Oz the Great and Powerful

Cameron Hines

Deception. Belief. Illusion. All of these components are constantly in motion while watching director Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful.

AP Photo

In this film, we are taken back to the land of Oz, but this time it is the tale of the Wizard of Oz’s origin and how he came to be the disambiguated head who grants wishes unconventionally.

While the film at first glance may simply look like a retread of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, fear not: the film has much more going for it than simply a strange and bizarre setting with colorful characters.

Though Robert Downey Jr. was originally cast as the Wizard, James Franco plays the title character, and we see how he is a struggling circus performer who, just like we all, longs for fame and greatness. And just like in the 1939 classic, a foul tornado comes and sweeps Franco away to the land of Oz, where he encounters all kinds of strangeness.

He is lauded by the people as being “The Wizard” that they have been waiting for to end the tyranny of the Wicked Witch. However, he believes he takes himself as a simple con man who’s selfish intentions will do nothing to aid the people. But as he spends more time in Oz, he begins to find his true purpose and self.

Franco is joined by many great actors: Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, and Mila Kunis all play witches whose morality remains ambiguous for most of the picture. And just like any good Sam Raimi movie, veteran actor Bruce Campbell makes a cameo (Campbell and Raimi have been working together since Raimi’s 1981 hit Evil Dead which Campbell stars in). Zach Braff plays a delightful flying monkey who becomes servant/friend to Franco.

Although, he is not one of the scary flying monkeys, he’s one of the cute ones. That’s another thing: this movie can be really frightening at times, and I suppose that’s because director Sam Raimi specializes at horror. Instead of the campy flying monkeys seen in the original, the flying baboons are ferocious, aggressive and flat out terrifying. Raimi does a great job of constantly presenting danger and terror to the audience, making the fears that the Wizard is feeling much more real to us.

The film is a very enjoyable companion piece to the 1939 classic: it makes many great nods and winks to the original, takes liberties of its own, but never insults the world that Judy Garland made simply magical to us.

Though this film may trade in some of that magic for adventure and bigger set pieces, it is still an enjoyable family movie.