Oz: The Great and Wow-erful

WARNING:  The following blog post may contain spoilers.

I recently had the chance to see Oz: The Great and Powerful in 3D. This is only my second 3D movie, and I was pretty impressed with it.  While it would be a great movie even in normal-D, there are lots of scenes where the 3D actually seems worth the extra few dollars. By golly, if I have to wear those silly glasses there better be some stuff flying at my head.

I have very dear memories of the original The Wizard of Oz. My Grandma O’Melia did not have cable, so there was never much on in the way of kids’ shows when we would spend the night at her house.  She would pop in a VHS tape for us instead. These included Smurfs, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, and The Wizard of Oz.  It didn’t matter how many weekends we watched it, it never got old.

One thing that really kept me from getting excited about Oz:  The Great and Powerful was the simple fact that it stars James Franco.  I am just not a Franco fan.  He oozes the dirtbag vibe for me, and I didn’t see how that could fit into an Oz movie.  The funny thing is that the slimeball is exactly what they needed for this movie, and he was perfect!

Another part of the movie I was very happy with was how they tied so many things in with the original.   Some things were simply a part of set design and probably could not be avoided. The Land of Oz still has an Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, and a poppy field.  But there were also more subtle tributes to Wizard that really pleased me.  For instance, this movie also starts out in black and white, and isn’t in color until the characters are in Oz.  Also, Annie says John Gale has asked her to marry him, and so we know she must be Dorothy Gale’s mother.  The circus in the opening scene is the Baum Brothers Circus, saluting L. Frank Baum.  So even though the story line and many of the characters are completely different, we still know this is the prequel to the movie we know and love.

One aspect of Oz that sparked a debate at my post-movie lunch was the crossover characters.  In the original movie, Dorothy travels to Kansas only to find most of the people she knew back on the farm in Kansas.  At the end of the movie, she wakes up from her dream. This explains how the characters could be in both lands at the same time. 

In Oz, Oscar finds fewer crossover characters, but the ones he does find are very important ones. Annie in Kansas is Glinda in Oz, his assistant Frank is Finley the monkey, and the girl in the wheelchair is the China Girl.  This could just as easily be explained by a dream, but there is nothing to indicate that Oscar is dreaming at all.  He never wakes up and says, “And you were there, and you…”  In fact, at the end of the movie, Oscar is still in Oz.

All of this leads me to wonder, was Dorothy really dreaming? Or did she go to Oz after all? If she did, then how did the other characters get there?  Is Oz a real place that is altered by the perception of the visitor, and the people there look like those you are familiar with?  If Dorothy was dreaming, then wouldn’t that mean Oscar was dreaming as well?

Despite all of the new mysteries, Oz is definitely a movie I would recommend.  And spend the extra greens to see it in 3D. After all, when it comes to movies, we’re not in Kansas anymore.


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