Certificate PG, 130 minutes
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz
Oz the Great and Powerful starts off in Kansas in 1905. Oscar Diggs (James Franco, Homefront, This Is the End, The Interview, Your Highness), a small time stage magician with big ambitions who appears under the name of The Great and Powerful Oz, is with the Baum Bros. (the name is probably a reference to the writer of the Oz books) travelling carnival when the hot air balloon he is in is sucked into a tornado and transported to the magical world of Oz. There he meets Theodora the Good Witch (Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending, Ted) who believes he will fulfil a prophecy made by the late king and defeat the Wicked Witch who poisoned him, resulting in Oz becoming King of Oz.
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Theodora's sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz, The Bourne Legacy) was an advisor to the late king and resides in the Emerald City. She tells Oz that he will become king and gain access to the country's treasury, if he first defeats the Wicked Witch. Oz is not a good man, which he readily admits, possessing a whole list of negative characteristics, narrated both by him and others. He is interested in becoming king more for the gold than anything else.
This film is based on the Land of Oz novels by L. Frank Baum - there are actually 14 books in total - but is set before any of Baum's novels and acts as an (unofficial) prequel to the famous 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The film starts off in black and white whilst it is set in Kansas, then changes to vibrant, bright and bigger than life colour when Oscar ends up in Oz. This is similar to what happened in the, which also started off in black and white, before changing to Technicolor - a colour process in films known for its saturated colours - when Dorothy ands up in Oz. Oscar's transition from dishonest con-man to hero is not that unexpected.
In the film there are quite a few references to the 1939 film, including things like the apparent origins of at least the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witches, what may be a reference to Dorothy's parents and even a gingham dress, although everything is not quite the same but then they were produced by different studios. Those most familiar with The Wizard of Oz are most likely to get the references, but some have permeated popular culture to such an extent that even those who haven't seen The Wizard of Oz can catch them. As is not uncommon in Sam Raimi's films, Bruce Campbell gets a small role, playing the Winkie Gate Keeper; they worked together on Raimi's first feature film, the cult classic and soon to be released as a new version, The Evil Dead. As a side note, search for "Mila Kunis Chris Stark" on YouTube for a rather different celebrity film interview. Oz the Great and Powerful is a fun and nicely executed film with quite a bit of humour, predominately from the flying monkey Finley, and should be enjoyed by both children and adults.