I had never really expected to see another Oz movie, considering the previous attempts to re-capture the magic of the 1939 original failed so miserably. I hadn’t heard anything about this attempt until I saw a commercial on Disney Channel a few months ago. The visuals looked stunning, and the actor playing Oz (James Franco) seemed capable enough. I was immediately intrigued and found myself greatly anticipating the release.

The film focuses on Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, or Oz for short, and follows him through his transformation from a cheap carnival magician to the great and powerful “wizard” that we all know and love. The story begins in Kansas, and the opening scenes are black & white with a 4:3 aspect ratio, an obvious homage to the original. These scenes are very well done and we get a good feel of who Oz is and what drives him. The view widens up just as we get to see our first glimpse of the Land of Oz in all its color-oversaturated glory. Seriously, it’s so over-the-top colorful that it’s silly. They really should have dialed it down a bit.

The first Ozian native we meet is the beautiful witch Theodora, played by the one and only Mila Kunis. I love Mila Kunis, and I’ll watch just about anything she plays in. Unfortunately her sub-par performance is typical of the rest of the characters we meet in Oz along the way.

I quite enjoyed the story, when they actually told it. I’m not really sure if the film was actually meant to tell a story, or if it was just meant to show off the mad skillz of the visual effects team and the plot was tacked on as an afterthought. It was literally little bits of story linked together through grandiose “getting from here to there” visual sequences.

The landscape visuals were indeed stunning, but they seemed like technology demos for a video game engine because of the wide, exaggerated camera movements and no apparent sense of purpose or direction. Most of the other visuals were top notch as well, and I doubt there was a single Oz scene that wasn’t filmed using Green Screen. Unfortunately, there were still a few other effects that were about on par with something from a Disney straight-to-DVD sequel. It was clearly filmed with 3D in mind, since several scenes had the typical random object flying at the screen. I don’t like 3D to begin with, and those scenes always seem out of place to me.

Overall it was a fun movie, but there just wasn’t enough substance for me. The story, acting, and character development all seemed secondary. If they just stuck to telling the story and cut out about 20 minutes of unnecessary material, it would have made a much greater film. That being said, I would still recommend this move to just about anybody. Not because I think it’s particularly “good”, but because I believe most people will enjoy it. I rate it 6.5 out of 10.