After the success of Return to Oz, Broadway’s Wicked, and television’s Tin Man, it shouldn’t be so surprising to see someone attempt an extension of The Wizard of Oz. Yet all most people could seem to talk about in the lead-up to Oz the Great and Powerful’s release was how it would compare to the original. Let it be said: it manages pretty well.
Set 34 years before Dorothy flew over the rainbow with Toto, Oz the Great and Powerful features a carnival magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco), whose hot air balloon gets caught up in a twister and lands him in a world desperately in search of a wizard to save them.
The Oz of 1905 is a land divided, with three witch sisters at war (Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis). When one of the witches turns truly wicked, it’s up to Oscar (or “Oz”) and the people of Oz to save the day.
As a prequel, the movie isn’t as clever as Wicked, which set the pre-Dorothy stage far more ingeniously. (A movie adaptation of Wicked is currently in the works.) It can’t be denied, though, that Oz the Great and Powerful is quite an enjoyable movie.
Franco never quite fills the role comfortably, unable to convey any true sincerity when it’s actually called for. The rest of the cast, however, gives their all, from the bewitching trio of lead actresses to Zach Braff, who voices a monkey-bellhop companion of Oz’s.
Oz the Great and Powerful is no The Wizard of Oz, but there was never a chance of that. As an enchanting return to a beloved world of childhood memories, though, it proves to have more brains, heart, and courage than many sceptical moviegoers will expect.