There is no doubt “OZ The Great and Powerful” is a visual feast of color and delight. With some of the most amazing, clever, and well-executed 3D effects ever, it will dazzle both childrens’ and adults’ eyes alike.
The film is also, however, very much a movie for us dads. Its central theme points to a deeply relevant and challenging question: What makes good men great, and what makes great men good?
The film’s hero is Oscar Diggs (James Franco), nicknamed Oz , a magician in a traveling circus. We meet him in a black-and-white world, Kansas, where what’s right and wrong, what’s good and bad, seem clear — and it’s indeed clear from the get-go that Oscar is a deeply flawed man. He wants to become great but willingly admits he is not good.
He does know what a good man is, however: Oscar says his father, a farmer, was one such man, but one who lived a small life, the likes of which Oscar has no interest in creating for himself. He also has no interest in the kind and good woman named Annie (Michelle Williams) who clearly adores him and would love to marry and start a life with him. Oscar is quick to dismiss her and the life she represents. He longs for a life that is larger-than-life. He wants to go down in history, become a man of fame and the object of adulation. He is so singularly focused on becoming great that he doesn’t value what’s good.
Oscar is restless, a scoundrel, a schemer: He’s broken the hearts of countless women, and cheated and tricked scores of men. As a twister approaches, he tries to flee the veritable storm of his life in a hot air balloon. Miraculously, instead of crashing or meeting his doom, he lands in a mysterious, beautiful and colorful land bearing his name.
The people of this land believe Oscar to be a magical wizard who is destined to be their leader and king. In a way, the land and its inhabitants seem a sort of projection of the man himself: The landscape is lush and enchanting, but contains tremendous conflict and danger, and the good and bad and right and wrong of the people who live there are complicated, and sometimes deceptive. The land is also inhabited by three witches, who are partly enchanted by Oscar, partly protective of him, and partly out for revenge on him (Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz).
Oscar Diggs is a wonderfully-drawn, complex character who gives us many things to consider as we’re walking out of the theater, and long after. What kind of men are we, really, at our core? What do we consider to be the things that make men great, and even more importantly, good? Which is more difficult to attain, and more valuable? If we were to get transported to a magical land named and created in our image, what conflicts plucked from our own lives would we have to work out there? What witches would turn up declaring beefs with us? If we could be transported safely home afterward, what about our lives, if anything, would we change?