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‘Oz’ tells a great story with powerful imagery

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 10:58 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 11:23 a.m. CST

As a kid, I loved to read. And because I loved to read, I had a voracious appetite for books, so it probably was no small blessing that my father had collected a rather large library of books over the years.

Also, like many kids my age (and quite a few older), I eagerly looked forward to the annual television broadcast of the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” But, unlike many of them, I was utterly disappointed when I finally cracked open L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

So when Disney announced a few years ago they would be unveiling a “prequel” story that tells how The Wizard of Oz – who we learn was nothing more than a carnival stage magician from Omaha in “The Wizard of Oz” – came to be in Oz, I came to the conclusion that they planned to do more than tell just one story. After seeing “Oz the Great and Powerful,” I’m not only certain of it, I’m now absolutely certain that movie viewers will eventually see a “remake” of the 1939 film – more on that in a moment.

“Oz the Great and Powerful,” the new Disney film starring James Franco as Oz, which we learn is the nickname of one Oscar Diggs, Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good, Mila Kunis as Theodora and Rachel Weisz as Evanora, is a masterpiece that should be viewed in its own right. It’s a tale of trial, redemption and even a little self-contradiction, all of which were major themes in all of Baum’s many “Tales of Oz.”

And there are many Easter Eggs, if you’re quick to catch them.

Sam Raimi did his usual best in telling the story of young Oscar the would-be wizard and ruler of Oz. And although we all know how it’s going to end, it’s the journey that gets the story there that makes this movie one you absolutely cannot miss.

If there is going to be one thing I can be critical of in this film, it’s the casting of Mila Kunis as Theodora. I think she’s a fine actress, but I’m not so sure she was the right actress for the role. By the end of the film, she seems to be little more than a stage prop, tossed back into the story to “tie up loose ends.”

And that gets me back to my prediction for this film. It is a truly great story that can stand on its own. But, it also leaves plenty of openings – no, telling you what they are would spoil the fun for you – for additional stories to be told; stories that can also take place “before” the 1939 film’s timeline.

The white elephant in the room is Warner Bros. ownership of all rights to the iconic elements of the 1939 movie. But several of the aforementioned Easter Eggs, as well as a quick read-through of Baum’s novel will show where there is an opening for Disney to “remake” the classic film.

And I would encourage them to do so. The Baum book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” had much more depth to it, and whole lot less singing involved. It was darker, and had real elements of peril, defeat and victory.

And, in the book, Dorothy’s magic slippers were silver, not ruby.

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