Fade in. A monochrome prologue captures a dusty Kansas and establishes the sham wizard Oscar, played by Franco. A tornado carries us into technicolour and the Land of Oz. The digital magic of the studios creates a lavish setting for the adventures that follow. So far so enchanting…
From here we travel with Oz, the good witch Evanora (Kunis) and his new monkey companion voiced by Zach Braff. Pantomime like pauses and opening ‘love scene’ only slightly less subtle than the luminous background begin to grate, but the entrance into the Emerald city gets the action going.
The script dances well around the copyright of the formidable Warner Brothers who hold domain over the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz. Service is paid to the characters there and in the book; even the Munchkins make an appearance. Borrowings from smash musical Wicked establish the dynamic between the three witches and Oz’s part in the debacle.
Visually it is stunning. A combination of multi-coloured land, fantastical creatures and fireworks use the 3D to great effect. Sam Raimi brings in some of his darker leanings in the terrifying flying baboons (yes baboons) and references to the undead.
Franco is not quite enough of a rogue to make a totally convincing young Oz, but claims of woeful miscasting feel overly critical and exaggerated. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz for example deliver potential schmaltz with subtlety and have a great showdown at the end.
As with all Disney productions there is a lesson to be learned and the moral is that self-belief (and a little civil unrest) can beat powerful magic. You should also be careful about trading in goodness for power, the physical results are not something that photoshop can fix.
The pre-amble to the big finish is slightly laboured but the theatrical visuals and gasps maintain the pace. Overall a good twisting tale through the Land of Oz. So far so enchanting…