While most people spent their spring break lounging on a beach or participating in a service trip, I was stuck in my hometown of Cleveland, where the weather seldom climbs above freezing this time of year. To entertain myself – and keep warm – I saw “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” a prequel to the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The movie stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, or “Oz,” as he prefers to be called. This quick-witted magician works in a traveling circus until he is suddenly swept away to the Land of Oz. There, he meets witches Theodora and Evanora, who are convinced that Oscar is a wizard who will save the Land of Oz from the Wicked Witch. Oscar agrees to vanquish the Wicked Witch in exchange for opulent riches and power over the kingdom. On his journey to defeat the Witch, Oscar meets many familiar characters, including Glinda the Good Witch, the munchkins and even a flying monkey. Through an intricate plot twist, Oscar learns that the Witch isn’t as evil as everyone believes, and the true Wicked Witch resides in the gates of the Emerald City. Oscar must confess his lie to the people of the Emerald City and use his magician’s skills to overrun the Wicked Witch in order to become a great and powerful man.
Overall, I thought the movie was really well executed. The small details the production crew put into the setting was unbelievable. For example, in one scene, Oscar is admiring Oz from inside a flying bubble. He observes cliffs shaped like circus animals, galloping iridescent horses and a vibrant field of crimson poppies.
I also really enjoyed how the crew maintained the integrity of the first film in this new adaptation. For instance, before Oscar is whirled to Oz, the film is in black and white. In addition, the team included little cameos from the original film to this predecessor, such as a cowardly lion, scarecrows and the Wicked Witch’s cackle. However, I thought some aspects of the film took away from the charm of the original movie, such as the CGI animated fighting scene between Glinda and the Wicked Witch. Surprisingly, I enjoyed James Franco’s rendering of the Wizard of Oz, Oscar Diggs. I could really see the change in his character from a two-timing con artist to a compassionate and proficient man.
I think this is a film that people of all ages would enjoy. Parents can compare the two films and reminisce while their kids take delight in the epic scenery and memorable characters. Although some scenes take away from the film’s beauty, Disney does a wonderful job portraying “Oz: The Great and Powerful” as an up-and-coming classic family movie.