The movie gives us the back story of how the "Wizard" (James Franco) came to Oz. "Oz" is a magician in a traveling carnival, as well as a shameless womanizer. It's this last attribute that gets him into trouble, as using the carnival balloon to flee a sticky situation puts him into the path of a Kansas "twister" that carries him to the Land of Oz.
This version of the Land of Oz is a phantasmagoric landscape of the type beloved by 3-D effects people. After overflying dizzying and impossible chimneys of rock, Oz's balloon crash-lands in a torrential river, which then carries him over a waterfall far higher than any on earth. After he washes up at the feet of witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) their route back to the Emerald City reveals that they are STILL thousands of feet above the general landscape. (Later long shots of the city don't reveal any mountain range in the near distance, either--.) There are other bits of illogic as well, not explained by the Oz dream-time. Why is Oz working in a cheap carnival, when he has a levitation trick far more advanced than his time should have had? Why is the inside of his wagon bigger than the outside (Is Oz a Time Lord?--now THERE's a crossover for you--)? Why does witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz) have a faintly British accent when no one else in Oz does? Why doesn't the China Girl (Joey King) have a name?
Costuming is another area that's wildly uneven. Most are interesting to look at, but one wonders why the designer seems to hate Mila Kunis. Her first outfit consists of a peculiarly huge velour hat with matching jacket over skin-tight PVC britches and high-heeled boots--highly un-Oz-like. Her "at home" dress is a strapless "prom bomb," which makes no sense either and doesn't match he sister's slinky gowns in any way.
Ultimately, these are shruggable,although annoying, since there's much other that's carefully done. When Oz is exploring the devastated China Country, the sounds the shifting shards make is that of china on china, and not glass. I'm pretty sure the statue of Glinda's father is an image of Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard in 1939, but you can't really see it clearly.
The story of how Oz, Glinda (Michelle Williams), and the free people of Oz liberate the Emerald City and bring about the state of affairs that exists until Dorothy Gale arrives is entertaining and fun, with a few actual surprises.
All the principal actors give good performances, and they are well supported by an interesting cast of secondary characters.
Despite its flaws, we enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to fans of Oz and of fantasy generally.
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