Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

I had been looking forward to our 7-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise because I knew we would get to see Oz the Great and Powerful. However, slight disappointment set in upon embarkation when I saw a pamphlet with the Oz showtimes, included with the first day Personal Navigator. Oz would not be showing on the Disney Fantasy until Tuesday, the fourth day of the cruise which also happened to be Pirate Night. I was really hoping to see the film on either of the first two sea days, but understand that the marquee film is held back from the Buena Vista Theater until movie night in the Walt Disney Theatre.

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On Tuesday, we made our way to the Walt Disney Theatre about 7:45 PM to get a decent seat, considering this was a 3D showing. The movie was held back until 8:15 to allow those at the Buccaneer Blast time to descend from the top decks to the theatre. Surprisingly, there were no Dolby 3D child glasses available.

Movie

Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, begins with a sensational theme from Danny Elfman setting the pace of the paper-theater opening credits, which look amazing in 3D.

The first 15 minutes of the film are presented in black and white in a 1.33:1 format (vintage television aspect ratio) which setup the stark contrast between 1905 Kansas and Oz (2.38:1 wide-screen cinema standard aspect ratio), similar to the 1939 adaptation.

Oz The Baum Bros Circus Kansas

The film investigates the origin of wizard created by L Frank Baum. We are first introduced to the title character, Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics in 1905 Kansas at the Baum Brothers Circus who is about to perform for a less than sold out show. Oscar quickly finds himself a pinch do to his flirtatious ways, and with the help of his assistant Frank (Zach Braff) sails off in the circus’ hot air balloon. Just when Oscar thinks he is safe a tornado embarks him on a journey he will never forget to the visually stunning Land of Oz.

Oz Balloon Landscape

Soon after arriving in Oz, Oscar realizes he could have all the fame and fortune he ever wanted, but there is a catch. Oscar must prove himself to be the true Wizard of Oz and defeat with Wicked Witch to fulfill the late-King’s prophecy. Along his way, Oscar meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Glinda (Michelle Williams), and Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting.

Oz Witches

Oscar sets off on a mission to determine which witch is which and save Oz before it is too late. Oscar devises a battle plan using his Harry Hudinni like magic skills, and the ingenuity of Thomas Edison. With the help of Finely, a flying monkey (Zach Braff), China Girl (Joey King), and a host of others from the Land of Oz, Oscar transforms himself into the great and powerful Oz.

Oz China Doll and Finley

Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful, was an enjoyable movie adapted from the works of L Frank Baum. The film was more about Oscar’s journey to greatness than suspenseful storytelling. If you are expecting a movie that will have you on the edge of your seat in suspense until the end you will be dissapointed, but this in no way makes the film a bad movie. There are some unique call backs later in the film to dialog between Oscar & Anne and Oscar & Frank in Kansas. The teaser, Which Witch is Which, was more of a marketing tool than actual plot point. It was fairly obvious, which of the three witches was the Wicked Witch of the West well before the official reveal in the movie. Regardless, just enjoy the movie for what it is, a visually appealing adaptation of the works of a children’s author. Mixed throughout the film are references to movie/stories most of us have grown up with, such as the cowardly lion and the scarecrow. I cannot wait to see what extras are included in the Blu-ray release.

3D or 2D? In general, I prefer 2D screenings because I wear glasses and there always seems to be an issue, or I leave with a headache. Neither was the case for this screening, and maybe it was a result of the Dolby 3D setup used in the Walt Disney Theatre. Overall, the 3D enhanced the movie starting with opening credits, and the depth added the Land of Oz was tremendous. Would I pay the extra for the 3D showing at the neighborhood theatre? More than likely no, just because I still prefer the 2D showings for the above stated reasons. After seeing the opening title sequence above in 2D, I am changing my mind. See Oz in 3D, the opening sequence is far better in 3D. If you enjoy seeing movies in 3D, I would say Oz would be well worth the 3D upgrade. Also of note, Sam Raimi filmed the movie in native 3D, unlike other movies which are filmed in 2D and converted to 3D.

The film is rated PG with some intense scenes surrounding the Wicked Witch, some of which can be seen in this extended movie clip.

The film defiantly leaves room for a sequel and from a story in the LA Times a sequel is in the the works. Mitchell Kapner who co-wrote the screenplay says there is about 20 years before Dorthy arrives in Oz, but she would not be included according to producer, Joe Roth.

Apart from a sequel, I see a potential for Oz to make an appearance in the Magic Kingdom as part of a castle projection show with fireworks fireworks and reconfigure the New Fantasyland dragon into a witch on a broom.

