Saturday, 3 August 2013

Film Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

When we went to see The Hobbit in Glasgow we saw a big display for Oz the Great and Powerful and knew that it was going to have to be one we saw/got in the future. As it happened we didn't get a chance to see it in the cinema but Mr Click pre-ordered it on Blu-ray and as soon as it arrived we made a point of watching it.

It's basically a prequel to the 1939 film, though it isn't really because this is a Disney film and they don't have the rights to any of the stuff from the earlier film. It tells the story of Oz, a magician who gets into a spot of bother at the circus he works at, so has to flee in a hot air balloon. Unfortunately he flies right into a tornado and winds up in Oz where he becomes tangled up with a trio of witches who believe that he is the answer to a prophecy. He's got to take on the role of their ruler, whilst learning to be a little less self-centred. Oh, and one of the witches turns green and cackles a lot. (Though it's a different shade of green to any other witches that you may have seen in films that Disney do not have the rights to, just to be clear that no one is treading on anyone else's toes, right?)

I loved the way that this paralleled the 'original' film. Right down to the black and white, 4:3 opening which gradually opened out into the spectacular technicolour Oz. I'd have loved to have seen in in the cinema for that bit alone, but it did look fantastic on our home TV so I'm not going to complain too much. There were so many little nods back to the earlier film that I couldn't begin to list them all here right now. I've only seen it once so I'm sure I'll catch more on future viewings.

I liked the 'and you were there, and you were there' aspect. Zach Braff plays Oz's assistant in the beginning and then voices Finley, the flying monkey, in the main film (Mr Click sat there going 'I recognise that voice, who is that?' while we were watching it). It was fun spotting the other people who played two characters in the film so I won't spoil it here for people who enjoy those games.

The scenery was spectacular. I particularly liked one bit which had cliffs in the shape of different animals because I didn't catch it immediately and then thought it was really cool once I spotted it. There were a few bits where the CG seemed a bit conspicuous. The characters seemed to stand out against the background which was slightly distracting in places, but everything was so fantastical and the story was gripping so it wasn't as distracting as it might have been.

I've only really read The Wizard of Oz, the other books are all on my list of books I have to read, but there was obviously a great deal taken from Baum's other Oz books. Apparently the China people were supposed to be in the 1939 film but ended up being cut, so it was nice that they were given their screen time in this film. I found the film a lot more satisfying than the 1980s Return to Oz which gave me serious nightmares when I was younger.

We've only scratched the surface of the special features on the Blu-ray disc as well. The one I did watch was all about how Walt Disney always dreamed of making an Oz film. It would seem that in the 1930s he just missed out on the rights, otherwise The Wizard of Oz film as we know it could have been very different. There are quite a few little documentaries and I'm curious about the making of because I love watching things like that.

We're definitely going to be rewatching the film again pretty soon and I'm looking forward to it. I also can't help but wonder if Disney will be revisiting Oz again in the future because there are so many stories there that they've got a lot of material to work with. If they do I think it'll definitely be one to go see in the cinema!

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