ozI will say up front that I really wasn’t sure about this one, but the Book God had kindly accompanied me to Cloud Atlas so it seemed only fair (as my poor organisational skills had led to him missing out on Lincoln) to go along to a movie of his choice. And I’m glad it did because it turned out to be great fun though of course without the magic of the original.

So as this is a prequel I’m assuming everyone knows that the plot arc will be about how the Wizard gets to Oz and what makes him choose to stay there. The film starts very much like the original, in our world at a fair in Kansas where our hero Oz (short for Oscar) is a travelling magician of mixed success with a very definite eye for the ladies (my favourite quote is from Kim Newman’s review in Empire where he says James Franco’s character is as close to a sex addict as you will find in a PG film). Just as he’s getting into a bit of bother and is trying to get away in his hot-air balloon the inevitable twister turns up and off to the wonderful land of Oz we go.

I saw this in 2D as is my preference so I’m sure missed some of the effects that director Sam Raimi used but I have to say that Oz was beautifully realised and glorious in its design and the super-saturated colour, dazzling to the eye. The plot is fairly simple and straightforward and there was always going to be a happy ending though it was fun to get there. Main points for me were:

  • China Girl was my favourite character, beautifully realised and excellent voice acting, just a lovely little artificial person
  • the witches were all super, Theodora’s transformation into (possible spoiler) the Wicked Witch of the West was well-done though Mila Kunis’ face was slightly too round for me to really see her as the character, given my love for Margaret Hamilton, but you know, she’s meant to be a young witch and I liked her voice (worth noting the Book God felt sorry for Theodora solely on the basis that she looked fetching in her red outfit at the start) and she was quite scary at a couple of points
  • Zach Braff was nowhere near as annoying as I usually find him
  • Sam Raimi does this fairy tale sort of thing very well
  • A solid Elfman score

The thing that really got in the way for me with this movie was James Franco himself. I just don’t really GET him, I think, and that was a problem for me here. The shit-eating grin and conman persona which were the basis for his performance were so well delivered  that when he got in touch with his inner greatness and did all the hero stuff I didn’t believe in him, he just seemed insincere somehow.

But that’s not to take away anything from this film which was, as I said, good fun. Certainly all the smallies in the audience at the showing we went too seemed totally enthralled.