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- Oz the Great and Powerful
Friday, July 12, 2013
Oz the Great and Powerful is a 2013 American fantasy adventure film directed by Sam Raimi, produced by Joe Roth, and written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner. The film stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, Mila Kunis as Theodora, Rachel Weisz asEvanora, and Michelle Williams as Glinda.
The film is based on L. Frank Baum's Oz novels, and also pays homage to the 1939MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Set 20 years before the events of the books, Oz the Great and Powerful focuses on Oscar Diggs, who arrives in the Land of Oz and encounters three witches: Theodora, Evanora and Glinda. Oscar is then enlisted to restore order in Oz, while struggling to resolve conflicts with the witches and himself.
Oz the Great and Powerful premiered at the El Capitan Theatre on February 14, 2013, and with general theatrical release by Walt Disney Pictures on March 8, 2013, through the Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, as well as in conventional theatres. Despite mixed reviews, the film was a box office success, grossing $491 million worldwide in revenue, $149 million of which was earned during its opening weekend worldwide.
In 1905 Kansas, Oscar "Oz" Diggs works as a small-time magician in a traveling circus. As a storm approaches, the circus strongman learns Oscar has flirted with his wife and goes to attack him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that takes him to the Land of Oz. There the witch Theodora believes him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the King of Oz. En route to theEmerald City, Oscar flirts with Theodora, who falls in love with him, wishing to be his queen when he rules Oz. They encounter the flying monkey Finley, who pledges a life debt to Oscar when he saves Finley from a lion.
Upon reaching the Emerald City, Oscar meets Theodora's sister Evanora, who is skeptical of Oscar being the foretold savior. Evanora tells Oscar that the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her powers. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl, a young, living china doll whose home and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. The three reach the forest and, upon retrieving the wand, discover the "Wicked Witch" to be Glinda the Good Witch, who tells them Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and manipulates Theodora against Oscar by magically creating a replica of the music box Oscar had previously given Theodora (as well as every other woman he had ever met) and also by showing Theodora an image of Oscar with Glinda, saying he is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple she promises will remove her heartache. Theodora bites into it, realizing too late that Evanora was the true Wicked Witch all along, and transforms into a heartless, green-skinned Wicked Witch as the apple causes her heart to shrivel up and die.
Glinda brings Oscar's group to her domain in Oz to escape Dark Queen Evanora's army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides to Oscar that she knows he is not truly a wizard. However, she still believes she can still help them stop Evanora, and provides him an "army" of Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins to do it. Theodora enters Glinda's domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar before threatening to kill her and her allies with the Emerald City's well-prepared army. Oscar despairs that her army cannot defeat the Wicked Witches, but after telling China Girl about the exploits of his hero Thomas Edison, he realizes they can fight using prestidigitation.
Glinda and her subjects mount a mock attack on the Wicked Witches' castle using an automated army of scarecrows blanketed by thick fog. The Wicked Witches are tricked into sending their flying baboons through a poppy field that puts the baboons to sleep. However, two baboons manage to capture Glinda, who is brought to the city square and enchained. Meanwhile, Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, only to seemingly abandon them in a hot air balloon loaded with the king's gold, which Theodora destroys with a fireball. Oscar then secretly reveals himself to his friends, having faked his death. Oscar uses a hidden smoke machine andimage projector to present a giant, holographic image of his face as his "true" form, and a fireworks display to attack and intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in her castle while Theodora flees on her broom, unable to hurt the "invincible" wizard; Oscar says Theodora is welcome back should she find good in her heart again. Glinda is freed by China Girl and defeats Evanora, destroying the Wicked Witch's emerald necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance. The banished Evanora is carried off by the two remaining flying baboons.
The film concludes with Oscar, now King of Oz, using his projector to sustain the belief he is still a powerful savior, and to keep the citizens of Oz united against the Wicked Witches. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker, who helped build his machines, receives Oscar's camping-tool jackknife; Knuck, the grumpy Munchkin herald and an ally of Glinda, receives a mask with a smiley face; the long-suffering Finley receives Oscar's friendship; and China Girl accepts her friends as her new family. Finally, Oscar takes Glinda behind the curtains of his projector and kisses her.
Oz the Great and Powerful is set in the year 1905, 20 years before the events of the original Wizard of Oz novel. The film features several artistic allusions and technical parallels to the books and the 1939 film.
