The 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz focused on Judy Garland’s Dorothy and her three friends – the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. The Wizard was relegated in a supporting role even he is the titular character of the movie.
Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful places the spotlight on the man behind the curtain. It is a big budget prequel to the classic. It begins in black-and-white-Kansas where we meet Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time magician. He is tricking his yokel audience and runs into trouble when he tries to court the circus strongman’s girlfriend. He hops into a hot air balloon when a twister draws near. He is sucked into it and winds up in an interesting place.
Then the movie turns from the monochrome black-and-white into a colorful world of Oz. Diggs meets the three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). The three welcome him as the prophesized savior of Oz.
We all know that one of them will turn evil but screenwriters David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner manage to keep it as a surprise until the big reveal. It is disappointing to see the three witches remain one-note until the end, unlike in the Broadway spin-off Wicked.
Franco is a good actor but in OZ the Great and Powerful, he lacks humor and charm. It feels like he is miscast as the enchanting wizard. There were talks before that Robert Downey Jr. was going to play Oz and people what could have been if it was him on screen instead of Franco.
Raimi knows how to reinvent franchises but his vision of Oz fails to seduce the viewers’ hearts and minds. This would not affect its box office performance because Disney flicks usually draw in the kids during the weekend. It just feels like the movie as a lot of endings in it as the director tries to give viewers their money’s worth.