Thursday, April 18, 2013

Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

You can probably tell I've had some time off recently, due to the amount of movies we seem to have got through recently. Not only that, but I got to an actual cinema not once, but twice! My second trip was with Ewan, to see his choice of Oz The Great and Powerful, the sort-of prequel-but-not-in-a-intellectual-property-infringing-sort-of-way to The Wizard of Oz. So it's based on the books, clearly, not the movie, and any stylistic equivalence is just a happy coincidence, OK? 

So here's the thing; this is really trying very hard to look like a prequel to the movie of The Wizard of Oz. It really isn't fooling anyone, and I'm going to have to say that its a good thing. By all accounts Sam Raimi and Disney had to be careful about daft things like the Wicked Witch of the West's costume, for example, but the broad sweep of the film is so visually similar I suspect you could watch the two films together without any dissonance other than the relative ages of them. 

Starting in Black-and-White, Oz the Great and Powerful introduces us to Oz, the ironically named circus magician and general huckster, who gets swept up in a Tornado and dumped in the Glorious Technocolour of the Land of Oz. Actors duplicate roles (and thematic relationships) between the two worlds, and there are dozens of nods to the originals in both the design and character beats as Oz progresses along his journey to finding love, responsibility and Wizard-hood. Its not a story that is going to fool many people - it tries to through a couple of curve-balls with the witches (good and wicked) with some nice costume choices, but if you've read the books (or seen Wicked) you'll see where its going pretty quickly. 

That said, it's enormously charming. James Franco is a perfect choice for the lead, and supporting cast really go for it with their supporting roles. Its a very confident film, something that knows what pitch it wants to hit and then goes on to hit it across the board without losing any of Raimi's directorial flair in the process. Yes, it's fluff, but it's excellent fluff - breezy and fun and full of character. It may not be the timeless classic that the original is but I suspect time will be kind to it.