James Franco stars in the 3D, big-budget prequel as the titular wizard who encounters the Wicked Witch decades before Dorothy sets foot in Oz
The trailer: Based on this clip, Oz: The Great and Powerful — the Wizard of Oz prequel that hits theaters in March 2013 — closely echoes the style and structure of the 1939 original. (Watch the trailer below.) When we meet star James Franco as the soon-to-be-Wizard, he exists, humbly enough, in a black-and-white Kansas. Soon, a tornado transports him to the lavishly colorful Oz where he's uncomfortably held in great regard and must battle power-mad witches (decades, apparently, before Dorothy's own travails). Will this prequel delight audiences as much as their first trip to Oz?
The reaction: Some question the need for a Wizard of Oz sequel, but "we're cautiously optimistic," says Kevin Jagernauth at Indiewire. The "bright, beautifully conceived" visuals really stand out, looking "every inch like something that demands to be seen on the big screen." I'm not as convinced, says Mike Sampson at ScreenCrush. "It may just be the Disney marketing," but this looks a lot like 2010's Tim Burton-directed extension of the Alice in Wonderland universe — and that "wasn't exactly a good movie." The similarities are undeniable, says Liam Goodwin at Filmonic, but this "actually looks better" than Alice in Wonderland, and sure-footed director Sam Raimi may be able to avoid the pitfalls of Burton's popular (but underwhelming) film.
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