“Oz The Great and Powerful,” starring James Franco and Mila Kunis, opens today nationwide.
The famous Land of Oz is once again adapted from L. Frank Baum’s children story into an entirely new tale. Director Sam Raimi, however, offers a fresh recreation with the same soulful message.
Main character Oscar Diggs is thrown into the fantastical Land of Oz to unknowingly embark on an epic adventure of magic, love and the opportunity of greatness. Pulled into the issues of this world and its inhabitants, Oscar transformers himself through a challenging journey with three witches (Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz) and a monkey (Zach Braff).
“Oz” serves as an unofficial prequel to Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” with new elements and twists, but sharing the same sense of love that Baum originally created between characters.
“I tried to make the characters as richly developed as they possibly could be with the help of these great actors,” Raimi said.
In addition to influence of Baum, Raimi said that he drew inspiration from the original illustrator of his books, W. W. Denslow, as well as the 1939 classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz.”
“[In the movie], we learn from the Wizard that all of us are complete, all of us broken, lonely … have within us the thing to make us complete if we only recognize it,” Raimi said. “That gave me a great source of inspiration. It reminds me of the enduring power of love after death for instance, how things go on. And I always believed that in my heart.”
One of the more prominent twists is the new comedic element of Franco’s character, Oscar, a small-time Kansas magician with a questionable moral code.
“My character [is] a kind of con man that [is] stumbling through Oz and … gets into a lot of awkward situations,” Franco said. “His character starts off as a flawed man. He’s selfish, a bit of a womanizer; he thinks that happiness will come from financial success and fame. It blinds him to the love of the people around him.
“I saw that one of the reasons to start the character off that way was that … it would allow for growth in the character, and that the movie would not just be a physical journey through a mystical land, but it would also involve an inner journey of the character,” he said. “Oscar would go from this flawed person to possibly a better, becoming a better person.”
Franco said that he thinks that the combination of the comical and fantastical aspects to the film gives the movie an edge that other versions of the story don’t have.
“I just thought it would be a juxtaposition of two different things … that would result in something entertaining,” he said. “I like this idea of a comedic character within an epic movie.”
Running just more than two hours in length, “Oz” received several exceptional reviews with a 7.2 out of 10 on imdb.com, three out of four stars from USA Today and a certified fresh 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
“All I can say is I hope the audience enjoys it,” Raimi said.