Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Mitchell Kapner
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
I loved this film. It’s fun, and spectacular, and witty, and clever. The story is interesting, providing a new take on an old theme, while the world of Oz itself is entrancing without being over-imagined. The twists in the tale are clearly telegraphed, and easy to see coming, but somehow this feels like it’s part of the film’s charm rather than a failed attempt to dupe the audience.
Most the all the film is fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a self-confidently fun film. It sets out to be fun, never taking itself too seriously, and always manages to entertain without ever seeming to try too hard.
The film covers events that take place before Dorothy ever leaves Kansas. Rather we meet Oz, a carnival magician and charlatan too weak to tell the truth and too seduced by his on showmanship to realise his own potential. Before long he’s whisked away by a good old Kansas tornado to a land far away from the bleak and monochrome world we all live our lives in.
Oz finds himself in the Land of Oz, a magical kingdom beset by evil and desperately yearning for the arrival of a prophesied hero who can save the good people, who are terrorized by dark witches and their squadrons of flying baboons.
Oz finds himself playing the role of his life, as a powerful wizard who wins the hearts and minds of the people and promises to use his great powers to deliver them from danger and free the land from dankness.
Only Oz doesn’t have any powers. And it’ll only be so long until his secret comes out, and the truth is revealed.
The acting is all slightly hammy. There’s a consistent exaggerated performance style and the over-acted emotions are strange and take a while to settle into. But before long we learn to love the old fashioned style and it becomes charming. This olden-day acting is only one of many clever references to the original movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, that holds such a fond place in many of our hearts, and the placing of this film as a real prequel to the original is brilliantly handled.
All of the film’s strengths are anchored by the strong directorial vision, and Raimi balances the film’s many facets delicately and superbly. The directing is subtle and nuanced and provides a strong foundation for the narrative.
It’s great. Go see it and take your kids. Do take note of the film’s PG rating though, it’s pretty scary at times and younger kids may want to hold your hand, which is an added bonus if you ask this dad.
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