If you’re looking for Oz snark, you’re in the wrong place. I’m an all things Oz nut, and loved this movie.

The only thing I didn’t like was the green one’s transformation.  Too CGI in the face of memories of the incomparable Margaret Hamilton. That wicked, wicked witch, made up the old fashioned way has flown her broom through countless nightmares for centuries. Besides, if China Girl and Finley were such convincing CGI creations, I can’t see why Ms. Broom Flyer looked like something out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Now that that’s out of the way….

Black and white still has its place in 21st century filmmaking. The opening in shades of black and white and gray Kansas not only provided a startlingly wondrous moment of contrast to our first glimpse of Oz, they also emphasized the character of a man who even then wanted to be more than he was. Even if he didn’t know it. A few tiny indications showed hints of compassion and twisted wisdom lurking inside crass greed and selfishness.

The not 3D version I saw was plenty eye popping. Colors everywhere. Vibrant. Alive, flying, gorgeous creatures and plants, flowers…and a breathtaking waterfall adventure so immersive it felt almost like an audience participation experiment.
And that was all just the very beginning of a fun, funny, tragic, sweet, charming burst of entertainment.

I thought James Franco was perfect as Oz.  And that his Oz was the perfect introduction to the charlatan behind the curtain we all know so well from the beloved old movie. I’ve noticed that some people focus on the idea of Oz as a failure at worst, an inept bumbler at best. To me that’s the beauty of it. In most ways that describes him perfectly. As he was. Which opens the door to the kind of character growth that makes such movies so satisfying. It would have surprised no one if he had reverted to form and let the citizens down. What surprised me was how disappointed in him I was, and then thrilled when I felt he redeemed himself.

The best storytelling does that, you know. Makes its audience feel. Perceptive storytellers pour their hearts into that goal. Perceptive audiences embrace the experience and turn singular effort into collaborative event. Every single time the story is absorbed, whether written for page, stage, or screen. L. Frank Baum was such a gifted storyteller that audiences and readers are still responding to the gifts of his creations long after his death.

I still have much Baum to read, but I’m familiar enough with his world to have recognized it in Oz the Great and Powerful. I adore Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years, but it differs in such significant ways from that which inspired it that I can mentally compartmentalize and enjoy its individuality. It’s great fun that Baum created a world so similar yet so different from our own, then Maguire took it a step further when he created a world so similar yet so different from Baum’s Oz. Like the picture of a man painting a picture of a man painting a picture of a man painting…. Worlds within worlds within worlds…. There’s room for them all…it’s part of the magic that is the Land of Oz.

My favorite line from Oz the Great and Powerful: I may not be the wizard you expected, but I’m the wizard you needed.

Oz the Great and Powerful — Official Trailer 2013

Related post:

The Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire

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