Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams

Oz The Great and Powerful filmed at the Raleigh Studios here in Michigan during the summer of 2011, and during that time, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and sometimes Zach Braff could be seen out and about around Royal Oak and other nearby cities. It's the last big movie to film at Raleigh, and certainly one of the last before Governor Snyder cut the film incentive rebates. Michigan can take great pride in Oz, as it both pays homage to the original 1939 film as well as showing that it definitely stand on its own two feet as a fantastic prequel to that movie.

Kansas, early 20th century: Oscar, known as Oz (James Franco) plays a magician in a traveling circus. He's a bit of a "ladies man," and has just picked his latest (woman) magician assistant. His male assistant, Frank (Zach Braff), cautions Oz that the other circus folk are after him, and he manages to escape in a hot air balloon. Only one problem: there's a tornado in the sky, and he and his balloon get caught in it.

When he opens his eyes, however, he's in a beautiful world, and the first person he meets is the beautiful Theodora (Mila Kunis). He showers her with attention, and because she's never had this much attention from a man before, she instantly falls in love with him. She also realizes that he's the Wizard, the man with the same name as their land who is part of a prophecy; legend says that he will save them from the Wicked Witch. Oz meets her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who urges him to go find the Wicked Witch and claim the gold that will rightly be his as king - but it turns out to be a trick, because Evanora is actually the Wicked Witch. On Oz's journey, he meets the supposed Wicked Witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams), who is actually Glinda the Good Witch, and they figure out Evanora's lies. By this time, also, Evanora has turned Theodora against him, and she flies into a jealous rage ... which ends up having major consequences.

Definitely see this movie in 3D if you can; it's 3D is one of the best I have seen in quite a while. The movie starts off in black and white and the film itself is square-shaped, rather than rectangular, much like olden movies/TV sets. When Oz arrives at his namesake, however, the film becomes full of rich hues, including mostly green, in the Emerald City, and the screen expands. I thought this was a very cool way to set up the film, and it works beautifully.

The acting from all of the leads (Franco, Weisz, Kunis, and Williams) was fantastic as well, and James Franco really does a great job as Oz. Zach Braff has a small role too, as his assistant and later the voice of Finley, a flying monkey who vows to serve Oz for the rest of his days, and Joey King plays a girl in Kansas and then the voice of the China Doll, another stray that Oz picks up on his journey to the Dark Forest.

Yes, see this film. I have seen the original Oz, from 1939, and this is a very capable companion movie to it. I'd like to rewatch the '39 version now, actually, just to compare, but the special effects in this version far outweigh what they were able to do back then, and they will keep you enthralled throughout the whole film. I've had my film blog for about 3+ years now, and I think during that entire time, I've given three, possibly four, movies 5 out of 5 stars; not only is Oz The Great and Powerful deserving of this rating, but it's a showpiece that Michigan can be proud of for years to come.

Oz The Great and Powerful is in theaters today, March 8th, and is rated PG with a runtime of 130 minutes. 5 stars out of 5.

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