Director Sam Raimi shouldn't need a marketing lifeline like a "Wizard of Oz" prequel.
The man behind the "Spider-Man" trilogy and the "Evil Dead" franchise isn't a hired gun, period. Our first extended look at Raimi's "Oz the Great and Powerful," a tale set before the events of the 1939 film classic, still should give one pause.
It's colorful, all right, with every hue in the rainbow in attendance and maybe a few new shades just for fun. The original "Oz" didn't need CGI splendors to earn its secure place in pop culture. Yet this "Oz" is overrun with digital creatures and sets borne from the circuits of a computer system more powerful than even the Scarecrow's new brain could imagine.
James Franco is the future wizard and current huckster, a man who convinces everyone in the land of Oz he's got some magic up his sleeve. He'll need a trick or three in order to confront the wicked witch and her minions.
"Oz" stars Mila Kunis ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mountain") and Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardner") round out the cast, but it's the "Wizard of Oz" connection that matters most.
The "Oz" franchise shouldn't be off limits to today's storytellers. Broadway's "Wicked" showed how the yellow brick template can yield a tale tall enough to stand next to Judy Garland's justly beloved feature. If the new "Oz" favors razzle dazzle over heartfelt storytelling and characters, it will simply make "The Wizard of Oz" look even more magical by comparison.
"Oz the Great and Powerful" arrives in theaters March 2013.