I take it before going any further that you've all seen the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz where Judy Garland (in Black and White) gets whipped up into a tornado along with her dog Toto and end up dumped in the Magical land of Oz (now in Glorious Technicolour) and set about with a merry band of followers (Lion, Scarecrow etc) to follow the yellow brick road and find the Wizard who can send her home, only to discover he is a bit of a fraud using smoke and mirrors and she had the power in herself, as did the creatures who joined her? Good, well in that case - let me make this easy.
This is the prequel.
Okay, so its probably the most overdue one of all time (74 years after to be precise) and in all honesty, the 1985 Sequel, Return to Oz was disastrous so it was time to see how the Wizard himself came to be, along with the the whole Wicked Witch scenario as well, all of which get answered in this movie.
I have to start with a moan - This movie also starts in Black and White with James Franco as the circus magician, using smoke and misdirection to stun almost impressed audiences and again (as with Garland), its a Tornado that takes him to Oz where a prophecy states a Wizard bearing the same name as the magical land would rescue them all from the clutches of the Wicked Witch, or Witches in this instance played by Mila Kunis (Theodora) & Rachel Weisz (Evanora).
The moan? Well that's the length of time this movie takes to actually get to Oz in the first place - its nearly 40 minutes of ploddy black and white back story and one that bored me close to tears! It seems to keep on and on and on with no real reason until you find yourself watching him board a Hot Air Balloon and then you know things are about to pick up pace.
Once the movie actually gets to Oz it does pick up pace (a lot) and as with Hansel & Gretel, the 3D is actually relatively impressive but for me, something just didn't quite work with the movie.
As with the original, The Wizard (as we know) is not an actual Wizard although Franco plays him as slightly arrogant and cocky which disappointed me slightly because he came across as more annoying than anything else. Luckily - the stunningly beautiful Weisz and Kunis more than make up for it as the ruling sisters and as the movie continues, we find out the reasons why there ends up with only one Wicked Witch and why (more importantly) she's green!
Rounding off the leading cast is Michelle Williams as the remaining Good Witch who has to rely on Franco doing what's right and becoming the Great Wizard they all expect him to be to save the people of Oz and take his rightful throne in the Emerald City.
I'm not going to give anything away although this movie does end up staying true to the 1939 original and you'll see why towards the end of the film.
As plot lines goes - the Witches story is by far and away the best bit of the movie and for me, Franco's part was a bit wasted on him although being a PG - I certainly did not expect it to be as jumpy as it was towards the end. If you take children, they will leap clear from their seats at least twice during the movie. You've been warned - in 3D, its very well done.
There is plenty more I could write - the Munchkins are back (of course) along with a host of other fascinating creatures (including a brilliantly animated China Doll) and these additional characters more than make up for the disappointing Wizard himself. The scenery is stunning and the 3D (as mentioned above) is impressive which does put a smile on my face as this was two for two now that have raised the bar and actually included real 3D and not just the atmospheric stuff.