If it's spectacle you're after, you'll want to see Oz The Great and Powerful, a visual delight for which 3D makes perfect sense.
The movie tells the story of how the wizard came to Oz in the first place. Set in Kansas in 1905, Oz The Great and Powerful mimics the Wizard Of Oz in structure, starting off in black and white and then moving into hallucinogenic colour once the pure fantasy begins. Characters from the real world turn up transformed in the land of Oz -- just as they did in the 1939 classic -- and people in the new film are likewise changed for the better from their experiences.
James Franco stars here as Oscar Diggs, a stage magician and a sleight-of-hand expert who takes his trickery from town to town under the bigtop. He's a womanizer and a manipulator, but once that reliable tornado carries him in a hot air balloon to Oz, he has to rethink his interest in all things fake and fleeting.
In Oz, our magician is astonished to find himself in a place full of magical butterflies, giant flowers, river fairies, terrifying flying baboons and other eye-popping creations suggestive of LSD mismanagement. He is befriended by a witch (Mila Kunis), who informs him that all Oz has been waiting for him -- the wizard whose arrival was foretold in a prophecy.
I'm not him, protests Oscar, but once the pretty witch shows him the massive gold treasure set aside for the wizard who is supposed to come, kill the wicked witch and save Oz from evil, greedy Oscar is happy to impersonate any wizard she wants.
He then encounters other witches, played by Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz, and has to figure out which witch is which -- who's really the wicked one? -- in order to rescue Oz from itself.
Oscar is accompanied on his journey through Oz by a couple of sidekicks: a pleasant flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and a little talking china doll (Joey King); they aren't exactly the tin man and the cowardly lion, but the seamless integration of real people and computer generated fantasy characters is impressive in the extreme.
There are some transporting moments in this movie, and they're not all visual. Of course, it's delightful to see people flying through the air in giant air bubbles, but it's also gratifying to see how team work and a vivid imagination can trump violence and wickedness. The movie offers a big nod to Thomas Edison and the movie camera, so perhaps the real moral here is that illusion has its uses.
Duh. We wouldn't all be here talking about this if it didn't, now would we?
The best way to enjoy Oz The Great and Powerful is to bring a child with you when you go to see it. There are some scary bits, so a child over the age of about eight would be ideal. Just a thought.
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