This prequel / origins story is set 20 years before Dorothy Gale blew into the mystical land of Oz. This time, the story centres around Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time magician in a travelling circus, and how he comes to be the titular Oz in the land coincidentally named after him.
A serial playboy, Oscar inadvertently hits on the circus strongman’s wife. Escaping in a hot air balloon, he gets twirled into a tornado, and winds up in the Land of Oz. Once there, he is received by the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis), who is certain he is the wizard prophesied to be the wizard to overthrow the wicked witch.
He immediately assumes the position, not knowing the true extent of the wicked witch’s power. Along the way, he enlists the help of a flying monkey Finley, and a living china doll. He also meets the other witches Evanora and Glinda, as well as the folks in Oz. Over the course of the film, we go over the predictable arc of Oz’s character transforming from a selfish charlatan to a responsible and mature man.
The film is directed by Sam Raimi (Drag me to Hell, Spiderman 1 2 3). But it feels like he is channeling Tim Burton, albeit with much less flair for the quirky and colourful.
At the end of it all, the only thing great and powerful is Rachel Weisz’s ability to look so good at 43.