By Lisa Robinson
It appears that the good people at Disney have been on a mission to rehash and rebuild classic films and tales over the last year, so it was inevitable for them to eventually attack L. Frank Baum’s beloved masterpiece The Wizard of Oz. Casting James Franco as the lead, Oscar Diggs, in the latest adaptation, Oz The Great and Powerful, audiences are lead on a journey through the magical land to discover just how the Wizard himself came to be.
The film is most definitely hit and miss, and manages to disguise most of it’s faults through Avatar-like graphics to keep viewers distracted. From the outset, the film is labelled as a prequel to the classic tale that we all know and love, but once it begins it is clear that it’s simply a modern remake with a few twists and no Dorothy. Starting off in black and white at a Kansas circus, Oscar (James Franco) is whisked away in a tornado to the land of Oz, eventually transitioning into colour.
Wondrous graphics and 3D effects keep viewers entertained until Theodora (Mila Kunis) arrives and puts on a lacluster performance, making everyone feel as sleepy as the poppy fields made Dorothy.
As the film progresses we discover that the witches Theodora, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) are not who they say they are, and it is Oscar’s job to find out the truth before it’s too late for him to claim his position as ruler of Oz and bask in his treasures. With help of the locals, a little cunning and illusion, Oscar Diggs must transform himself into the Great and Powerful Oz in order to save the land, and sets off on a journey accompanied by talking monkey Finley (Zach Braff) and a broken China doll (Joey King), the latter of which should’ve been replaced with a munchkin, as her presence as a child became irritating and her existence was far too sweet to fit in with the script.
Despite Kunis’ average performance early on, it is clear that she is not fit to play kind or innocent roles and instead excels once she turns into a hideous, evil witch. This is where the PG rating should be taken into account as there are more than a few scares and jumps throughout the film, which could be as frightening to the little ones (especially in 3D), as Margaret Hamilton’s witch was for me watching the original for the first time.
Considering the ups and downs of the film, James Franco shines in his role as Oscar Diggs, putting on a performance of Franco standards and charming the pants off anybody who watches it. Although the onscreen chemistry with Michelle Williams fell short, both put on magical performances as their characters individually. As for the rest of the film, the graphics provide something enchanting to look at when scenes become tiresome. The storyline that Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire may not be as original as viewers had hoped, often mirroring that of the 1939 version, but will keep viewers interested for 130 minutes and allow them to see the yellow brick road and Emerald City as they’ve never been seen before.