The film's opening sequence is presented in black-and-white, fading into color when the protagonist arrives in Oz; additionally, theaspect ratio gradually widens from 4:3 Academy ratio to 2.35:1 widescreen, and the audio transitions from monaural to surround sound. As in the 1939 film, Glinda travels in giant bubbles, and the Emerald City is actually emerald; in the novel, characters wear tinted glasses to make it appear so. The iconic green look of the Wicked Witch of the West is closer to her look in the classic film, as the Witch is a short, one-eyed crone in the novel. The Wicked Witches are portrayed as sisters, an idea which originated in the 1939 film. Several actors who play Oz characters make cameos in the Kansas segments, such as Frank, Oscar's assistant whom he refers to as his 'trained monkey' (Frank's "Oz" counterpart is the winged monkey Finley) and a young girl in a wheelchair who serves as the Kansas counterpart to China Girl (in Kansas Oscar was unable to make the wheelchair-bound young girl walk and he gets a chance to do so when he repairs China Girl's broken legs). Another character, Annie (Michelle Williams), informs Oscar that she has beenproposed to by a John Gale, presumably hinting at Dorothy Gale's parental lineage.
Other referenced characters include the Scarecrow, who is built by the townspeople as a scare tactic; the Tin Woodman, whose creator is introduced as the Master Tinker; and the Cowardly Lion, who is frightened away by Oscar after attacking Finley. Similarly, various other races of Oz are depicted besides the Munchkins; the Quadlings, the china doll inhabitants of Dainty China Country, and and theWinkies (who went unnamed in the classic film). Similarly, Glinda - at least during her temporary banishment - is referred to by her title in the novel (the Good Witch of the South), unlike the 1939 film, where her character's title is "The Good Witch of the North" (due to her character being merged with The Good Witch of the North). Theodora's tears leave scars on her face, reflecting her weakness to water (which would cause her eventual downfall against Dorothy the savior of Oz). Also, Oz is presented as a real place as it is in the novel, and not a dream as the 1939 film presents, though this could be seen as a reinterpretation of what the previous film implied, rather than faithfulness to the novel.
- James Franco plays Oscar "Oz" Diggs, a womanizing con artist, stage magician, and barnstormer who is part of a traveling circus in the Midwest. He is whisked in a hot air balloon by a tornado to the Land of Oz, where he is believed to be a wizard destined to bring peace to the land, forcing him to overcome his dubious ethics to convince his peers he is the hero needed by the people of Oz.
- Mila Kunis plays Theodora, a beautiful and naïve Good Witch who has the Land of Oz's best interests at her heart. She believes that Oscar is the wizard prophesied to defeat the seemingly evil Glinda in the Dark Forest, developing an attraction to him in the process. Evanora gradually manipulates Theodora into thinking Oscar has betrayed her for Glinda, ushering her transformation into the Wicked Witch of the West.
- Rachel Weisz plays Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East. She is the protector of the Emerald City and former advisor to the original king of Oz, whose murder she has committed prior to the events of the film, framing his daughter Glinda for the murder. Being a Wicked Witch, she has a hideous form which she hides by wearing a necklace that gives her the appearance of a stunning young woman. She deceives Oscar by manipulating Glinda as the Wicked Witch.
- Michelle Williams plays Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. She rules and protects a peaceful kingdom in Oz inhabited by kind Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins. Through Evanora's manipulations, however, the other people of Oz believe her to be the Wicked Witch responsible for terrorizing the land. She guides Oscar to achieve his destiny of defeating Evanora after he learns the truth that Evanora deceived him, becoming his love interest as well.
- Zach Braff provides the voice of Finley, a winged monkey who pledges an irrevocable life debt to Oscar, believing him to be the prophesied wizard, for saving him from the Cowardly Lion. He quickly regrets his decision when Oscar reveals he is not a wizard, but nonetheless becomes his loyal ally.
- Braff also plays Frank, Oscar's long-suffering yet loyal assistant in Kansas.
- Bill Cobbs plays Master Tinker, the leader of the tinkers ruled by Glinda. He is also implied to be the same tinsmith who builds theTin Woodman.
- Joey King provides the voice of China Girl, a young, living china doll from China Town where everything, including its inhabitants, is made of china. Her home is destroyed by Evanora, leaving her its only survivor when she is found by Oscar, with whom she forms a strong friendship.
- King also plays a wheelchair-bound girl in the audience of Oscar's magic show in Kansas.
- Tony Cox plays Knuck, the herald and fanfare player of Emerald City who is allied with Glinda.
- Stephen R. Hart and Bruce Campbell play Winkie guards at the Emerald City.
- Abigail Spencer plays May, Oscar's temporary magic assistant in Kansas and one of his several fleeting loves in the film.
- Tim Holmes plays the strongman who attacks Oscar for trying to court his wife, prompting Oscar to take the hot air balloon that sends him to the Land of Oz.
