tek's rating:

Oz the Great and Powerful (PG)
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Caution: spoilers

This came out in 2013, but I didn't see it until 2021, on Blu-ray (the first movie I watched after finally buying a Blu-ray player). It was originally presented in 3-D, but I only got to see it in 2-D. Still, the visuals were pretty great. It's meant to be a prequel to the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz, as well as to the books on which it was based (which I'm afraid I've never read).

It begins in Kansas in 1905, where we meet a stage magician who is part of a traveling circus, named Oscar Diggs (James Franco), but who bills himself as "Oz the Great and Powerful". We soon learn that he has a habit of romancing various women, with no interest in relationships. One of these is Annie (Michelle Williams), who gets engaged to a man named John Gale (whom we don't meet). And he has an assistant named Frank (Zach Braff). During one performance, a young girl in a wheelchair (Joey King) asks Oz to make her walk, which of course he can't do, and the audience becomes angry about that, calling him a fake. Which seemed odd and unfair to me, since he never billed himself as a miracle worker, so I wouldn't say it makes him a con artist (unless the people in the audience were meant to believe he was performing real magic, which being 1905 I suppose might have been the case, but it still seems odd to me). Anyway, not long after that the circus strongman starts chasing him, for having seduced his wife, and Oz escapes in a hot air balloon. The balloon soon gets caught in a tornado, which transports him to the land of Oz. (At this point the movie switches from black & white to color, just like in the 1939 movie).

Soon after arriving in Oz, he meets a good witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis), who tells him of a prophecy about a wizard with the same name as their land coming to save them from the wicked witch. She begins traveling with him to the Emerald City, which is led by Theodora's sister, a witch named Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Along the way, Oz and Theodora meet a (CGI) flying monkey named Finley (voiced by Braff), whom Oz rescues from a lion, thus putting Finley in a life-debt to Oz. (He later confesses to Finley that he's not really a wizard, a secret which the monkey is compelled to keep.) Also along the way, Oz makes Theodora believe he's romantically interested in her, and she quickly falls in love with him. Once they reach the Emerald City, Oz meets a herald named Knuck (Tony Cox), who doesn't like him (Oz calls him "Sourpuss"). Theodora and Evanora convince Oz that he must kill the wicked witch, after which he will become king.

Oz sets off with Finley to find the witch, and along they way they meet a (CGI) china doll (voiced by King), whose town had been destroyed by the wicked witch's (CGI) flying baboons. China Girl (whose actual name is never revealed) is apparently the sole survivor, but her legs have been broken off. Oz glues them back together, and she begs him to let her travel with him to find and kill the witch. Eventually the three of them do find the witch (also played by Williams), whose real name is Glinda the Good. She's protecting a city of a few groups including Quadlings, Tinkers, and Munchkins. We learn that the real wicked witch is Evanora, who turns Theodora against Oz by claiming he had made the same romantic overtures to her that he had earlier to Theodora, which breaks Theodora's heart. Evanora offers to cure her sister of her pain with an enchanted apple, which actually withers her heart and transforms her into the green wicked witch with whom we're all familiar from the 1939 film. Theodora now seems even more wicked than her sister.

Meanwhile, it turns out Glinda was already aware that Oz wasn't a real wizard, but she believes that as long as the people believe in him, he can still help them defeat the wicked witches. Of course it's entirely predictable that he'll ultimately succeed, but the fun of the movie is seeing exactly how he does so, which I don't want to spoil. But I thought it was fairly cool. And it required the help of all the people under Glinda's protection, most importantly the Tinkers, one of whom, the Master Tinker (Bill Cobbs), returns to the Emerald City with Oz and his friends when they go to deal with the witches. They're also helped by Knuck, who was secretly an ally of Glinda's.

So, I guess there's really nothing more I want to reveal of the plot. I will say the movie wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped, but I still liked it. I'm not sure I could put my finger on anything I actually disliked about the movie, though I'm sure there must have been things I found slightly underwhelming, whether consciously or unconsciously. Mostly I found it fun.

fantasy index

Untitled Document The Wizard of Oz
movies: The Wizard of Oz * Journey Back to Oz * Return to Oz * Oz the Great and Powerful * Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
TV: Tales of the Wizard of Oz * The Wizard of Oz in Concert * The Muppets' Wizard of Oz * Tin Man * Once Upon a Time * The Wiz Live! * Emerald City
web: Lost in Oz
comics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz