With nearly a century between the films, it is delightful to see "Oz the Great and Powerful" staying true to the fantastical ideas of "The Wizard of Oz." Just like the young Dorothy, Oz, who is a circus magician in Kansas, transforms from a victim of reality into a hero in the land of fantasy via the eye of a tornado.
This small-town, low-paid magician lands in this different world in which the people believe he is the savior a prophecy spoke of, just as Dorothy had. In the real world, both were nothing more than ordinary, but upon entering this world both became extraordinary.
Just as it was in "The Wizard of Oz," the main character in "Oz the Great and Powerful" is not the only person that gets carried into this alternate world. People influential in Oz's actual life remain pivotal in this majestic experience. For example, his assistant is transformed into a flying monkey servant, and the woman whom Oz most adored became the good witch that helped him save the folks of Emerald City.
The most impressive character to transform was a little girl sitting in a wheelchair in the front row at Oz's performance. At the end of the show, she asked him to make her walk, something he obviously could not do — he was a trickster, not a miracle worker. However, in the world of color, this little girl became a resident of China Town, where everything and everyone was made of china. China Town had been pillaged by the wicked witch's minions, but the girl survived. She was found by Oz and his bellhop monkey with legs that had been amputated by a fallen table. Thanks to some super glue he had in his pocket, Oz could finally redeem himself and help the girl walk again.
Possibly, the most noteworthy scene happened before the girl was discovered — when Oz earned his servant. There were a few peculiar things in this scene. First, the monkey was entangled in vines, crying out for help when Oz showed up and cut him free. The monkey had a sense of urgency incomprehensible to Oz. It was at this time that the monkey pointed out the lion charging towards them. Thanks to the magician's quick thinking and whimsical sorcery, the lion was scared away and they were saved, leading to the monkey pledging his life to Oz. The beast being frightened away is somewhat ironic since the lion in "The Wizard of Oz" sought out the king of Emerald City (Oz) in hopes of gaining courage.
Everything in reality is black and white, but traveling to a fantasy land allows for a brightened atmosphere, an imagined paradise so full of vibrancy. This lively, enchanting land was elevated due to the impressive special effects. With lush green rolling hills, electric blue waterfalls, roses blooming from gems, it is difficult to imagine the existence of dark evil. However, it exists and it was well represented in the form of flying baboons, and wicked tree limbs with daunting eyes reminiscent of the Cheshire cat from Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland."
Speaking of the wonderland, it seems the role of Oz, which was played by James Franco, was something better suited for well-seasoned actor Johnny Depp. The character was a quirky guy, something of a lady's man — a combination Depp has mastered over the years. The Mad Hatter transitioning into the magician that saves the people with his clever trickery would have been more fluid than the villain from Spider-Man becoming this hero.
Despite what may be considered an error in casting, this movie is definitely worth the watch. It is an empowering family film, delivering messages of togetherness as well as personal worthiness and importance in a comic, witty way.