Raimi, who often casts friends and actor-regulars in cameo roles, cast his brother Ted Raimi as a small-town skeptic at a magic show who yells, “I see a wire!”; Jim Moll, his former theater teacher at Birmingham Groves High School, as Townsperson No. 10; Jim Bird his former social studies teacher at Birmingham West Maple Middle School (Junior High) and the "Ladies of the Evil Dead" — actressesEllen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker and Theresa Seyferth a.k.a. Theresa Tilly a.k.a. Sarah York from Raimi's The Evil Dead —as three Quadling townspeople.
Disney's history with Oz
After the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Walt Disney planned to produce an animated film based on the first of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. Roy O. Disney, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, was informed by Baum's estate that they had sold the film rights to the first book to Samuel Goldwyn, who re-sold it to Louis B. Mayer in 1938. The project was developed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer into the well-known musical adaptation starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamiltonand Billie Burke, released the following year.
In 1954, when the film rights to Baum's remaining thirteen Oz books were made available, Walt Disney Productions acquired themfor use in Walt Disney's television series Disneyland and the live-action film Rainbow Road to Oz, which was abandoned and never completed. Disney's history with the Oz series continued with the 1985 film Return to Oz, which performed poorly, both critically and commercially, but has developed a cult following since its release. After Return to Oz, Disney lost the film rights to theOz books and they were subsequently reverted to the public domain. In 2005, Disney's history with the Oz series continued with the 2005 musical television film The Muppets' Wizard of Oz starting the The Muppets was broadcast on ABC. In 2012, Disney's history with the Oz series continued with the March of the Oreos is a short song featured in the 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph. It is sung by King Candy's Oreo guards and is a parody of the song March of the Winkies from the 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz.
Screenwriter Mitchel Kapner was intrigued by the prospect of exploring the origins of the Wizard of Oz character after reading the sixth novel in the series The Emerald City of Oz. Producer Joe Roth became involved for nearly the same reason as Kapner, stating that "...during the years that I spent running Walt Disney Studios -- I learned about how hard it was to find a fairy tale with a good strong male protagonist. You've got your Sleeping Beauties, your Cinderellas and your Alices. But a fairy tale with a male protagonist is very hard to come by. But with the origin story of the Wizard of Oz, here was a fairy tale story with a natural male protagonist. Which is why I knew that this was an idea for a movie that was genuinely worth pursuing." Kapner and co-writer Palak Patel presented the idea toSony Pictures but were turned down. In 2009, the project was set up at Walt Disney Pictures when the studio commissioned Oz the Great and Powerful under the working title Brick during the tenure of then Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, who was succeeded by Rich Ross and later Alan Horn, a succession in management that a major studio release is rare to survive. David Lindsay-Abaire was later hired, replacing Patel, who was reassigned as executive producer.
Roth initially sought out Robert Downey, Jr. for the titular role of the Wizard in April 2010. By summer of that year, Sam Raimi was hired to direct the film from a shortlist that reportedly included directors Sam Mendes and Adam Shankman. In January 2011, Raimi met with Downey, but did not secure his casting. With Downey's disinterest acknowledged, Johnny Depp was then approached due to his previous collaboration with the studio in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Alice in Wonderland. Depp liked the role but declined involvement, citing his commitment to another Disney tentpole film, The Lone Ranger. The film was without a lead until February when James Franco entered final negotiations to star in the film (including a $7 million salary), five months before filming was scheduled to begin. Franco and Raimi had previously worked together on the Spider-Man trilogy. Franco received training with magician Lance Burton to prepare for the role.
Screenwriter Mitchell Kapner adopted information about the Wizard from L. Frank Baum's novels to conceptualize an original story. Raimi made sure that the film would also "nod lovingly" to the 1939 film and inserted several references and homages to that film.Disney wanted to reduce the film's production budget to be approximately $200 million.
In June 2011, composer Danny Elfman was chosen to score Oz the Great and Powerful, despite Elfman and Raimi having a falling-out over Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Elfman declaring that they would never again work together.
Casting calls were put out for local actors in Michigan.
Principal photography for Oz the Great and Powerful began July 25, 2011, at Raleigh Michigan Studios in Pontiac, Michigan, employing 3D cameras.
Raimi opted to use practical sets in conjunction with computer-generated imagery during filming. Physical sets were constructed so the actors could have a visual reference, as opposed to using green screen technology for every scene. Chroma key compositing was only used for background pieces. Zach Braff and Joey King were on set, recording their dialogue simultaneously with the other actors, whenever their CG characters were present in a scene. Puppetry was employed for a physical version of the China Girl to serve as a visual key-point for actors to manipulate. Braff wore a blue motion capture suit to create Finley's movements and had a camera close to his face for the flying sequences to obtain facial movements.
