Sunday, March 10, 2013

Before the Slippers Were Ruby . . .

I've liked Sam Raimi's work since Army of Darkness.  I thought the first two Spider-Man movies he helmed were quite wonderful and I've been looking forward to The Great and Powerful Oz since I first saw the trailer months ago.  (And yes, Bruce Campbell does have a quick cameo, hidden under layers of makeup as a palace guard.)

But I was also apprehensive.  So much - so very much - could go wrong here.  The Wizard of Oz is an undisputed cinematic masterpiece, from launching then 16-year-old Judy Garland into instant stardom, creating iconic characters through amazing casting - and on and on.  Oz was released in 1939, a year that saw the release of Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - among other.  Truly, it was a banner year.

So how would Sam "Shop smart.  Shop S-Mart" do with this?

Quite well, I'm happy to report.

No, there are no ruby slippers here - Warner Brothers owns those rights, along with the character likenesses of the original Oz, so you won't see a chin mole of the Wicked Witch of the West - but there are some lovely nods to the original Oz as well as to L. Frank Baum's books.  (A few quick ones - the film begins in sepia for Kansas and goes to glorious, over-saturated color for Oz and also widens the screen ratio in Oz, Oz's assistant is named "Frank," the shoddy carnival he's eking out a living at is the "Baum Brothers Circus" and there are some shots of rainbows as Oz crashes into a river in the Land of Oz - he's somewhere over the rainbow, after all.)  At its heart, the original Oz is about discovering what you carry within you is all you have, but is also all you need - that sentiment is carried through here as well as Oz discovers that, while he might want greatness, there's a lot to be said for goodness.

Although you'll see the same actors twice, as characters you meet in Kansas come back in Oz.  Frank becomes Finley.  Annie becomes Glinda.  And Joey King's china doll will probably make you cry, or maybe that's just your allergies acting up.  Oh, and you'll be reminded that evil is bad, but good turned to evil is much, much - MUCH worse.

Don't try to stretch too hard for parallels with the original and you'll be fine - accept this as a stand-alone. Overall, Great and Powerful Oz is thoroughly enjoyable.  Don't wait for the DVD - see this one on the big screen.

1 comment:

LitGal73 said...

Thanks for this. I now feel like I can see this film in good conscience.