Saturday, March 9, 2013
By James A. Molnar
It's been almost 75 years since MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” captivated audiences on the big screen. Its prequel, “Oz The Great and Powerful,” hits theaters today. This film, like the original, recreates the world from the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum. Audiences learn more about the wizard, the man behind the curtain.
This new film is a visual wonder filled with sweeping vistas, colorful production design (thanks to two-time Oscar winner Robert Stromberg) and that famous route to the Emerald City. The Land of Oz is really something to behold.
Filmed in 2011 at Michigan Motion Pictures Studios, a 675,000-square-foot sound stage facility in Pontiac, Mich., Raimi had the entire production on the facility’s seven sound stages. It was the first project to be shot there. All of the sets for the film were built indoors with every frame shot on the stages.
Michelle Williams is magnificent as Gilda, the good witch. James Franco as Oz is not quite as good, but manages a memorable character.
The story is very Disney — believe in yourself and your dreams will come true. Fans of the studio will enjoy this film, but they will also be able to see each part of the classic formula.
The first half of “Oz” really works, especially the black-and-white opening. With the Emerald City at its center, the story comes to colorful life when Oz drops into Oz. The visuals help the story, but they can only go so far.
As the film winds down, “Oz” could have used more wow and could have been more compelling.
Maybe expectations were too high, but there was a lack of charisma at times. The emotional connection was sometimes missing in action.
Compared to another visual wonder, “Oz” is similar to Disney’s 2010 “Alice in Wonderful” but it’s missing the eccentricity of director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter.
The visuals of “Oz,” however, do make the journey back exciting, even if some of the characters are not as compelling.
Rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language.