Do a search for Oz on IMDB and it returns 200 results, not all about the wonderful wizard, but the majority are interpretations of L. Frank Baum's classic story, with the Judy Garland version being by far the most famous. Other musical adaptations have included The Wiz, with Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Richard Pryor as the titular Wiz. There was even a 1976 Australian rock'n'roll road movie version (20th Century Oz) where Dorothy was a groupie travelling with a band that crash their van. She wakes up in a world where a gay fashion designer gives her a pair of red shoes to go to the final concert of androgynous rock star Wizard. Along the way she meets a dumb surfer, heartless mechanic and a cowardly biker. And there is the hit stage musical Wicked, which takes the story in different directions.
Now Sam Raimi, best known for Spider-Man and horror B-movies, is taking the trip over the rainbow, and it certainly looks trippy in places. Oz The Great and Powerful is Disney's prequel to the classic 1939 movie, and their second incursion, having done a sequel, Return to Oz in 1985 (directed by renowned Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch). Raimi pulls together a great cast with James Franco as Oz, the charming fairground magician and petty con man, whose balloon gets caught in a twister and transports him to the magical land that shares his name. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams play the three witchy (and bitchy) sisters, and Zach Braff plays Oz's comic relief sidekick.
Raimi fills the film with plenty of vibrant CGI and 3D spectacle, there is humour and pathos, and sticks close enough to the original film (even starting in monochrome Academy format before turning to widescreen colour) to make it a credible prequel, and yet, despite the charm of the lead actors and all the onscreen technical wizardry, it just lacks the magic (and the peril) of the original. However, it is still perfect viewing family viewing on cold damp day.
Oz The Great and Powerful is in cinemas now, in 3D.