Returning to Oz – the Great and Powerful

 “I know I’m not the wizard that you expected. But I might just be the wizard that you need.”

– Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, aka the Wizard of Oz

I’ll be honest, my hopes weren’t high when I sat down to watch Oz the Great and Powerful, prequel to The Wizard of Oz.

Yeah ok, I admit it, I’m biased. The Wizard of Oz was my childhood film. I was obsessed with it, begging my mum to put it on at any given opportunity. I loved everything about it: Judy Garland’s dulcet tones, the piercing cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West, the wondrous, glistening, magical Emerald City.

Knowing that this film was released just last year, I wondered if it could be anywhere near worthy of its predecessor . Which is, confusingly, its successor,if we’re going all chronological.

I was, however, pleasantly surprised. This film is nothing like the Wizard of Oz in some respects, and exactly like it in others.

The story follows the travels of mischievous, philandering magician Oscar “Oz” Diggs. Forced to flee from black-and-white Kansas in his hot air balloon in 1905, he’s whisked into the Land of Oz in all its glorious technicolour.

He’s met by the beautiful Theodora, one of three sisters who are all witches. She believes Oz has been sent to destroy the Wicked Witch, responsible for killing the King of Oz and now lurking in the depths of the Dark Forest.

Not unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Oz meets a few friends as he and a lovestruck Theodora make their way to the Emerald City. This includes cheeky, loveable monkey Finley (think Donkey in the Shrek films).

At the Emerald City we’re introduced to the second sister in the trilogy, the seemingly good but secretly evil Evanora. She directs Oz to the home of the Wicked Witch, who, in fact turns out to be sister number three – Glinda the Good Witch.

Meanwhile, Evanora tricks Theodora into believing Oz has betrayed her by falling in love with Glinda. Theodora takes a bite of a poisoned apple, which she is told will ease her heartache. But instead, she’s transformed into a Wicked Witch. Great make-up, by the way.

Back in happy land, Oz, Glinda, Finley and China Girl (wee doll discovered during the journey) head back to the Emerald City, to dethrone Evanora. Here we see the famous intoxicating poppy field all Wizard of Oz fans will be familiar with. The fumigating flowers manage to halt a host of flying baboons, dispatched from castle turrets by to destroy Oz and his compatriots.

Glinda is captured by the baboons, but eventually Oz gets to the Emerald City with his friends. The people of Oz fear he’s abandoned them when he fakes his own death. However, it’s just a clever ploy to fool the wicked witch sisters Theodora and Evanora and to doing what he does best – trickery and illusion. He manages to flash up a fire-breathing, holographic version of himself. The witches scarper, and lo and behold, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Wizard of Oz.

Essentially, Oz the Great and Powerful works because it contains the two most important components in any film: A great story and good actors. In my opinion it doesn’t try to be too like the original Wizard of Oz, but contains enough elements to please Oz fans.

Oz wandering through the forest with his pals Finley the monkey and the China Girl is reminiscent of Dorothy’s journey with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. I could almost hear the distant cry of “Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” Likewise, Oz presents his friends with gifts at the end of the film – something he will do once again at the end of The Wizard of Oz. The real gift, of course, is the triumph of good over evil. And thus, harmony is restored. The munchkins are happy, Oz is happy, Glinda’s happy, everybody’s happy. At least, that is, until a young Kansas girl’s wish to be somewhere over the rainbow results in her house flattening a wicked witch. That causes a right ding dong…

If you like fantasy adventure films, I would recommend Oz the Great and Powerful. And, naturally, The Wizard of Oz.

Glinda: For the record, I know you had it in you all along.
Oz: Greatness?
Glinda: No, better than that. Goodness.

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