Director and effects master Sam Raimi stepped into troubled waters when he decided to take on a prequel to the ever popular and iconic L. Frank Baum tale, Wizard of Oz. Not only were fans skeptical, but his lead actor, Robert Downey, Jr. declined the role, with Johnny Depp following suit. The film was eventually released with mixed ratings from critics and seemed lost in the hordes of 3D releases in the year. Although Oz the Great and Powerful has many shortcomings this 3D Blu-ray isn’t one of them. The film’s captivating visual style is amazingly presented on Blu-ray – one of the best presentations of the year in fact. If you’re looking for something to demo the 3D capabilities of your television, look no further, Oz comes packed with eye popping gimmicks.
The back cover perfectly describes what you can expect in terms of quality; “Feel the magic of Oz the Great and Powerful surround you as it soars off the screen and lands in your living room in spectacular Blu-ray 3D – the absolute best you can get at home.” Disney fulfills its promise and delivers unmatched quality once again. The Oz the Great and Powerful 3D Blu-Ray comes packaged with a good share of bonus features, which include a featurette that highlights Walt Disney’s long history with Oz.
(taken from Evan Saunders’ review)
In 1939, Victor Fleming directed the novel-made-movie, The Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, in which Dorothy Gale finds herself in the magical Land of Oz after being transported there by a tornado. Sam Raimi underwent an arduous journey down the yellow brick road, attempting to bring back the same magic in Oz: The Great and Powerful.
The story is a simple one, much the same as the original was. In Kansas, Oz (James Franco) is nothing but a scheming, womanising, circus magician who soon lands himself in trouble. [Funny enough, he draws his inspiration from Thomas Edison]. Oz then escapes from the circus in a hot-air balloon, only to find himself whipped up into a tornado, and after having survived the ordeal, finds himself in the Land of Oz, where the prophesies foretold the return of the great wizard. In the opening minutes of the film, Raimi opts for a 4:3 aspect ratio in black and white, resembling video capture of the 1930s, without the smoke burns, and quickly transitions into wide-screen colour HD upon Oz reaching the other side. The visuals that proceed from this point are pleasing to the eye, aided by its 3D component.
After capturing the audience and their imaginations, Raimi fails to do much else, as the film enters a state of predictability, along with a host of clichéd and forced storytelling. Mila Kunis and James Franco share some interesting onscreen moments, although not brilliant, are believable. This, too, fades away and the acting develops into overplayed awkwardness, especially on the part of Kunis as her character undergoes a significant transformation. To be fair on them, there was an obvious lack of script to work with. The voiced characters, namely Finley (Zach Braff), the talking, winged monkey and China Girl (Joey King), a girl made of China, are far more likable, and coupled with their good sense of humour detract from some other onscreen performances.
The movie is by no means bad, although seems to be a definite push to introduce as much CGI where possible, which is probably where most of the $200m budget was spent. The time and effort would have been better spent on creating a decent script, and developing more plausible character relationships. I expected much more from this movie, something I initially thought could have made the top 10 list of 2013. There’s no doubting, though, that kids will enjoy the film, with the possibility of a few scares and sad moments thrown in, and having to tag along isn’t the worst thing you could be doing on a Saturday afternoon.
Shot natively in 3D, Oz the Great and Powerful offers multiple planes of depth in crystal sharp quality. It comes to Blu-ray in 1080p MVC encoded video, opening in a windowed 1.33:1 black and white (where 3D is deliberately subdued), but expands to 2.40:1 once we arrive in OZ (where the 3D, like the colour, suddenly comes alive). This is not just another 3D for the sake of 3D films either, Oz the Great and Powerful uses the 3D aspect of the film masterfully and it furthers the story, adding to the wonder of the magical land and its cartoon-esque characters. The contrast is perfect, colors are rich and blacks are dark as they should be. Things often pop in and out of the screen adding to the excitement of the film.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track does what it should and delivers a full surround sound, putting the low and high end frequencies of your sound system to work. It has a wide dynamic range and, like the picture, is remarkably crisp and clear. All the sounds and the music, provided by Danny Elfman, are masterfully mixed. Disney always delivers high quality audio and Oz the Great and Powerful is no exception. It’s exactly what you would expect from a film of this standard.
Familiar extras (which include mainly behind the scenes features) make up the bonus content of the Blu-ray disc:
Walt Disney and the Road to Oz
My Journey in Oz, by James Franco
China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief
Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz
Mr. Elfman’s Musical Concoctions
If you enjoyed the film you are bound to enjoy the Oz the Great and Powerful 3D Blu-ray. It fully embodies Sam Raimi’s vision for the film. It never reaches the heights of Wizard of Oz, but that can be expected. 3D is fun and the film takes full advantage of it. It never looked as good as it does here.