A small-time circus magician dreams of being a great man. When a tornado blasts him to the bizarre and distant Land of Oz he finds himself heralded as the Wizard who is foretold to save the oppressed inhabitants. When faced with the power of the Wicked Witch he will have to find out whether or not his two-bit trickery will be enough to save the day.
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – Director: Sam Raimi
Running Length: 130 min
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Genre: Action / Adventure, Fantasy
This high budget extravaganza is clearly designed with kids in mind. Bright colours, magical backdrops and a cute talking monkey sidekick are just some of the delights that ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ has to offer young children. Director Sam Raimi adds his usual bunch of camera tricks into the mix with quick angled close-ups and point of view distortion, whilst James Franco is clearly relishing a rare starring role. He plays up the wily womanising Oscar Diggs (known as ‘Oz’) to the hilt; all charm and smiles one moment then cowardice and greed the next.
‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ is the classic story of a weak-willed man who has to rise to the task at hand. The land of Oz is under the thumb of the Wicked Witch, but it quickly becomes clear that all is not as it seems as the man called ‘Oz’ journeys to the spooky Dark Forest. Although it is fun to see an origin story to the classic Wizard of Oz story and the opening black and white of Kansas transitioning to the full-blown colour of Oz is a nice touch, ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ is rather a shallow attempt at adding to the mythos. In a way, this movie is somewhat held back by having to pay its dues, because what ‘Oz’ does best is be a fun family fantasy adventure that will most likely delight children looking for a lot of bang for their buck.
IS ‘OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
There are several potentially scary moments in ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’. It takes a good 15 minutes before we get to Oz but the release from the slow build up comes from the appearance of an almighty tornado. Oscar finds himself in a hot air balloon that is pulled into the huge twister and as soon as he enters it the soundtrack booms with high volume. The noise is extremely loud and Oscar clings to the basket shouting ‘I don’t want to die!’ Whether or not this will scare your child will depend on their sensitivity to loud noise and lead character distress but the scene only lasts for a few minutes and once Oscar crashes in the beautifully colourful world of Oz, he is calm and carefree at his lucky escape.
Almost immediately after crashing, Oscar meets Theodora, played by Mila Kunis. It isn’t long before they are fleeing from one of the famous winged monkeys, although in this instance they are actually winged baboons. Not much is seen for this first encounter. Oscar and Theodora hide in a cave whilst the baboon is on top, looking for them. Its hand grasps the lip of the cave’s roof, but it is then distracted and flies away. This is a short scene. Neither Oscar nor Theodora are particularly scared at their situation and therefore children are likely to enjoy the tense action rather than be frightened too much at this point.
However, there are a few scarier scenes later in the film. When Oscar and his rag-tag group of friends enter the Dark Forest crows caw loudly and say ‘you’ll die, you’ll die’ then, unbeknownst to them, they are being watched by an ever-increasing amount of large yellow ‘eyes’. In a moment likely to make kids jump, the eyes are revealed to be parts of aggressive snapping plants that lunge at Oscar and co. The soundtrack again gets very loud at this point and the direction switches to ‘plant point of view’ – zooming in and ‘snapping’ at the terrified Oscar’s face. It is a short but intense moment and one that will be especially powerful in 3D as the plants often thrust straight at the camera.
The flying baboons are particularly aggressive. They snarl and screech at the camera on several occasions; mostly shortly after the Dark Forest scene mentioned above. There is one shot of an open-mouthed and sharp toothed baboon flying directly at the camera, although the intensity of this chase sequence is broken up by a comedy crash. This is about as scary as ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ gets so if your child is unhappy at this point it may be that some reassurance will be sufficient for them to last out the rest of the movie, depending on the child’s temperament. The appearance of the Wicked Witch is directed in such a way as to not be too scary but the scene is a special effects bonanza with lots of loud sound effects.
The character of Oscar is rather that of a womaniser. We see nothing but kisses in the film, but he essentially chases after every woman he sees and lies to them constantly. He has a true love and is shown to be honourable and kind to her, and to a woman he meets later that looks like her, but his intentions towards the other woman he meets are clearly not honest. His character does develop throughout the film and his actions towards Theodora do have consequences. This element of his character is quite subtle and we mention it purely if you are unhappy with this type of character being the protagonist in a children’s movie.
Lastly, there is a rather sad scene when Oscar reaches ‘China Town’. This is a town literally made of china but it is shown to have been destroyed. Oscar picks up some broken china pieces and one of them has half a face on. Then we meet a small girl made of china and the implication is clear that the half face Oscar picked up earlier is actually a dead china person. The girl is crying, terrified at the devastation around her, and her legs have been broken off. Oscar is kind and helps her, but her upset lasts around 5 minutes, although she becomes much livelier once fixed.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
There are several scares in this film but they are mostly over fast. However most of the scares are directed straight at the camera and accompanied by loud sharp noises. This may be especially intense if you are watching ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ in 3D. Otherwise this is a bright and colourful film with many magical elements that children are sure to love. The moment when the Wicked Witch breaks through a magical shield barrier and threatens the villagers will be a key indicator of whether or not your child will enjoy her as a villain but the Wicked Witch is played up to full pantomime effect with lots of cackling and over the top acting, so it shouldn’t be too much for children to handle. We would suggest that the intensity of the cinema experience may be too much for most children under 5 but otherwise ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ should be a fun family adventure to be enjoyed and enthralled by.
- Violence: 1/5 (there is much hocus pocus in the magical attacks and painful looking green lightning is used several times on the ‘good’ witch, although it isn’t too sustained)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (the scene with the china girl may be quite upsetting)
- Fear Factor: 2/5
- Sexual Content: 1/5
- Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild blasphemy but this is not overdone)
- Dialogue: 1/5 (the Wicked Witch is constantly threatening anyone who will listen to her)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of believing you can be better, playing to your strengths and finding out what you truly want
Words by Mike Record
Disney's fantastical adventure Oz The Great and Powerful, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum's beloved wizard character.
When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking-that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.