It’s going to be very strange watching Oz: The Great and Powerful after reading Wicked. You may recall that, in Gregory Maguire’s novel set in L Frank Baum’s universe, The Wizard was the bad guy who tricked Dorothy into offing his political rival, “The Witch of the West”. He’s still pretty dubious in this one, but less overtly, um, wicked. Sam Raimi directs, so we should be in for a visual treat, and the trailer certainly hints at the expected rip-roaring rollercoastery stuff. It’s a Disney film, which will rein in Raimi’s habit of grossing out the the audience, though I’m sure he’ll have plenty of opportunities to “punish” his cast.
James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, the titular magician, who finds himself stranded in Oz following a storm. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams play the witches of Oz, and Zach Braff heads up the supporting cast – though you’ll be relieved beyond measure to note Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi in the credits: plenty to please long-time Raimi fans here.
This film has actually been in development since 1954. Samuel Goldwyn pipped Roy Disney to the rights back in 1937, which resulted in the MGM classic, The Wizard of Oz. Nearly two decades later, the Baum estate sold off the remaining Oz books, and Disney began a number of stalled projects, of which 1985’s underperforming (but much-loved) Return to Oz was the only notable result. (The other project to be completed was a little-seen animated feature, Journey Back To Oz.)
Before Raimi signed on, a number of other directors were tipped for the job, including Sam Mendes and Adam Shankman. In one incarnation, it would have been Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s ninth collaboration. Following the Spider-Man trilogy, this will mark the fourth outing for Sam Raimi and James Franco. Danny Elfman will write the score, which will be interesting given his and Raimi’s falling out after Spidey 2.
I bet you won’t give a flying monkey about its production shenanigans once it comes out in March, though, based on the trailer. At the least, it looks like a visually inventive and exciting film. At best, it could be something truly magical.