….or where Sam Raimi re-contextualizes Army Of Darkness with the help of Mickey Mouse’s money.
Couldn’t imagine an odder couple than the goofy visionary who brought us The Evil Dead trilogy and the home of Mickey, Donald & Goofy.
The action starts at the Baum Bros. circus, where Oscar “Zoroaster” Diggs ekes out a living as a “prestidigitator”, a carny sleight-of-hand artist who rather lofty ambitions while wooing local babes with equally hoary pick-up lines. On the lam from a p.o.’d sideshow strongman and his clown snitch, he takes off in a balloon…there the film stock segues from b&w to full colour as Diggs finds himself in the Land of Oz, where he finds himself the prophesied saviour, the “Wizard” the locals look up to.
Before he knows it, he finds himself in a tug-of-war between three magic-wielding sisters – Theodora, Evanora, and Glinda. Judging by the colour of their hair (not to mention Theodora’s form-hugging trousers), it’s not hard to fathom out the sisters’ moral alignment.
Even those with a passing familiarity to the L. Frank Baum books or the original Wizard Of Oz film – the one with Judy Garland, them ruby slippers and all – will be pleased at the various tributes Dapper Sam peppered throughout said movie. You got your flying
monkeys baboons and your munchkins (now in different colours, FYI). Let’s not forget the richly saturated primary colours of The Land itself, courtesy of Avatar PD Robert Stromberg; of special note is The Emerald City, with so many green art-deco spires one was expecting The Guardians Of Oa to turn up.
Raimi being, well, Raimi, he never forgets to drop references to his own work – Franco’s Oz is essentially a thinly veiled Ashley “Ash” Williams, the caddish non-hero from his Evil Dead trilogy (btw, the captain of The Emerald City’s Guards is played by “Ash” himself, Bruce Campbell) Or even more so, he reminds me a lot of the titular (non)hero from The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, Stephen Donaldson’s epic fantasy series (which badly cries out for a big- or small-screen adaptation). Likewise, Mila Kunis’ Theodora – in her Wicked Witch Of The West guise with the green-face makeup, is a nod to the well witch from Army Of Darkness. Lest we forget, the climactic showdown between Oz, Glinda and their allies against the wicked-witch sisters and their same is strikingly reminiscent of Ash’s last stand against the skeletal Deadites from – yeah – Army Of Darkness again!!!
Summing it up, Oz The Great And Powerful is a bold step forward for Disney, but one well done; Dapper Sam somehow manages to rein his penchant for more outré images but keep his dark-humored streak intact. As with Star Trek (under JJ Abrams’ watch) and the ongoing Planet Of The Apes prequels, it banks on the goodwill of a familiar name while managing to draw new fans into the world experience.