We’re not in Kansas Anymoreâ€¦Again
China dolls, flying monkeys, and evil sister witches, oh my! Oz the Great and Powerful, the prequel to the classic, The Wizard of Oz, hit theaters on Friday, March 8. Based off of Frank Baum’s thirteen separate stories written in conjunction with the primary The Wizard of Oz novel, Mitchell Kapner andÂ David Lindsay-Abaire creatively scripted the prequel, which mirrors the flow leading up to the original. Oz proved to be a lively and entertaining prequel to The Wizard of Oz, and gave justice to the classic.
To better understand Oz, one must reflect on the history of the story. Dorothy Gale, one of the most endearing characters in movie history, gets pulled into a tornado from inside her home in Kansas, in the classic, The Wizard of Oz. Landing in the Merry Old Land of Oz, her house crushes the Wicked Witch of the East, and she goes off on a journey to Emerald City to see the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Oz the Great and Powerful begins in black and white, showing us a circus in the Midwest. Before the time of Dorothy, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a con-artist/circus magician, known as the “Great and Powerful Oz.” Already, the audience is introduced to the reality that influences the Land of Oz. Oscar, Oz for short, is a womanizer, who gives a music box to each of his lady friends, and then sends them on their way. Eventually, his ways lead him to run away from a fight and jump in a hot air balloon. He then gets hurled off to the Land of Oz by a tornado, just like Dorothy, but not before his trusty sidekick, Frank (Zach Braff) tosses Oscar his all-important top hat.
Transitioning into a beautiful and vibrant Technicolor fantasy world, the movie spins into Oscar’s adventure in Emerald City. Oscar crash lands and is found by the alluringly good-hearted, however naÃ¯ve, Theodora (Mila Kunis). Theodora instantly takes him to Emerald City in order to become king due to some prophecy. He is promised a room full of gold and a reign over the city as long as he kills the “Wicked Witch,” who Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s sister, convinces Oscar is Glinda (Michelle Williams). These are the apparent three witches from The Wizard of Oz, mindful of Glinda being the “Good witch of the North.”
The plot takes a few confusing turns at this point, but eventually sorts itself out. Drawn into the problems of the people of the Land of Oz, Oscar discovers 1) Glinda, indeed good, 2) a little China girl (Joey King), literally made of china, and 3) a servant monkey (also Zach Braff).
Using his illusions, magic tricks, and wit from the real world, Oscar works with the citizens under Glinda’s rule to put an end to the real evil witches, Theodora and her sister, Evanora. However, Evanora takes a backseat after feeding Theodora an apple, turning her purely evil as well as green. Meanwhile, Oscar works with munchkins, the tinkers, and other citizens to banish the witches from the Emerald City.
Directed by Sam Raimi, Oz the Great and Powerful pays a nice tribute to the original film through its incorporation of black and white filming, matching scenery, and character arc from the original. The film brings audiences back to a time when movies led to a moral or lesson at the end, the way old classics do. Here, Oscar learns he had all he needed to become a great man inside of himself all along; it didn’t just end with a cheesy pun and explosions like so many movies do today.
Making a great prequel to the 1939 classic may have been impossible, but Raimi, the screenwriters, Franco, and Kunis, made an entertaining movie for the family and brought a magical world to the big screen once more, where we might be able to realize our better selves, too.