"The Wizard of Oz" is a timeless classic in both its motion picture and book forms. On March 8, 2013, "Oz: The Great and Powerful," a prequel to the original film, will be released. It takes viewers back in imaginary time to when the Wizard actually became the Wizard. It also uses 3-D technology for a powerfully realistic, yet utterly fantastic, visual presentation.
Sam Raimi, whose credits include "Darkman" and the "Spider-Man" series of films, is the director of "Oz: The Great and Powerful." He states that the original 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" is his absolute favorite film, and based on his reputation and excerpts that have been released as trailers, "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is already generating excitement and anticipation among critics and potential viewers alike.
The film, which is made by Disney Studios, also generates attention because of its all-star cast. Mila Kunis libraries Theodora, who later morphs into the Wicked Witch of the West. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams also take on major roles, and the male lead, Oscar Diggs, the Wizard himself, is played by James Franco.
A tornado transports Diggs into a world of fantasy, which he sets out to conquer. He makes it clear that he has no scruples, or as he puts it, "I do not want to be a good man." Devoid of opportunities to be much more than a circus performer in the real world, he realizes he can achieve his ambitions by conquering the rather placid world of Oz. After all, Oz features living toys, friendly swinging monkeys and snapping plants, and even its three resident witches, Theodora, Glinda and Evanora, do not seem particularly intimidating.
However, the three witches are also able to see through Diggs's bravado when the small-time circus performer and con artist proclaims himself as a great wizard. In the end, he demonstrates his powers (undoly with the help of the 3-D effects that make this film a technical standout), and he tries his best to sort out the problems that lurk beneath the pleasant surface of the mystical land of Oz .
In so doing, he does not fulfill his stated goal, but instead does become a good and wise man. He also sets the stage for his further adventures. The original Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum, along with the consequent 1939 MGM film, has already revealed these adventures to audiences.
Actually, there were 13 books in the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, but until now, only "The Wizard of Oz" enjoyed popular popular success. "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is based on several of the remaining books, although Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire took much liberty when composing the script. The question is whether "Oz: The Great and Powerful" will gain more attention for its use of technology and its Hollywood A-list cast than for its literary themes and connection to the Wizard of Oz as an American cultural icon.
The plot of the film, and the array of wizards and witches, will certainly appeal to fans of films such as the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series. If the film receives popular success, it could easily revisit the entire series of Oz books or at least become the first in a series of new Oz films. Sam Raimi has already demonstrated his success as a maker of serial films with his work on the "Spider-Man" series, and James Franco starred in the Spiderman series as well. Another "Spider-Man" veteran whom Raimi drafted for this opus is Danny Elfman. Elfman, who composed the musical score for the film, had had a disagreement with Raimi in the past, but the two surmounted this setback to cooperate once again for the new Oz film.
"Oz: The Great and Powerful" has all the makings of a great and powerful film. It combines fantasy, cutting-edge technology, top actors, a highly acclaimed and skilled director and a positive, universal theme of a flawed man repairing his flaws by helping society. Given the experience of Sam Raimi and Walt Disney Studios in creating films that go on to generate successful sequels, it is highly probable that at least one more Oz film is planned. This is especially the case as L. Frank Baum left behind sufficient literary material which to base an entire series of films.
If "Oz: The Great and Powerful" becomes a box-office hit, it may even bring the characters of the original Wizard of Oz back to life for a new generation. After all, "The Wizard of Oz" was the "Harry Potter" of its time, the difference being that the world was not as connected or as advanced in 1939 as it was when the Potter films were released. Otherwise, it may well succeed as a cult film, with followers who will demand and receive at least one sequel.