One Big Scene is a weekly column dedicated to spectacular visual sequences we’re recommending you see in the theater. If you have ones you’d like us to write about, let us know in the comments section.
Follow the yellow brick road this week and it’s bound to take you to a movie theater screening Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful, director Sam Raimi’s bold and visually dazzling prequel to the veritable classic The Wizard of Oz.
By telling the origin story of the Kansas City con man (James Franco) who eventually becomes the Great and Powerful Oz, Raimi finds a unique entrance into a beloved story … then uses the tools and tricks of a 21st Century filmmaker to enhance the vision of Oz and make the familiar universe feel like something we’ve never seen before.
Oz in 3D and IMAX is a natural fit for the weekly One Big Scene column. The harder part was singling out an eye-popping sequence to showcase. My choice is coming up, but first, the reviews!
What Critics are Saying:
“The new spinoff from L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz may not be great, exactly, but it is powerfully entertaining.”
-- Claudia Puig, USA Today
“Sam Raimi's colourful Oz prequel is nicely acted, visually spectacular and makes terrific use of 3D.”
-- Matthew Turner, ViewLondon
“The best 3D movie, period. So far, anyway.”
William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
Critics are correct in calling out Raimi’s visual triumph, particularly when it comes to fleshing out realms of Oz we didn’t get to see in the original film (or even in recreating places – like The Emerald City – which are more pronounced in this digital theme park). At one point, Franco’s "wizard" tours the recently destroyed China Town, a village made up of fragile tea pots and ceramics that begs to be further explored. We also take another trip to MunchkinLand, and conclude with a showdown behind the gates of The Emerald City.
Thrilling stuff, indeed.
Which is why my One Big Scene from Oz occurs when Raimi allows himself a moment to swoop and dive over the land that he has recreated and off a little of his craftsmanship. Running from the Wicked Witch’s winged monkeys, Glinda (Michelle Williams) and the wizard (Franco) plunge from a cliff and end up safely cradled in floating bubbles. They glide over all of Oz, with Raimi’s cameras panning and dipping to give the audience its best look at the vastness of the territory.
(A similar shot shows Franco’s character the scope of Oz when he first arrives via hot air balloon, but the bubble trip last much longer, and feels like a roller coaster ride as it’s happening.)
It was during this scene that I realized Raimi justified his trip to Oz. It wouldn’t make sense to force a return trip to Oz just to capitalize on the recognizable name of a popular classic film. The director uses modern technology to breathe new life into Oz, the land, and he shows us the fruits of his digital labors on a stunning bubble flight that’s as wondrous and imaginative as anything I’ve seen on screen this year.
Here’s a small portion of the scene, which looks amazing on the big screen. Oz the Great and Powerful opens in theaters on March 8: