We live in the era of Hollywood prequels: X-Men First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit… And they all seem to be much better than sequels these days – with the exception of the splendid The Dark Knight trilogy and the upcoming third part of The Hangover (which I think is going to be as good as the first one, and obviously better that the Thailand one).
That being said, Oz the Great and Powerful would enter the first group. Starring James Franco (leading man in the Apes prequel too), the story takes us to the fairy tale world of Oz before the events with Dorothy and friends happened.
The only problem this film could have is that, well, it is for kids. I didn’t know that when I went to see it, nobody had told me and the trailers didn’t seem that children-orientated… Despite that, it is enjoyable.
What helps this film be worth it is the cast. Franco’s charisma dominates the screen in every scene he is in. The trio of actresses is also quite good (Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams), but Weisz is probably the best of them. Unfortunately, she is underused in this film, and they could have had so many great scenes with her, so it’s a shame.
And thinking back of The Wizard of Oz, this movie is constantly winking at it, with subtle (and not so subtle) references to the original story. Nevertheless, you can watch Oz without previous knowledge of The Wizard. There is no need to know anything to understand this film.
The truth is, Sam Raimi could have done more with this film, plot-related, that is. Raimi, who is known for directing the Spider-Man trilogy (the good one, not the new one with pre-school dialogues), certainly gives this movie its best visually, creating a world of fantasy with spectacular special effects and a marvellous photography. But setting the film as a children’s movie closes off all avenues to it. Oz could have been a more adult story and yet be enjoyed by kids. That is the mistake Raimi has made.
In conclusion, I expected Oz to be much better than what it turned out to be, or at least more mind-challenging, more adult (I still don’t know why I thought that, considering the theme of the movie). I still enjoyed it, though.
The soundtrack by Danny Elfman. As soon as the opening credits began, I recognised his style. Elfman is known mostly for his enduring partnership with Tim Burton, and for The Simpsons main theme, let’s give him the credit he deserves. His compositions exude magic, and the recurring melody through the film is catchy and perfectly related to Oz. And it sort of reminded me of Edward Scissorhands.