By Tamara Bew (Cornwall, England, UK)
oz-17

 

A circus magician from Kansas is transported to the magical world of Oz, where he has a prophecy to become their king and release all of Oz from the Wicked Witch.

It’s astonishing to believe that Victor Fleming’s beautiful musical The Wizard of Oz was released seventy-four years ago. In 2013, director Sam Raimi brought us the anticipated prequel to one of the most beloved musicals of all time. The beauty of L. Frank Baum’s original stories was the fact that he wrote more than one, leaving room for a fair amount of creative ideas when it came to filmmakers. In this charming prequel set in 1905, Oz is not yet powerful, but a circus magician struggling to make ends meet, after a very unsuccessful magic show, Oscar Diggs (Franco) finds himself in the heart of a catastrophic tornado, blown away to the land of Oz. Upon his arrival the townsfolk believe him to be the wizard they were all told about in an ancient prophecy. The wizard that has come to save them from the evil Wicked Witch of the west.

Director Sam Raimi has taken the enchanting magic from the original film, putting his own modern twist on it. The familiar faces of Kansas also make their way over to Oz too. James Franco stars as the ever so charming circus magician Oscar Diggs, Oscar spends most of his days, fooling the local townsfolk into believing his magic is real, however upon his arrival to Oz, he learns that the late King of Oz predicted his arrival. Franco delivers a tremendous amount of humour to his role, zany facial expressions that speak volumes without him even needing to talk. Oz is a wondrous land full of enchanting creatures, munchkins and China villages. Upon arriving in Oz, Oscar meets the good witch Theodora, performed beautifully by Mila Kunis. Is she all good though?

Theodora however, is not the only witch, her sister also is a good witch, Evanora performed terrifically by Rachel Weisz. Although Weisz doesn’t offer a lot of characterisation, her character is full of surprises. As Oscar embarks on a journey to find the Wicked Witch of the west to kill her, he stumbles across a gorgeous China girl. Scared and alone, Oscar takes her under his wing. China girl is played fantastically by young child actress Joey King. Although the monkeys in the first film were thought of as the Wicked Witch’s evil minions. A monkey called Frank latches himself onto Oscar, as he too searches for the witch. Brilliantly over the top, Zack Braff is hilariously funny in his antics.

A magnificent storyline written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Wonderfully entertaining and easy for children of all ages to understand. Although a prequel, the storyline has plenty of references to the original musical. The fact that director Sam Raimi has taken the theme from the original film and put a modern twist on it is absolutely fantastic. Disney too made sure to have their own references in the film, if you have children it’s always fun to look out for hidden Easter eggs. Be sure to look out for a reference to Snow White throughout the movie! The storyline is left very open at the end, making you crave more! The best stories are the ones where you get so lost in it that you not only believe it’s real but you don’t want it to end.

Raimi has certainly taken a unique approach when it comes to directing the film, his choice for using sepia tone in the opening of the film was a superb idea, not only is it a unique approach to a very modern film, it also brings back the originality of the musical. The magic unfolds as the film turns into widescreen. Beautifully shot, with stunning use of CGI and green screen. Unfortunately the use of a green screen can be overused, actors are unable to work with a real production design and don’t have as much creative freedom, however, Raimi’s choice to have physical sets formed the perfect balance of physicality and creativity when it came to the actors performing, allowing them to give a more genuine and heartfelt performance.

Wonderfully entertaining.

Rating: 5/5

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