Kansas introduction... although more attention to detail would have presented this prelude in sepia tones... while being chased out of a carnival, a master illusionist and con man escapes in a hot air balloon before being sucked into a twister and carried to the land of OZ. The screen bursts into colour as plants come to life and fairies flutter about the screen. It sure does look magical and Raimi has successfully managed to capture both the essence of the original film as well as the landscape within the novels. Mistaken for the prophesied 'great wizard' this deceitful magician fakes his way to the throne with the promise of riches. With two squabbling evil witches determined to destroy him he must search inside himself and become the great Oz that the everyone needs so desperately... Alrighty, you get the picture. I did have a few reservations about this film, however, I will say right now that I really enjoyed it. As an OZ fan its just so good to finally get some quality OZ on screen. The first and most major gripe is that it's an origin story. L Frank Baum wrote 14 novels (plus dozens of short stories) and the legacy was carried on after his death with a further 26 official sequel novels from three authorised authors. I don't understand why a new prequel story had to be written when there is a seemingly endless supply of stories waiting to be tapped into. I sincerely hope that this film leads to some of those novels being explored. Another gripe is the abundance of GCI. I accept that a film like this cannot be made without it but so much of the MGM film's charm is lost when practical FX and matted backdrops are replaced with computer generation... but I do give credit to the design in general. This is more or less the OZ I envision when reading the books, even if it is slightly tamer. The character creations are great also. The flying monkey assistant is wonderful and the little china girl is gorgeous. I could also criticise some of the casting of the human characters but I won't bother with those details because in this film the good outweighs the negative. Oz The Great & Powerful is faithful to Baum's concepts and vision and it gets big kudos from me. I had a great time with it. Now time to bring all of Baum's novels to life!