“Oz the Great and Powerful” arrived in theaters to mixed reviews from critics and a B+ Cinemascore from audiences. It managed to more than make back its production cost and will be followed up by the inevitable sequel. Sam Raimi’s prequel to the 1939 classic now hits Blu-ray and DVD, giving audiences either another chance to see it for the first time or give it a second look in the comfort of their own homes.
In “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” a crooked circus magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is swept away to a magical land. Upon arriving, he is mistaken as the mystical wizard who is foretold to be the deliverer of its people from the grasp of an evil witch (Rachel Weisz). In order to free them from her clutches, he must steal her magic wand. Oscar embarks on a dangerous journey to find the witch. He’s accompanied by a flying monkey (Zach Braff) and a china doll (Joey King) on his adventures through the whimsical and dangerous land.
As I said in my earlier theatrical review, “Oz the Great and Powerful” uses every aspect of the original “Wizard of Oz” movie it can legally get away with. You don’t see any ruby slippers and the Wicked Witch’s skin is a different tone of green, but believes me that’s about all that’s missing. The Wizard’s Throne Room and even his fiery appearance to others will remind you of the 1939 film.
It’s obvious from the beginning of “Oz the Great and Powerful” that Director Sam Raimi has one goal in mind. He wants to create something new out of the framework of the original film. Raimi wants his movie to be looked at as the “official” prequel to “The Wizard of Oz.” Although it’s technically “unofficial,” the filmmaker was successful in his attempt.
The cast of “Oz the Great and Powerful” deliver energetic performances. Some critics have shared their unhappiness with James Franco and Mila Kunis in their respective roles, but I found both of them to be taking their characters seriously. Everyone in the film seems intent on helping Raimi bring his vision of Oz to life as an homage and worthy follow-up to the 1939 classic.
The CGI for “Oz the Great and Powerful” could be better. Much of it looks artificial and animated. At the same time, this could be the intent of Raimi to possibly give it a dreamlike or unrealistic look. The colors used throughout the film are vibrant and lend a sort of cheerful air to the film.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen (2.40:1). However, the beginning plays in 1.33:1 and black and white to mimic how the 1939 film started and then turned to color. The picture is clean and shines brightly with all the lush greenery Oz travels through and shiny gold he’s inherited as the Wizard. There are plenty of great sound effects and a musical score by Danny Elfman to enjoy courtesy of a 7.1 surround mix.
I would recommend “Oz the Great and Powerful” to all those looking to return to the magical land we haven’t revisited since 1986’s “Return to Oz.” It presents some old familiar characters and allows the viewer to make some new friends as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road. Although not perfect, it’s fun the whole family can enjoy together.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, Single Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital Download.
For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:
Blu-ray Review: ‘The Witches of Oz’
Movie Review: “Oz: The Great and Powerful”
Billy Boyd Talks About His Character in ‘Dorothy and the Witches of Oz’