The ladies love their wizard (James Franco) in Oz: The Great and Powerful
BY NATHANIEL ROGERS
You're basically asking for a trouble with that title, you know? OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict how this will turn out. If the movie is neither great nor powerful, tomatoes will be thrown. It feels weird to abbreviate the new picture as simply Oz, since it's a derivation rather than an original, so we'll call it Great and Powerful moving forward despite the misdirection. The filmmakers would approve since the movie begins with a clear and charming admission that James Franco's "Oscar Diggs" is no wizard at all but a travelling con-artist. So I come not to throw tomatoes (too easy), at least not at first, but to marvel at how red they are as they fly through the air.
The trailer brags that the movie comes from the producers of Tim Burton's Eyesore in Wonderland, a gargantuan box office success but one of the worst films of the new century, so there was cause to worry. Could any film be as simultaneously garish and muddy to look at? The happy answer is no.3D technology has come a long way and director Sam Raimi (most famous for the Spider-Man and Evil Dead trilogies) has far more taste and control of his color palette than Burton has had recently. A
fter the movie's old fashioned title sequence and Kansas-set prologue, introducing us to Franco's womanizing wizard before he's whisked off to Oz (you know how), every color of the rainbow does make an appearance. They often share the frame but rather than a muddy color assault, the rainbow here behaves like a joyous community, intermingling peacefully and taking turns in the spotlight. In some small ways it's a worthy tribute to the joys of Golden Age Technicolor. That's especially true when the eye-popping color meets a great visual idea like the Wicked Witch's fiery silhouette (shadow play being a favorite tactic of Raimi's) or a terrific climactic image like the Wizard's pompous arrival in the Emerald City via clouds of colored smoke and cinematic projection.
So, points for visual prowess but visual prowess ages rapidly in cinema. People don't still watch The Wizard of Oz seventy-four years later because the effects look cutting edge. They watch it for Judy Garland and those adorable Friends of Dorothy.
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