“Oz the Great and Powerful” is essentially the prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” some, what, seventy? eighty? years after the fact. In no way does it compare to “The Wizard of Oz,” that was a classic movie whose beauty and charm will likely never be recaptured. That said, “Oz the Great and Powerful” had its moments. The lead role of Oscar Diggs (Oz) was played by James Franco. The original wicked witch (of the East–Evanora) was played by Rachel Weisz. Those are the only two actors in the film I really recognized.
Oscar Diggs is a small time magician working in a circus in Kansas. One day, due to a dalliance with a certain young woman, he is run out of the circus by the strongman who is intent on busting his skull. Oscar escapes by means of a large hot-air balloon. Unfortunately, just as he makes his getaway, a tornado moves into the area and sucks him and his balloon up and off into the land of Oz. There, he encounters his first witch, Theodora the Good. Theodora believing he is the prophesied wizard destined to rescue the land of Oz from the predations of the wicked witch leads him to the Emerald City where he meets her sister, Evanora who is, unbeknownst to either of them, the aforementioned wicked witch.
Oscar, who happens to also go by the name of “Oz,” sets off to destroy the wicked witch, who, he is told, dwells in the dark forest. Once there, he encounters Glinda, who is a good witch, and tells him the truth that Evanora is really the bad witch. They are set upon by the wicked witch’s minions and must flee into a giant mystical bubble that protects them from intruders. There Oz learns he must mount an army to defeat the evil of the realm, but he has as resources only untrained farmers who are not permitted to kill. A difficult task, you say? At first, things seem hopeless. The evil witches have magic and he has none, and an army of basically pacifists. Then, he remembers, he has one tool they do not: science … the hallmark of an Illusionists trade. And so the stage is set for a grand battle of wits.
Let’s do weaknesses first: well, the dialogue was somewhat lacking in places. Parts of it seemed overacted or poorly executed. My biggest complaint, however, (spoiler alert) concerns the genesis of the wicked witch of the west. I thought that was a bit too mature of a theme for a children’s movie. Maybe I’m wrong. Basically, Theodora the Good is heartbroken and feels betrayed by Oscar. She turns to her sister, Evanora, to ease her pain, who, of course, gives her a poisoned apple that turns her green and hardens her heart. She started out a sweet, innocent young women, and is then transformed into the wicked witch of the west … I don’t know, maybe I’m over reacting, but that seems to be too … um … just too “mean” for a children’s movie. Going from good to evil. Kind of like Darth Vader. Maybe I’m wrong.
Anyway, strengths: the special effects were good. But the best part of the movie (probably because of the special effects) was the showdown between the wizard and the two evil witches. It was great. “I am Oz … the Great and Powerful!”
Overall, I’ll give the movie three and a half out of five stars.