Editor’s note: We all love movies, but rather than ask a syndicated columnist who has never visited our beautiful High Desert, we commissioned our own local movie critic: Nolan P. Smith to review films and give us a local perspective. Enjoy!
By Jason T. Smith
(Hesperia) “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz…” That line is ingrained in the history of film and literature, something that is instantly recognizable. The novel created in 1900 by L. Frank Baum is a classic, with the film adaptation holding a special place in the hearts of all who saw it. Yet, here in 2013, are fans still wanting to revisit the yellow brick road once again? That is what Walt Disney’s Oz-The Great and Powerful aims to find out.
Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Hercules The Legendary Journeys), this new film is a prequel to the original, groundbreaking title. But there is no Dorothy here: the hero of the story is small time magician and con man Oscar Diggs, better known by his stage name of Oz (James Franco). When a twister rips through a town in Kansas, Oz finds himself transported to a new, breathtaking land: the Land of Oz. In this land, he is seen as the foretold savior, as flying monkeys, witches, munchkins and more surround him. But all is not what it seems, as Oz learns about the three very different witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams) in the land and how they will end up changing his life in one way or another.
The land of Oz is simply amazing: the fantastical beauty of a land we have all conjured dreams from at one time or another is something that needs to be seen on the big screen to fully appreciate. The creatures, as well as the citizens of Oz, bring depth to the land of the yellow brick road, but not by swaying from its roots. Actually, the film follows a lot of cues from the original, as people from Oz’s life in Kansas can be seen in a different light in Oz.
James Franco shows once again that he can carry a film on his shoulders, as he portrays the womanizing, conceited Oz to perfection. The three young actresses who bring the witches to life for a new generation do so amazingly, keeping with some classic Oz lore in the process. But it is the non-human creatures that shine brightest, like the loveable winged monkey Finley (Zach Braff), and the little China girl (Joey King) who befriends the Wizard and becomes part of his makeshift group of friends.
By the end of it, you will feel like you were transported to another land, leaving behind the turmoil of the day-to-day life we all know. That is the goal of any film: to let the audience escape for a small amount of time in the day, to experience things they couldn’t in reality. Oz the Great and Powerful meets this goal easily, and is certainly the best film to be released so far this year.