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Mila Kunis does a wonderful Wicked Witch of the West

Everyone loves Oz. Americans especially (given that the box office results are kind so far). I however was never exposed to the delightful original until I was well into my bachelor degree in media. Forever and always will I wish for movie savvy parents who would have put me in front of the 1939 version as a kid because I know my love for it would have run deeper than it does now.

I love it in an “wow they used color for (one of the) first time and they decided to make good use out of it”. And there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t envy the moviegoers of the late 30s the experience of having the black and white screen be washed with a brilliant techni-colour. But alas the beginning only has the effect of mere curiousity, and in this prequel version of the land of Oz, it only serves as a nod to the original. One of the few nods that Disney could manage to do without being sued for all the gold in the wizard’s treasury by Warner Bros. (who holds the rights for the original movie). The wow factor when the screen (finally) goes cinemascope and the colours come back, and the 3D becomes deeper, would have been amazing back in the day. But it’s nice, you know, quaint.

If you are going to go watch this movie, and you do not have a child easily at hand to force to come with you, be aware that you should set your mind to childish. It is not that the film can’t be enjoyed by adults, because I did enjoy it, but half the movie is the wonder and awe at Oz itself in all it’s CGI beauty. I would have enjoyed having a child next to me, gasping at the giant flowers opening as James Franco’s Oz walks by and giggling at the sharp-toothed water fairies. It’s like christmas. It’s just not the same.

The one thing I will truly commend Disney for on this one, is that it is the first time in years that I have decided that it was a good choice to go to the 3D rather than the 2D version. I always go to the 3D in the vain hope that someone has figured out how to make it worth my money, but I am most of the time left disappointed. This time I had several instances of near ducking behind the seat because I thought spears and flying baboons were coming at me. And yes IT IS a cheap trick, AND it rips me out of the trance that is movie watching AND you feel more like you’ve mistaken and gone to Walt Disney World rather than your local cinema. But at least then there is a point to the 3D. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Now this prequel starts with the semi-talented magician/scientist, Oz, who is not doing so well in the real (black and white 4:3) world. Work trouble, girl trouble and personality issues in abundance. He is whisked into the land of Oz in the same way Dorothy was, that blasted twister, but in a hot air balloon so that we can get a nice panoramic view of the land of Oz (don’t get confused now) before our hero crashes into a terrifying river. This is where I can imagine the creative team at Disney are solely putting in action sequences so they can justify later making an Oz Theme park and then have a water-splash ride, a temple run style ride, a Soarin’ (simulator of paragliding in EPCOT) type simulator for the hot air balloon twister ride and the bubble escape etc. etc. etc. There are so many instances that these thoughts pop into my mind that it almost ruins it for me. But then again I will probably go to the park when it comes so I can’t really complain 😉

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Emerald City. Loads of these panoramic views of Oz makes the movie a delight to the eyes.

What makes “Oz – the great and powerful” really worth watching is Mila Kunis’ transformation from the sweet, naive and neutral witch to the full blown green skinned Wicked Witch of the West that we know. Granted she plays the role of sweet witch horribly and has several corny dialogue bits that will make you cringe, but once Oz says “ByeBye” to the “over attached girlfriend” that she is, we know from the tears that she cries, which leaves scars in her beautiful, spotless face, that this is going to be great. And she is. I can hardly tell it’s little Mila Kunis under that bent old witch’s hat.

The visual effects, which is why you are watching this movie after all, to see Oz in absolute splendor, are impecable. As they should be after a budget like this. But the one animated character that stood out and really created an emotion in the audience (I could tell by child laughter that they liked this one) is the petite porcelain girl who is saved by Oz’ magic (read: glue) and who indeed is NOT computer animated, but if I read the credits right, is actually a marionette puppet. Kudos to Disney for getting in some old techniques as well. I am a firm believer that visual effects work best when blended with stop-motion, mechanical contraptions and other “real life” special effects.

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In the middle we can see the petite porcelain doll whom you instantly want to take care of (she might break after all).

It might look a bit like I didn’t care for the movie, which is not true I did like it, for what it is. A fairy tale for children with little character development, some comic relief and loads of oooos and awwwws on the visuals. Kidnap a child and go and watch it (then please give the child unharmed back to his or her parents;). Maybe some of the magic will rub of on you 😉

PS: My first encounter with the world of Oz was “Wicked” on Broadway in 2006. I cannot help that my insides are filled with fear that the plans for doing a film adaptation now will slow down to the trickle of a snail or be thrown out completely. “Oz – the great and powerful” doesn’t take that prequel story into account at all so it is a completely different prequel scenario. I pray to all the starlight in the univers that they will still make it. Just make it for grown-up sad musical lovers like me. I’m sure I’m not the only one… 😀

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