The land of Oz has never looked so good.
I’ve been a big fan of the lesser known Oz film adaptation, Return to Oz since childhood. Of course I have seen The Wizard of Oz (1939) plenty of times before, but Return to Oz fascinated me. It was in many ways the polar opposite to The Wizard of Oz, the happy world of Oz we last saw was shattered beyond belief, leaving behind only the smallest of remnants that represented that world. Seeing Oz in this way was terrifying, this film was far from family fun fare.. it was dark, creepy, and can I say “eerie as fuck” is an appropriate definition for the feeling you had while watching it. I love every minute of it, and to date it was probably one of the most frighting films I saw as a child. Sadly, Return to Oz doesn’t hold up as well today as it’s predecessor, nevertheless it showed me how vast the land of Oz could be.
Coming into Sam Raimi’s version I was anxious, as well as reserved about how I felt about it. All the promotions before the film’s release had me convinced it would be like Disney’s recent Alice in Wonderland, which I wanted to be so much more. From the very get go I was immersed in the great initiative that was taken towards this latest adaptation of Oz, which sees the origin story of Oscar “The Wizard”, played by James Franco come into power of Emerald City. I’ve seen many reviews pan Franco’s character, but I think his performance is adequate to the tone of this film. Oscar is a con man at face value with women and in magic. Beneath the con man is a man who wants to be great, a man who wants to be a combination of Thomas Edison and Houdini. Thrown from Kansas in a raging storm that captures his hot air ballon, Oscar then comes crashing down into the land of Oz. Here he claims to be “The Wizard,” the one in the prophecy who is said to defeat the evil witch, and take the throne of Emerald City. Accompanying Oscar on his journey are two very emotionally touching CGI companions. Finley the flying monkey in a little bell hop uniform, and a little girl made of porcelain. Oscar’s journey also brings the origin story of the witches played by Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachael Weisz full circle. I’m not one to eagerly jump at 3D films, however I feel it enhanced the experience for me. I was totally immersed in the wonderful world.
This film pays homage to The Wizard of Oz in more ways than I expected, for eg. it also starts with the black and white Kansas scene. I think this is a prequel made very well. It was respectful of it’s source material and gives an interesting take to the events that occurred before it’s beloved predecessor so many years ago. Some scenes may prove frightening for small children, but overall a great family film for everyone. I really loved it. I want to see many more films like this in the land of Oz, and I know there is so much left to be told which I find exciting.
Jump into the world of Oz
4/5 – Stars