Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” is out now on 3D Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray/Dvd and it is most definitely worth seeing whether you’re a fan of “The Wizard of Oz” or not. I am about to make a statement that some will feel is blasphemy. I am not that big a fan of “The Wizard of Oz” which I will just refer to as “The Wizard” from here on in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic, and everyone that enjoys film should see it, but beyond that I’m not giddy about the film. I think my excitement now comes from my daughter’s reaction to it. That said it’s part of pop culture and has been referenced thousands of times throughout the decades. Walt Disney himself had a sort of obsession with the material and was looking to get a film made before MGM got the rights and made it. Decades later the people at Disney put out “Return to Oz” which was a darker film, but has gained a cult following. And now in the new millennium Disney gives us the story of how it all began with “Oz the Great and Powerful” detailing how everyone’s favorite man behind the curtain came to be in the magical land that shares his name.
And what a fun and entertaining story it is. Directed by Sam Raimi, and starring James Franco as Oscar “Oz” Diggs, along with Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz as three beautiful witches, “Oz” takes us on the journey with the man that would one day rule the land as he discovers his destiny. Now there aren’t many surprises in store for you here really. The story is pretty straightforward for the most part and you can see things coming way ahead of time, and yet it is still charming, heartfelt, sweet, funny, and an absolute joy to watch.
There is a twist or two, but nothing that doesn’t work for the story. The characters really stand out and you find yourself truly feeling for them on their journey. We get to meet a cute flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) that assists Oz on his journey, and becomes his conscious, while the adorable but spunky China Girl (Joey King), a walking talking porcelain doll becomes his emotional core. All the actors are superb in the film, and even some of the minor characters are hilarious (I’m looking at you Tony Cox, man he can play a great surly little person) and really put heart into their roles. There’s also a cameo by a certain feline, and allusions are made to classic characters.
I really wish I had caught this in theatres, as even on Blu-ray I can only imagine what it was like in 3D. The movie is visually stunning. I mean absolutely gorgeous. If I ever get a 3D TV this will be a film I re-buy in 3D. I don’t want to ruin one of the cooler visual moments but just like “The Wizard” this film begins in black and white and then jumps to bright color when they get to Oz, and the effect is amazing. Do not watch this on a small screen. Just don’t do it to yourself. As beautiful as the film is, it’s easy to think they went the Star Wars route and had mostly green screen sets, but you’d be wrong. There’s a surprising amount of real, and very well made sets in the film, and they really pop on screen.
The Blu-ray/DVD combo comes with some decent special features. First of which is the Disney Second Screen App. They’ve been putting this on all their new releases, and eventually I’ll have someone with an iPad come over, but until then I can’t really comment on the app. There’s also a following featurettes:
· My Journey in Oz by James Franco – A personal story produced and directed by James Franco.
· Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions - An interview with composer Danny Elfman, who unveils his inspiration for scoring “Oz The Great And Powerful.”
· China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief - This feature uncloaks several forms of movie magic employed to bring China Girl to life, from the initial artwork and character design, to the on-set puppeteering during filmmaking, and finally, through each stage of the visual-effects process; and includes an interview with Joey King, the voice of China Girl.
· Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz – Production designer Robert Stromberg takes viewers through the set design of the Land of Oz, from sketching his original ideas on a napkin, through to the final set pieces and the accompanying visual effects.
· Mila’s Metamorphosis – Lead makeup artist Howard Berger expands on one of the oldest, most tried-and-true forms of movie magic: makeup design and effects.
· Walt Disney and the Road to Oz - It is well known that Walt Disney had a fascination with the Land of Oz since he was a child. See how that fascination grew into inspiration as he began planning for his own adaptation of the stories in the classic Baum books.
Bottom line is (and here’s another blasphemous statement), I liked “Oz” better than “The Wizard” and no it’s not because it was shiny and pretty. I really enjoyed the story and the things they did with classic characters. So if you’re a fan of “Oz” in general, or are just looking for a great family film to watch, go out and pick this up, you won’t be disappointed.