The man behind the curtain
I wonder how that wizard ever ended up in Oz? Asked no one, ever.
Nonetheless, Sam Raimi decided it was something worth looking into, so here we have Oz the Great and Powerful; a decent if somewhat unnecessary prequel to the 1939 classic.
We begin in black and white 4:3 ratio Kansas with the titular wizard (played by the ever-present James Franco) doing his thing on the fairground circuit. Oz dreams of greatness but his silver tongue and his wild ambitions seem to get him into a lot of hot water. An air-ballooned getaway from one such incident sends Oz into the path of an oncoming tornado which transports him to the Land of Oz and blows the film into lush wide-screen colour. Here he encounters two witches (played by Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz) who inform him of his prophesied arrival. The tale goes that A Great Wizard will fall from the sky and slay the evil witch, so Oz enlists a monkey sidekick (head-meltingly voiced by Zach Braff) and an exquisitely animated porcelain girl (Joey King) and heads out to do just that.
It’s tough to shake that whiff of insignificance but some of Oz still works. Aside from a rather tame Wicked Witch there are still glimpses of Raimi’s horror chops – Bruce Campbell even pops up for a brief cameo – but perhaps the best part is Franco’s dozy performance, which provides a nice reminder of how affable he can be when he isn’t trying so bloody hard.
Oz the Great and Powerful | Directed by Sam Raimi (USA 2013) with James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams. Starts March 7