Oz The Great and Powerful, like so many similar films these days is beautiful to look at and slickly produced but ultimately feels like it is missing something in the soul department.
Note: I have never read any of the Oz books and don’t claim to be any kind of expert. The following ramblings refer only to my personal impressions of the film pictured above and contain mild spoilers if you either know nothing about the story of Oz or have never seen a Disney film 😉
Oscar, a circus magician, suddenly finds that he needs to flee the consequences of infidelity. So he steals a hot air balloon and promptly gets sucked into a tornado. As everyone knows, this is the standard way of getting to Oz and sure enough when he comes out the other side he finds himself in the wonderful Technicolor world or Oz. The bright and shiny colourful world of Oz contrasts so sharply with the drab sepia world of (presumably) Kansas that he left that the first few minutes are actually painful to the eye. After a while your cones get saturated and it stops being painful and is just ruthlessly and unrelentingly pretty. Even the dirty, scary parts somehow contrive to be pretty. Presumably this is an homage to the Technicolor of the 1939 version which starts out in black and white in Kansas before moving to Colour for the sequences in Oz.
According to The Internet, this film follows the style of the 1939 film very closely but, due to Disney not owning the rights to the original everything was just different enough to appease the lawyers. For example the green of the witches skin looks the same to me if you can’t see them side by side but is in fact different.
This story follows the progress of Oscar (Oz), the inveterate trickster and compulsive con artist, as he becomes progressively less selfish and more compassionate towards others. Being in love with a Good Witch of Oz is probably helpful in this department.
There aren’t a huge number of surprises in this film, it is a Disney movie after all. The “bad” hero has the inevitable epiphany and risks himself to save the day, the bad witches are conquered and the good guy gets the girl. The twists are delivered early on and are not very surprising, leaving your brain relatively unencumbered as you get on with being entertained for a couple of hours by the pretty pictures.
One gripe that I do have with this film is that it is very obvious throughout that the witches are significantly more powerful than Oz ever can be. Between them they can change form, fly, shoot fireballs, absorb/deflect fireballs and create force shields big enough to protect entire towns. Therefore it feels somewhat like the need for a charlatan wizard is a bit of a flimsy construction hastily shoved in to allow for a male hero who can come in and save the day. There are a few plot based justifications such as 2 bad witches vs only one good and a desire to use trickery rather than outright warfare to avoid collateral damage but it really doesn’t feel like the wizard was at all necessary in this story. Maybe it was better explained or justified in the book.