Art director Robert Stromberg, who worked on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, drew inspiration from the films of Frank Capra andJames Wong Howe to achieve the Art Deco design he envisioned for the Emerald City. Stromberg contrasted the colorful tonal qualities of Oz with the restrained appearance of Alice, affirming that although both films explore similar fantasy worlds, the overall atmosphere and landscape of each "are completely different." In 2011, Stromberg and his team visited the Walt Disney Archives during the pre-production phase to reference production art from Disney's animated films such as Pinocchio, Bambi, Fantasia, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, drawing from designs and textures, in order to give certain settings in the film an affectionate nod to the classic Disney style. Costume designer Gary Jones focused on authenticity with his wardrobe designs: "We started by doing a lot of research and having ideas of the ways (costumes) should look in order to be (historically accurate) but as we went on, we really began creating a whole new world."
The production team worked under the constraint of abiding by the stipulations set forth by Warner Bros., the legal owner of the rights to iconic elements of the 1939 MGM film(via its Turner Entertainment division), including the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland. Therefore, Disney was unable to use them nor any character likenesses from that particular film. This extended to the green of the Wicked Witch's skin, for which Disney used what its legal department considered a sufficiently different shade dubbed "Theostein" (a portmanteau of "Theodora" and "Frankenstein"). Additionally, the studio could not use the signature chin mole of Margaret Hamilton's portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West, nor could they employ the yellow brick road's swirl design forMunchkinland.
In addition to the legal issues, the film was also faced with delays when several cast members went on hiatus due to unrelated commitments and circumstances. Rachel Weisz left halfway through the shoot to film her entire role in The Bourne Legacy, Michelle Williams was required to promote the release of My Week with Marilyn, and Franco's father died during production. Roth compared the task of managing overlapping schedules to "being an air-traffic controller." Mila Kunis's makeup and prosthetics demanded four hours to apply and another hour to remove, with Kunis taking nearly two months to fully recover from the subsequent removal of the makeup from her skin.
In May 2011, before filming began, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures gave Oz the Great and Powerful a March 8, 2013 North American theatrical release date. The film had its world premiere at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood on February 14, 2013.Disney opened the film in wide release in 3,912 theaters.
To promote the film, Disney partnered with the IMAX Corporation and HSN to coordinate a hot air balloon campaign across the United States beginning in California at the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, stopping at four locations; the El Capitan Theater during the world premiere, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the Daytona International Speedway in Florida and Central Park in New York City. Disney also promoted the film through its theme parks; Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival featured a multi-purpose garden and play area themed to the film and Disney California Adventure hosted sample viewings inside the Muppet*Vision 3Dtheatre.
Oz the Great and Powerful was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and digital download on June 11, 2013. The film is Disney's first home media release to exclude a physical digital copy disc and instead provides only a digital code for the download. Oz the Great and Powerful debuted at number one in its first week of home media release in overall disc sales with 46% of its first week sales from Blu-ray disc.
Oz the Great and Powerful received mixed reviews from film critics. The film holds a 59% approval rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 6/10, based on 237 reviews. The sites consensus says "It suffers from some tonal inconsistency and a deflated sense of wonder, but Oz the Great and Powerful still packs enough visual dazzle and clever wit to be entertaining in its own right." The film holds a score of 45 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 41 reviews, indicating "mixed to average" reviews.
Kim Newman, writing for Empire, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and said, "If there are post-Harry Potter children who don't know or care about The Wizard Of Oz, they might be at sea with this story about a not-very-nice grownup in a magic land, but long-term Oz watchers will be enchanted and enthralled... Mila Kunis gets a gold star for excellence in bewitchery and Sam Raimi can settle securely behind the curtain as a mature master of illusion." Critic Alonso Duralde also admired the movie: "That Oz the Great and Powerful is so thoroughly effective both on its own terms and as a prequel to one of the most beloved movies ever made indicates that this team has magic to match any witch or wizard." Leonard Maltin on IndieWire claimed that "No movie ever can, or will, replace 1939’s The Wizard Of Oz, but taken on its own terms, this eye-filling fantasy is an entertaining riff on how the Wizard of that immortal film found his way to Oz." IGN rated the film 7.8 and said, "The film is expansive and larger-than-life in scope and so are the performances, overall. Franco in particular hams it up and is often playing to the balcony...The 3D is utilized just as it should be in an children's fantasy epic such as this – overtly, but with skill. Snowflakes, music boxes and mysterious animals all leap through the screen towards the audience as the story unfolds."
