'Oz the Great and Powerful' Review: Old-School Wonder Powers Prequel

'Oz the Great and Powerful' Review: Old-School Wonder Powers Prequel

Sam Raimi’s grand and magical new picture recalls the sense of wonder that movies could once awaken in us.

Unlike such recent 3D fantasy riffs as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Jack the Giant Slayer (which tanked last weekend), Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful is untainted by modernist irony — it carries us back to the clear-cut emotions and moral outlooks of traditional fairy tales and asks us to take them straight. And while the digital marvels with which these sorts of movies now swarm have come to seem rote, this film deploys them with fresh glee.

The 3D, for example. If we must have 3D, let’s really have it. Not just for tastefully subtle depth effects; let’s have gold coins, gouts of water, and heavily fanged flying baboons sailing off the screen and right into our faces. And a big serious score — put in that call to Danny Elfman.

Raimi, who knows cheap thrills from his Evil Dead days, and bottomless budgets from his Spider-Man tenure, is just the man for this job.

The story is a prequel to the 1939 Wizard of Oz, filling in the background of the famous wizard and relating how he came to be in that land of witches and winkies and scampering munchkins. Like the earlier film, this one’s opening passages have been shot in black-and-white, and they’re framed in a boxy, old-fashioned aspect ratio that gives them an appropriately antique feel. (The story is set in an unspecified period that seems plainly Victorian.)

Read the full review at Reason.com.