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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We're off to see how the Wizard came to be, 2 July 2013
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This review is from: Oz: The Great and Powerful [DVD] (DVD)
A few decades back now, Disney tried a new Oz movie, in the shape of Return To Oz [DVD] [1985]. Now they've brought in Director Sam Raimi to have a go at a prequel.

The story of this movie takes place before the Wizard of Oz. It's all about the Wizard himself. And how he came to be there.

Therefore fans of the Frank L. Baum books will not find much they'd recognise from those in here, aside from the setting and certain characters, since this is an all new story that tries it's best to fit the style of the world Frank L. Baum created. If you're a literary purist then whether or not this succeeds at doing that will be a matter of individual opinion.

The Wizard is actually Oscar Diggs [James Franco]. When we meet him it's in America in 1905, and he's a small time carnival magician, with somewhat dubious ethics and dreams of making it big.

Like the original Wizard of Oz movie, this has all the scenes in our world filmed in black and white. It also adopts a few of the technical tricks and styles of much older cinema in these moments. Which is a very nice touch.

James Franco does manage to carry the film very well and makes for a decent lead right from the off.

Fate conspires to bring him to Oz. Which is where it goes into colour and more modern cinema styles. Making the acquaintance of two witches [Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz] and a flying monkey, he finds that everyone is expecting the arrival of a great wizard. And that Oz is a land with problems.

Setting out to deal with these, he picks up another travelling companion along the way. But who can he trust? And he can take this opportunity to be the great man he's always dreamed of becoming?

The story of this is obvious from the start. A few movies have done the story of a would be great man who gets into a situation where they can become one, boasts, lets people down, and then comes back and saves the day. But this doesn't follow all the story beats from that style, so that does give it points for originality.

The supporting cast are all pretty good. Some of the cgi creations work extremely well. And there are enough twists and turns in the plot and character development to keep it all moving along very nicely, all in time for a decent finale.

It's definitely worth it for the visuals, though. Which make Oz every bit the colourful and eye catching land that it should be. There's always something new coming along on screen to capture your attention.

Certain things and characters can't appear in this due to copyright reasons [the fact that a studio other than Disney holds the rights to the Wizard of Oz movie] but you might get into this enough to not miss them too much.

Any great fantasy should keep you spellbound all the way through and leave you appreciative by the end. When I saw this in a rather crowded cinema, most of the audience burst into - genuine - applause at the end. So this would certainly seem to do that job. There may be one or two moments that very young viewers might find scary, but not too many. This is a very good effort at creating a magical and fantastical cinema experience. Which makes it worth 4/5.

Older viewers who are familiar with the Director's work might wonder if a few of the actors whom he usually uses crop up in here. Just keep your eyes peeled and listen carefully....

The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:

Languages: English, Russian, Ukranian.

Subtitles: English, Estonian, Greek, Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, Ukranian.

The disc begins with quite a few trailers. These can be skipped by pressing the next button on the dvd remote control. You can see all of them in the sneak peeks section of the dvd main menu anyhow.

There are just two extras:

A four minute long reel of outtakes. The sound quality on some of these isn't great. But a few are quite funny.

Walt Disney and the Road to Oz. A nine minute long feature about Disney's original attempt to make an Oz movie back in the 1950's. This is absolutely fascinating hitherto generally unknown movie history. If you're into that, it's well worth a watch.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Nov 2013 02:53:01 GMT
M. Wilson says:
er, return to Oz was a prequel and not a sequel, as Dorothy was a small child in return and a young adult/ teenager in the first.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Nov 2013 05:20:49 GMT
Paul Tapner says:

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2013 03:46:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Dec 2013 03:46:57 GMT
Jeff Pipsey says:
It has a different continuity, but is set after events in the "first", so I'm not sure either term is right. It certainly has a sequel-like title anyway.

Posted on 26 Dec 2013 15:38:22 GMT
Yeesh: Return to Oz is a sequel, based on Ozma of Oz, one of the many actual L. Frank Baum sequel books to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We all clear? Good.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2014 22:53:47 GMT
Um, no you are wrong. Return was the sequel to The Wizard of Oz - hence the title Return to Oz. That's why Dorothy recognised characters in Return that she had already met in the Wizard of Oz (scarecrow for example). I can see why you were confused though as Fairuza Balk was younger than Judy Garland when they played Dorothy Gale.
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Paul Tapner

Location: poole dorset england

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