L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz almost had the status of a fairy tale even as it was more of a children’s novel which came later. May be this belief was strengthened more by those children’s books which placed the story with Cindrella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood and the rest of the team with goodness and happy endings. The story of the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy Gale in the magical land of Oz was not read separated from Alice in Wonderland at that time. A scarecrow, a rusted tin woodman and a cowardly lion had made faithful companions not only to Dorothy, but also to many readers. There were three witches then, and when we come into the movie, we will have three too. The 1902 stage play and the 1939 film adaptation can wait for now though, as Oz the Great and Powerful has come up, and serves to be a kind of prequel to the real story which has been read and liked for such a long time. Thus it serves as a source of exile before the exile, if not an escape into to a world of fantasy which preceded Dorothy getting lost. The magical land of Oz not only provides a world of witches, wizards and talking animals, it is also the ultimate point of escapism which this movie makes sure of.
Welcome to the movie and the world of Oscar Diggs, the magician who calls himself the great and powerful even as he is mostly a trickster and a fraud. As a con artist and a circus magician, he hasn’t really earned much, and never did he reach anywhere near his ambition which stays close to someone like Thomas Alva Edison. But all of these would change when he is sucked into a cyclone with the balloon in which he was travelling, while finding a way to escape from the trouble which he caused by himself. But as the balloon breaks apart and he faces death, Oscar wishes for another chance and promises God that if he survives the situation which is so close to death, he will transform himself and become a good man. The scene until this was shown in black and white, as if to reflect his own colourless life. But as he reaches the magical land of Oz in his wrecked balloon, the screen changes into colour as if his whole life has been painted with the beauty of different attractive colours. The land of magic and sorcery comes to the scene and the world of treachery and lies make way for the colourful spectacle of Oz to which our own Oz has entered by accident.
The first one whom he meets is the witch Theodora who explains to him that he is supposed to be a great and powerful wizard by the name of Oz supposed to descend from the sky, save the land of Oz, and become their new king. They encounter Finley, a flying monkey whom Oscar saves. Finley pledges a life debt to Oscar and promises to serve him in whichever way possible. Another witch and Theodora’s sister Evanora guards the throne of the dead king. She sends Oz to steal and destroy another witch Gilda’s wand after which he would be given the throne and all the riches of Oz. Oscar and Finley travel to the Forbidden Forest to find and steal the wand from the witch, and on the way, they save a little girl made of porcelain. At the location, they find Gilda and comes up against a revelation which changes the direction of the story. The illusions and delusions of the world of witches would become more clear. The roles would be interchanged and the twist of fate takes a leap over the minds of the characters. It is at this point that the real action begins.
James Franco’s Oz is surely not a wizard, but a magician and a man of tricks. He never convinces the audience that he has become a role-model until the final stages of the movie. Dorothy Gale wouldn’t have had a good time with that Oz of the first half of the movie. Still, his change is slow and mostly unpredictable. He continues his methods of tricking and seducing, along with his pessimistic hope – something of the strangest character for such a long time. He wishes to get that treasure at the end of any rainbow, in this case – a kingdom and its unlimited riches. Still, to put this character into the dungeon reserved for the evil – that might not be fair, but if there is a place in between, a grey world for the intermediate ones, that would serve justice in a better way. His inclination was never towards pure evil, and it changes for somewhat evil to good, even as he can never be said to reach a status of pure good. But how many of the people of Oz would reach that status would be a question to talk about. There are times when Oz is more like another John Carter, but my fear about the possibility of watching some random movie named something like “Aliens vs Witches/Wizards” would keep my mouth shut.
The eternal conflict between good and evil continues in the land of Oz as anywhere else and so will one’s personal struggle with lies/greed and truth/morality. The black and white beginning, as it passes away begins the world which is a wonderland. The wonder starts and ends with the three witches, Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda – even Macbeth had three witches for sure, but this case is different. The fact is that one of them is pure good, another one pure evil and the remaining one, neither here or there until she is forced to take a stand supported by her emotions. Didn’t we have the three fates in mythology? Well, these three might have worked with the same title for our hero. Well, even the wizard of Oz needs and origin in a world where even Wolverine has his own origins as a movie. One has to feel that it is perfectly timed, to release after Hensel and Gretel as well as Jack the Giant Slayer. The movie has risen over these two and has developed another children’s story into a world of unexplainable beauty. Thus the justice has been done to the original Oz.
One has to say that Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, as the three witches controls the movie. Among them, Rachel Weisz creates that much needed magic which has powered the movie beyond its original strength. The character of Mila’s witch might be the strangest, and it is the one witch who is more unpredictable than the rest, but still not creating that impact which it should have. Finley the Flying Monkey provides the laughter element with his dialogues, and when he talks about monkeys, bananas and stereotypes, there is not a soul in the theatre who didn’t laugh. Almost all the lighter moments has the monkey somewhere around. The china girl made of porcelain also adds to it. She is the second true friend whom Oz makes in his new world. She is more like a little kid made of flesh and bones rather than a talking miracle. The combination of these two with the protagonist takes the movie to another level of good combination.
No, there is no messing up of the classic, even as flaws exist. The land of natural wonders in 3D which is so unnatural – when helped by the beautiful CGI creates an unforgettable experience for the audience. It might not be easy to remember the special effects used in such a good manner for a long time. May be only Avatar 2 could make me say the same thing again. With the characters who are never flat, and the plot which never loses its steam, Oz the Great and Powerful establishes itself as a worthy prequel which would make Dorothy Gale proud and asking for more prequels over prequel. It establishes with the help of the new technology that there is no place like Oz. Alice had gone to a wonderland, but it was not Oz, and that was surely a big miss for her. The battle between goodness and evil shall continue as none of the witches not the wizard meets the end as the movie finishes. The door for a sequel is thus kept open with the evil ones fleeing the scene, thus creating hope for evil even through a happy ending – and we shall wait for what is to come.
Release date: 8th March 2013
Running time: 130 minutes
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Abigail Spencer, Bruce Campbell, Tim Holmes, Zach Braff, Joey King
@ Cemetery Watch
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