I’ve always wondered how a wizard came to rule the wonderful world of Oz. Thanks to a press screening of Oz: The Great and Powerful at Walt Disney Studios in Los Angeles, California, I now know the whole story. The film takes moviegoers back to a time before the arrival of Dorothy. There we meet the wizard before he became the leader of a land known for its yellow brick road.
Oz is based on the 100-year-old works of author L. Frank Baum. “Baum had the ideas for these stories,” director Sam Raimi told TFK. “Screenwriter Mitchell Kapner read his books and decided to tell a particular part of the story. He focused on how the wizard got to the land of Oz, who he was and what became of him.”
The Story Before Dorothy
In the movie, we meet the man who becomes the ruler of Oz. His name is Oscar Diggs (James Franco), and he is a shady circus magician. He is greedy and wants only to make a lot of money.
One day, a vicious tornado whisks Diggs off to the fantastical land of Oz. He meets three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Wiesz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). They tell Diggs that a wicked witch is terrorizing the people of Oz. If he kills her, they promise, he will become their ruler.
Diggs, accompanied by Finley the flying monkey, the China Girl and Glinda, set out on a quest to save Oz. They confront dangers such as flying baboons and attacks by other witches. Diggs begins to doubt that power is worth all this trouble.
In order to get into the wizard character, Franco told TFK that he actually did learn magic. A magician named Lane Burton taught him a trick or two. “He showed me everything I needed to know to look like I was a magician in a traveling circus,” says Franco. “I even learned to present the illusion of levitation and make something seem like it’s disappearing.”
My favorite scene involving magic is when the wizard uses his knowledge of science and technology to project himself onto a giant cloud of smoke. He amplifies his booming voice, tricking the wicked witches to leave Oz forever. That’s when Diggs learns that the knowledge and creativity of a wizard like Thomas Edison can be even more powerful then magic.
If you like fantasy and adventure, then run down the yellow brick road to a theatre near you and check out this terrific movie. Oz: The Great and Powerful opens March 8.