Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff
Released: 8th March 2013
Sam Raimi announced he would make a prequel to the Wizard of Oz and ears couldn’t help but prick up and wait for news. It was a film much anticipated, from the director of Poltergeist and producer of Drag Me To Hell.
But its conception and production wasn’t without its problems. Warner Bros, who own considerable chunks of MGM’s original, were not happy to let one of its biggest cards out of their deck. It held Disney in a vice, watching to wait if there were any infringements of its copyright. A copyright Warner Bros had been very dominant over. Even the witches skin colour not escaping scrutiny. Luke Buckmaster writes how “Oscar-winning makeup artist Howard Berger, [was] assigned the task of turning Mila Kunis into the new Wicked Witch of the West, [and] “was finally able to come up with a shade of green which satisfied Disney’s legal team.” After all these problems, red tape and Warner Bros Legal Bick wall, a film, made with lawyers present, managed to make it to our screens.
The film, as was obvious from the trailer, was visually stunning. It was easy to get lost in Raimi’s maze of CGI and Special effects, his maze of cute china companions, flying bubbles, monkeys and fields of crystal spikes and flowers. The world is a modern update of the Oz, which so shocked and wondered audiences who flocked to view the original. The original made a world which was different to anything thing else, it was a Technicolor paradise, this film feels like the modern equivalent to this.
It makes plenty of subtle references to the original, enough to twig the memories of the observant viewer. Cleverly peeking through the red tape, to remind you where you are, lulling you back into a world so many of us are familiar with. As for a prequel, it is done well, the two films with differing stories and viewpoints, so cleverly clipped together.
James Franco, who I thought was so good in 127 hours, gives a good performance as the wizard. His character is funny and tragic and as mentioned makes sense in the lineage of the two films together. The mad wizard hiding behind a curtain now has more reason, we see behind the mad man of the 1939 film.
I did however find one thing lacking. I found that the characters of the witches were so two dimensional turning sideways caused them to cease to exist. Even Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin-man and the Cowardly lion made more sense than the two wicked witches. Especially, I am sad to say the character of Theodora.
The original wicked witch, is an incredible character yes she is simplistic, but she has a clear motivation, to get those ruby slippers, and dispatch of a poor girls dog. However in this film we get the feeling the younger Wicked Witch of the West was spending too much time in the sleeping poppy fields. One minute a mild mannered loving girl, who sees the beauty in everyone, to a crazy maniacal witch, hell bent on destruction, in a scene that comes out of thin air. Her character is filled with absurdity, with moments of complete stupidity. In the scene in which we find out she loves the wizard, we have only seen her on screen for five minutes and she ridiculously tells him she shall be his queen. Her character seems to be in hyper speed. Perhaps in an attempt to cover everything, her character develops more quickly, but I found it really annoying. Unlike the wizard who seemed like a jigsaw piece perfectly fitted into a puzzle to complete a picture, Theodora seemed like a square peg in a round hole.
This is a stunning film, probably worth the extra money for 3D glasses, but to be honest it falls short in a number of places, but if you go to the cinema searching for perfection you will never enjoy a single film.