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Oz The Great & The Powerful

The sequal to The Wizard Of Oz is a lavish production – but is it as good as the original?

Posted: 8 March 2013
by Catherine O'Dolan

LONG BEFORE DOROTHY had her sights set on a pair of glittering red shoes, a rascally young man was sealing his own fate with a run of events that would lead him down a path of righteousness – or to rack and ruin.

Just as Wicked The Musical explores how the witches became so wretched, the new Disney 3D fantasy adventure Oz The Great And The Powerful eschews the charms of the gal in gingham to dig deep into the murky past of the man who would be Wizard. So what’s his story? Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a small-time circus magician and some-time conman with dubious ethics who finds himself supplanted from a dusty black-and-white Kansas (with plenty of shades of the original movie here) to a magical and gloriously technicoloured land of Oz. Could he be the prophesized saviour the citizens of Oz have been waiting for? Not everyone is convinced, and unsuspecting Oscar must use his wits and conscience to make some powerful choices between good and evil – as personified by the three witches – one devilishly evil (Rachel Weisz), one eminently good (a rather Garland-esque Michelle Williams) and one who destiny is sealed by close of play (Theodora, portrayed most glamorously by Mila Kunis, firstly as a wide-eyed romantic besotted by Oscar, then by a cackling green witch with matching pointy nose and chin).

This is an epic upscale production, directed by Sam Raimi of the Spider-Man trilogy, with magnificent sweeping cinematic vistas of a fantastic world portrayed, as you’d expect, on a much more lavish scale than the 1939 beloved original. It's homage to the original is clear with resonances of characters appearing in different guises (Williams in also Oscar's love interest back in Kansas), and there are some comic moments provided by Oscar's two new companions: a monkey sidekick, Finley, and China Girl, an orphaned doll who appeared in the original series of Oz books by L Frank Baum, who veers between sweet vulnerability and feisty madame. This is a slick movie, with moments of sloppy sentimentality along with some freakishly scary monkey moments and a crew of Munchkins who’ve had a makeover. Think of it as wizardry for the generation brought up on the fast-paced action of Harry Potter. But when you get home, make sure you treat the family to the delights of the original. All together now: "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Oz The Great And The Powerful is out now.

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