There's a scene in Oz the Great and Powerful where the Wizard declares that he is about to pull off his greatest trick. It's appropriate because among all the great tricks that the movie pulls off so well there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
The film has a decent story embedded in a gloriously magical world realised so perfectly that only a genuine curmudgeon could find fault. The 3D is beautifully done without being obtrusive. The characters, human and animated, are all spot on for the roles they carry in the narrative. In short it's a good film. A very good film.
Since the original Wizard of Oz movie was made way back in 1939 technology has moved on immeasurably. Special effects that couldn't even be dreamed of then are routine now in the most commonplace of TV advertisements. We can no soar high above a fully detailed emerald city, swoop down between its towers and under its bridges. We can look in through windows into appartments or out through windows at the vistas of the city.
Or we can race at breakneck speed through the Dark Forest with the trees so close we, the audience, flinch away from their flailing branches or stroll alongside fields of golden corn that roll on up the hillside.
Or we can gaze from the tree line across a field of poppies that stretches right to the horizon.
In 1939 all of those things were simply in our imaginations. Now they are on the screen.
And that's where the great trick comes in. The Emerald City in Oz the Great and Powerful is the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz. The Yellow Brick Road is exactly the same Yellow Brick Road that Judy Garland skipped down all those years ago, complete with the vanishing spiral in the square of the Munchkin village. The Munchkin village is the same Munchkin village. The Munchkins are the same strange folk prone to break into the same song and dance routines for no apparent reason.
For all the amazing spectacle that is now possible, Oz is patently and obviously the same Oz that generations have grown up loving every Christmas and Easter on TV. And that's the trick. It doesn't miss a beat. Everything in this new movie is lovingly crafted to match or reference the original.
It's a hell of a trick if you can do it, and they have.