Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oz: The Visual and Magical

Legend has it that when L. Frank Baum created the stories of Oz, he was sitting in his office trying to come up with a name for his magical land connected to Kansas when he noted on a filing cabinet the lettering noting the cabinet marked "O to Z" and the rest is, as they say, history.  From that one moment Baum went on to create fifteen Oz books but the book series continued to grow as other authors took on the task.  On, there are at least 40 titles listed. Adaptation for Oz is not new.  There are cartoons, and musicals which includes the Judy Garland classic The Wizard of Oz, Wicked, and the 70's Black musical The Wiz. There is even the comedy account of the making of The Wizard of Oz called Under the Rainbow.

The most recent addition to the compendium is Oz: The Great and Powerful from Disney Studios.  Most industry people know that most of the movies that appear at the beginning of the year are not going to be the strongest studios have to offer. This is is particularly true of January and February movies.  The awards season and nominees are out, many folks aren't spending because they over-spent in December, and so studios release movies they don't expect to do well.  The early March movies can fall into this category too but not always.  Spring break is on the way, and there is money to be had.  Fortunately for us Oz is of the latter. Oz's opening weekend is the third largest March opening in history, bringing in just over 80 million in its opening weekend and this despite bad weather in the east and west. It is a bonafide blockbuster.

The movie is visually stunning.  Disney is getting pretty good with the 3-D imaging too.  While I personally thought the movie struggled for a bit after Oz's arrival from Kansas, the people I was with didn't feel that way.  So we will chalk that problem up to just me.   The movie, which is more or less from what I know of the Baum stories which isn't much, does include the races of the Baum's creation not just Munchkins but the China girl and several of the races of Oz.  The other part is that after the creation of the Wicked Witch of the West the movie truly starts to roll.  The flying baboons are scary and the Winkies appropriately tall.  The only true issue I have was with the Wicked Witch of the West's makeup.  It was just a bit too rubbery and, as my wife put it, a little too Shrek-like.  The other issue is that Mila Kunis, who becomes the Wicked Witch, is just too pretty no matter what they do to her.  Her big eyes just don't betray evil and I have to admit the whole transformation scene was just a tad bit over the top.

James Franco, the Wizard, is lovable as the conman who becomes Oz the great and powerful, besides, when Franco smiles his entire face reflects the fun.  The performances are solid, and I did become involved in the action and the emotions.  The movie has done well at the box office, and Disney feels secure enough to order up a sequel.  I think you will like it.  I know for the most part I did and yes, I will probably buy the DVD when it comes out.

Parents be warned though, the baboons and a few of the scenes may be a bit intense for much younger kids.