Oz The Great and Powerful is now available to preorder from Amazon.

UPDATE:  You can print a $7 off coupon for Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful on Blu-ray Combo Pack. The printable coupon is available via Scott’s Shared Values in partnership with Disney Movie Rewards.  The seven dollar off Disney Oz coupon expires on June 14, 2013.

Book

A couple weeks before the movie was released I spotted Oz the Great and Powerful, a Junior Novel, on the shelf at Target for $6.Oz Junior Novel Book Cover I knew this book would include some spoilers, but I was a bit skeptical. The title page provides a subtle warning (if you actually read it), as it states the junior novel was adapted by Elizabeth Rudnick, and is based upon Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay which was based on the L Frank Baum books (embarrassingly of which I’ve not read). Reading this only made me want to read it more so in the cart it went. Sure enough, on page 94 it hits you if you did not see it coming. Again, I do not understand why everyone always eats the apple.

Considering the fact that this is a junior novel, I enjoyed it for the story as well as the quick read. Do I regret reading this before seeing the movie? No, the story itself is not that difficult to figure out if you’ve seen the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz. The book provided a brief outline compared to the full journey portrayed in the film. It is similar to reading the DaVinci Code then watching the movie. Even knowing the story, it was still fun to watch it come to life on the big screen.

The junior novel is just $6 on Amazon and a dollar less digitally (Kindle / iBookstore).


Soundtrack

A Great movie typically has a strong and memorable score, which in my opinion, is often more important than the leading actors. Soundtracks and scores are my connection to the movie since it is impossible to watch movies all day, everyday. I almost always have music playing in the background and scores provide some of the best background music.

When a movie is announced that peek’s my interest, I try to find out who is scoring the project. To my delight, Oz the Great and Powerful was in the hands of Danny Elfman. Over his career, Elfman has scored many memorable movies including a childhood favorite of mine, Beetlejuice, along with some recent collaborations with Tim Burton on the Disney films Frankenweenie, Alice in Wonderland, and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Oz CD Cover Art Elfman IntradaElfman’s score clocks in just over an hour, which is not bad for a movie with a 2 hour and 10 minute run time. According to my iTunes play count I’ve listened to this score over 15 times since it was released. There is a moment in the main theme that sounds like It would fit ‘O Canada, and had me in suspense for over a week. It turned out to be the reveal if the movie title screen. I mentioned earlier that that main theme sets the pace for the amazing paper-theater opening credits, but it also teases at what is to come. I love the recurring music box mixed with a full orchestra. Elfman has done a wonderful job at setting the tone for Oz the Great and Powerful through this magical score. Before too long, the main theme will more than likely end up cracking my top 25 most played songs in my iTunes library.

The soundtrack does not include Mariah Carey’s Almost Home (iTunes / Amazon). This is sort of a good thing. The score and the single are polar opposites, and it would have felt forced together if included in Elfman’s release. I must admit when I first listened to the single I did not enjoy it and could not even tell it was Mariah signing, but the song has slowly grown on me. In a way it all came together during the end credits when the song began to play. If you did not know, Mariah Carey is the Godmother of the Disney Fantasy! The only problem is that I do not want to be home, we just finished unpacking and I wish we were still onboard. Maybe, I am looking at this backwards; maybe I should play this song as we were preparing for the next Disney Cruise.

Oz The Great and Powerful is available on digital download for just under $10 from iTunes and Amazon. If you prefer a physical CD you will need to order it from Intrada which will run just under $25 with shipping.

Did you see Oz the Great and Powerful? What did you think?

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

  1. Gina

    Hi Scott, What did you think of the 3D effects? Were they any good? Do you recommend seeing it in 3D? Most movies I’ve seen in 3D end up not being worth the price upgrade but this one looks like it has potential.

    Reply
    1. Scott Sanders Post author

      Gina, I added my feelings on the 3D above. Like you, I do not feel the 3D is worth the upgrade in most cases. It is hard for me to say if 3D is a worthwhile upgrade as this is quite subjective. Normally I would say if a movie has a strong story the take it or leave it, but in this case it may be worth it for the greater sense of depth in the Land of Oz.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    FYI, the featured / newest movie is always held back until “movie night” in the Walt disney theatre. That way it seems like more of a special event for that night, in place of a regular theater show. If they had already shown it multiple times in the bvt, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Not saying you don’t have a reason to be disappointed, just explaining the reason. And hopefully helping others set expectations for future cruises.

    Reply
  3. Chris Rosser

    I was disappointed with the movie – I thought it was too cheesy. I hope they don’t mess up Star Wars.

    Reply

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