Although Walt Disney never got a chance to see his own version of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz stories brought to the screen before his death in 1966, director Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful makes a valiant attempt at recreating Disney’s vision. The big-budget, 3D reimagining of Baum’s collection of stories introduces small-time magician turned prophecy-fulfilling wizard, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) as he’s swept up into the magical world of Oz where must sort out the intentions of three very attractive witches (Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz). Accompanied by a flying monkey and a china doll (voiced by Zach Braff and Joey King respectively), Diggs must discover the goodness within him if he’s to save the people of Oz from the tyranny of the wicked witch.
Now available on Blu-ray, Oz the Great and Powerful is a visually dazzling addition to the Oz films that acts as a prequel to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. While it comes nowhere near the caliber of that classic tale, this new imagining is a welcome journey back into the Emerald City and the unique lands that surround it. Hit the jump for my Blu-ray review.
For our own Matt Goldberg’s review, click here. My two cents on the film is that it was a spirited adventure tale with beautifully-rendered environments and fantastical characters that works perfectly on a level that children can enjoy. While the lessons of courage, compassion and intelligence are traded in for the less-developed concept of “goodness,” Oz the Great and Powerful is still fun for the whole family. The witches are much hotter this time around (which I found distracting, especially for [spoiler]: Kunis’ transformation into the wicked witch), but the new characters from Baum’s stories were welcome additions, particularly China Girl.
As far as the audio and video quality of the Blu-ray, no complaints here. It’s probably even more impressive in 3D with a capable player and surround sound system, considering Raimi’s visual enthusiasm and Danny Elfman’s score. For fans who loved the movie in theaters, the Blu-ray is certainly worth picking up to enjoy at home; the behind-the-scenes extras give a nice look at the process of getting the film made, but don’t venture to close to the original 1939 film for legal reasons. For those who are just interested in checking out the movie itself, this one’s worth a rental.
The Magic of Oz the Great and Powerful Second Screen Experience
- Those of you with an iPad will be able to enjoy this bonus feature; sadly, I’m not one of you.
Walt Disney and the Road to Oz (~10 minutes)
- An interesting journey that tells of Walt Disney’s fascination with Baum’s works and his desire to turn them into a feature production. Disney was beaten to the rights by Samuel Goldwyn, with which MGM adapted into the popular musical movie in 1939. Disney kept plans for his own musical titled The Rainbow Road to Oz, but scrapped the project even after a fair portion of it was produced.
My Journey in Oz by James Franco (~20 minutes)
- A video blog by Franco with Kunis, Raimi, Braff and Williams, detailing their experience on the film from casting through to the end of production.
China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief (~5 minutes)
- King talks about voicing China Girl and we get a look at the marionette performer who brought the character to life on set before visual effects animated her.
Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz (~15 minutes)
- Raimi talks about adapting Baum’s vision and working with production designer Robert Stromberg, who not only designed practical sets for the shoot but transitioned his design into the final visual effects work, incorporating influences from other notable Disney films.
Mila’s Metamorphosis (~10 minutes)
- A behind-the-scenes featurette on the make-up process that turns Kunis from the lovely Theodora into the wicked witch.
Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions (~5 minutes)
- Elfman takes viewers through his process of developing the “Wicked Witch,” “Oz” and title sequence themes.
Bloopers (~5 minutes)