Justin Chang of Variety had a mixed reaction, writing that the film "gets some mileage out of its game performances, luscious production design and the unfettered enthusiasm director Sam Raimi brings to a thin, simplistic origin story." He also compared the film's scale with the Star Wars prequel trilogy adding, "In a real sense, Oz the Great and Powerful has a certain kinship with George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, in the way it presents a beautiful but borderline-sterile digital update of a world that was richer, purer and a lot more fun in lower-tech form. Here, too, the actors often look artificially superimposed against their CG backdrops, though the intensity of the fakery generates its own visual fascination." /Film rated the film 7 out of 10, saying it had "many charms" while considering it to be "basically Army of Darkness: (Normal guy lands in magical land, is forced to go on quest to save that land.) But just when you see Raimi's kinetic, signature style starting to unleash, the story forces the film back into its Disney shell to play to the masses. We're left with a film that's entertaining, a little scarier than you'd expect, but extremely inconsistent."
Richard Roeper, writing for Roger Ebert, noted the film's omnipresent visual effects but was largely disappointed by the performance of some cast members; "...to see Williams so bland and sugary as Glinda, and Kunis so flat and ineffectual as the heartsick Theodora..." Marshall Fine of The Huffington Post was unimpressed, writing, "Oh, it's exciting enough for a six-year-old; anyone older, however, will already have been exposed to so much on TV, at the movies and on the Internet that this will seem like so much visual cotton-candy. Even a sophisticated grade-schooler will find these doings weak and overblown." Similarly, Todd McCarthycriticized the characterization, writing that the film's supporting cast "can't begin to compare with their equivalents in the original ... so the burden rests entirely upon Franco and Williams, whose dialogue exchanges are repetitive and feel tentative." Entertainment Weekly agreed, giving the film a C+ and saying that the "miscast" Franco "lacks the humor, charm, and gee-whiz wonder we're meant to feel as he trades wisecracks with a flying monkey... and soars above a field of poppies in a giant soap bubble. If he's not enchanted, how are we supposed to be?" and complaining that "while Raimi's Oz is like retinal crack, he never seduces our hearts and minds."Alisha Coelho of in.com gave the movie 2.5 stars, saying "Oz The Great and Powerful doesn't leave a lasting impression, but is an a-ok watch."
Oz the Great and Powerful has earned $234,868,548 in the United States and Canada, and $257,000,000 in other countries, as of July 7, 2013, for a worldwide total of $491,868,548. It is the fifth highest-grossing 2013 film worldwide and the 88th highest grossing film in North America.
Preliminary reports had the film tracking for an $80–$100 million debut in North America. The movie earned $2 million from 9 p.m. showings on Thursday night. For its opening day, Oz the Great and Powerful grossed $24.1 million, the fourth-highest March opening day. During its opening weekend, the movie topped the box office with $79.1 million, the third-highest March opening weekend. Despite the film's solid debut, which was larger than nearly all comparable titles, it clearly lagged behind Alice in Wonderland's opening ($116.1 million). The film's 3-D share of the opening weekend was 53%. Females made up 52% of the audience. Surprisingly, though, families only represented 41% of attendance, while couples accounted for 43%. The film retained first place at the box office during its second weekend with $41.3 million.
Outside North America, the film earned $69.9 million on its opening weekend from 46 territories. Among all markets, its highest-grossing debuts were achieved in Russia and the CIS ($14.7 million), China ($9.06 million) and France and the Maghreb region ($5.77 million). The film's openings trailed Alice in Wonderland in all major markets except Russia and the CIS. It retained first place at the box office outside North America for a second weekend. In total grosses, Oz's largest countries are Russia and the CIS ($27.3 million), China ($25.5 million) and the UK, Ireland and Malta ($22.3 million).
Before its theatrical release, several media outlets reported that Oz the Great and Powerful was expected to duplicate the box office performance of 2010's Alice in Wonderland. However, Oz accumulated less than half of Alice's worldwide gross.
On March 7, 2013, Variety confirmed that Disney has already approved plans for a sequel film, with Mitchell Kapner returning as screenwriter. Mila Kunis said during an interview with E! News, "We're all signed on for sequels." On March 8, 2013, Sam Raimitold Bleeding Cool that he has no plans to direct the sequel, saying, "I did leave some loose ends for another director if they want to make the picture," and that "I was attracted to this story but I don't think the second one would have the thing I would need to get me interested." Kapner and Roth have said that the sequel will "absolutely not" involve Dorothy, with Kapner pointing out that there are twenty years between the event of the first film and Dorothy's arrival, and "a lot can happen in that time".