Oz the Great and Powerful Blu-ray Review
Even the great and powerful have to start somewhere. And that somewhere for Oscar Diggs, known as Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, is a traveling circus, where he’s employed as the lousiest magician in the Midwest.
The story begins in 1905 Kansas, some twenty years before Dorothy bumped her noggin and wound up befriending a scarecrow, a lion and a tin man. It’s not long before a tornado takes Oscar (James Franco) and his hot air balloon off to the merry old Land of Oz, a colorful fiasco populated by river fairies, munchkins and, of course, witches. One of the witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), tells him of the Wicked Witch of the West, who he as a “wizard” must kill to claim the throne that’s rightfully his. Or so she says…There are two other witches, Avanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who serve, respectively, as the Wicked Witch of the East and the Good Witch of the South which considerably narrows down who Theodora really is.
So Oscar, along with a flying monkey named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and a fragile doll named China Girl (voiced by Joey King), heads down the yellow brick road for the forest, where he’ll learn who’s who and what’s what. The question is, Would viewers rather veer off and go pick some apples?
As the trailers (and 3D gimmick Disney insisted on) suggested, Sam Raimi’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is a special effects-palooza—part human, but primarily computer. If you were blown away by the VFX in Tim Burton’s similarly budgeted ALICE IN WONDERLAND, then you’ll be just as awed by those in OZ, which apparently exists in the same universe of watercolors and cartoonish representations of characters we grew up with and loved.
Aside from illustrating that a $200 million budget can still come off as phony (even for a children’s fantasy), OZ has so much else wrong with it. Take, for example, the character of Oz himself, who is really only fascinating in increments and not worthy of a feature-length origin story. (WICKED has been on Broadway for a decade now because fans have found the backstory to be genuinely compelling.) We’re also supposed to buy Kunis as a green-skinned witch, despite her being crowned the Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire and ranking 3rd on Maxim’s Hot 100—titles that Margaret Hamilton certainly wouldn’t have won—in the same year. This is all without mentioning the hammy lines (“Good thing green is my favorite color!” shouts Oz as he eyes the Emerald City), forced allusions to the 1939 film (don’t expect ruby slippers or Auntie Em) and the uninspired musical number (complete with backflipping munchkins).
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL proved a box office success, but stands out, like Disney’s ALICE interpretation, as a creative misstep. Might we next get a prequel where vengeful crows feast on the Scarecrow’s brains?
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 and 1.33:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Every color, hue and tone in the Land of Oz comes off incredibly vibrant, from Emerald City’s greens and golds to the brick road’s yellows. The only downside of such a crisp high-definition transfer is that it makes the entire movie feel like it was done on a soundstage which, while that’s the case, might remove many from the fantasy.
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English 5.1 Dolby Digital; French 5.1 Dolby Digital; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital; English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The audio transfer, however, brings viewers into the magical world, with dimensional and atmospheric sound effects, dialogue and music.
The Magic of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL: Disney Second Screen allows iPad owners to access bonus materials not available elsewhere.
Walt Disney and the Road to Oz (10:13): This featurette details Disney’s decades-spanning desire to make an OZ movie.
My Journey in Oz by James Franco (21:43): Franco turns his own camera on himself and the cast and crew, interviewing Sam Raimi, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and more about OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL.
China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief (5:26) looks at how the character of China Girl (voiced by Joey King) was brought to life.
Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz (11:02) devotes its time to the look of OZ, with interviewees such as production designer Robert Stromberg discussing the influence of classic Disney films and the task of creating the sets.
Mila’s Metamorphosis (7:43): Here, the beautiful Kunis is transformed into the grotesque Wicked Witch of the West.
Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions (7:13) spotlights the famed composer and his work on OZ.
Also included are a DVD and Digital Copy.