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Oz The Great and Powerful Blu-ray Disc Review

Before Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Oz The Great and Powerful 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy - Slipcover - Front View

Photo the Oz The Great and Powerful 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy - Slipcover - Front View

Photo © Robert Silva Licensed to About.com
Sam Raimi, director of the original Evil Dead and Spiderman film franchises, comes to Walt Disney Studios to bring the land of Oz back onto the screen with Oz The Great and Powerful, which tells the story of the beginnings of the Wizard and the Witches a long time before the arrival of Dorothy and her friends. The film is available on Blu-ray in several packages, including both 2D and 3D. The version reviewed here is the 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy disc package.

Disc Specifications

Studio: Walt Disney Studios

Theatrical Release Date: 3/8/2013

Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: 6/11/2013

Running Time: 130 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Principal Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weiz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, and Bruce Campbell.

Executive Producers: Debbi Bossi, Grant Curtic. Joshua Donen, Palak Patel, Philip Steuer.

Director: Sam Raimi

Story and Screenplay: Mitchel Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire - Based on the works of L. Frank Baum.

Music: Danny Elfman

Costume Design: Gary Jones

Discs (Standard 2 Disc Blu-ray Edition): 1 Blu-ray (50GB) and 1 DVD.

Digital Copy: Disney Digital Copy Plus.

Video Specifications: Video codec used - AVC MPEG4, Video resolution - 1080p, Aspect ratios 1.33:1 (opening Kansas sequence), 2.40:1 (rest of the film) - Special features and supplements may be in various resolutions and aspect ratios.

Audio Specifications: DTS-MasterAudio 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 (English, French, Spanish)

Subtitles: English, English SDH (Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing), French, Spanish.

The Story

Oz The Great and Powerful 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy - Case - Front View

Photo the Oz The Great and Powerful 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy - Case - Front View

Photo © Robert Silva Licensed to About.com
Conceived as a prequel to the classic Wizard of the Oz, Oz The Great and Powerful tells the story of how Oscar Diggs, a second-tier magician, performer, and ladies man of dubious morals, became the celebrated Wizard of Oz. Caught up in a tornado (of course), Oscar is whisked away to the land of Oz, where encounters a seemingly colorful land filled with riches and some beautiful women, but soon gets in over this head in a battle between good and evil.

However, although we know where this part of the Oz story leads to in the end, there are some unexpected twists and turns on how Oscar becomes the Wizard, and how Oz is transformed into the land that Dorothy finally encounters in the original classic movie. For more regarding the story and its execution, read two reviews of the theatrical presentation of the film by Rebbecca Murray, About.com Guide for Hollywood Movies, and Carey Bryson, About.com Guide for the Kid's Movies and TV, who offers additional insight for parents wishing to see the movie with their children.

Blu-ray Disc presentation - Video

First up, I need to point out that although this film was released on both 2D and 3D, I was sent the 2D version for this review. I found that the 2D format looks just great in terms of depth and texture, so even if you don't have a 3D TV, the 2D version displays a lot of 3D-like depth, especially in the opening Kansas scenes and the Oz landscapes.

Overall, the 2D 1080p Blu-ray transfer is excellent, with no signs of over-processing or edge enhancement. The visuals are extremely complex and detailed, with vibrant color and well-defined gray tones and deep black levels.

The opening credits and initial scenes of the film are presented in Black and White, as a nod to the original classic and is presented in a 4x3 screen aspect ratio (with bars above, below, and on the sides). What is striking about the B&W segments is that it really shows off how well B&W can look in 1080p high-def. All of the Oz scenes are in color and presented in the widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio, which means that you will see black bars on the top and bottom of the image on either 4x3 or 16x9 TV.

It is also interesting to point out that although the production design is intended to deliver the the same type of technicolor look of the classic 1939 Wizard of Oz, and there is no doubt the film has excellent color design, there is still something magical about good ol' 3-strip technicolor that even our modern digital color capturing and processing capabilities can't quite pull off.

Blu-ray Disc Presentation - Audio

Oz The Great and Powerful is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, which is executed very well.

The channel balance was excellent, with active use of the surround channels for maximum effect at the proper times. The most impressive examples are the segments where Oscar is caught up in the tornado, in which the surround channels envelop the room with wind and flying debris.

Both front-to-back and side-to-side sound movement were very well executed, with no noticeable dips when moving from one speaker to another. Sound effects were very detailed and clear. Vocals were very clear and well projected throughout most of the film, but there were a few instances of soft two-person conversational dialog that I had to turn up to fully hear.

On the other hand, subwoofer LFE effects were appropriately loud and dramatic where appropriate, but not overbearing.

Note: When you insert the disc in your Blu-ray disc player the default audio setting is Dolby Digital 2.0 - you need to go into the disc menu and manually select DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.

Bonus Features and Supplements - Blu-ray

Bloopers - Check out all the behind the scenes lighter momements.

My Journey to Oz by James Franco - A short documentary by James Franco in which he provides some personal perspective on his involvement with the film, as well as interviewing several cast and crew members.

Mr Elfman's Musical Concoction - Noted movie soundtrack composer Danny Elfman dishes on his musical inspiration for the film.

China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief - An interesting look on how the character "China Girl" was brought to life in the film - from artist's conception, final design, puppeteered segments, and an interview with the voice behind this interesting character, Joey King.

Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz - A look at the physical and virtual set designs and visual effects with production designer Robert Stromberg.

Mila's Metamorphosis - Noted makeup artist Howard Berger provides and inside look on how he transformed Mila Kunis into the Wicked Witch of the West. Includes great footage of her discussing the process while in the make-up chair.

Walt Disney and the Road to OZ - A look back at Walt Disney's own fascination with the world of Oz and how he wanted to bring it to life on the screen. Also touched on, Disney studios first attempt at Oz on the big screen, the 1985's Return to Oz.

Sneak Peeks and Trailers- Previews of The Lone Ranger, Once Upon A Time TV Series, Iron Man 3, and the upcoming Blu-ray Disc release of The Little Mermaid.

The Magic of "Oz The Great and Powerful" (Second Screen Experience) - Includes added content that can be accessed via a free downloadable iPad app. Add content includes: The Mesmerizing Mind Reader, The Marvelous Land of OZ Map, A Who's Who of Oz, The Enchanting Characters and Creatures of Oz, The Sounds of Magical Oz, Sleight of Hand: Zach Braff Puppet Theater, and a Mariah Carey Music Video.

Bonus Features and Supplements - DVD

Bloopers - Walt Disney and the Road to Oz - Sneak Peeks and Trailers

Final Take

Oz The Great and Powerful on Blu-ray is an enjoyable viewing and listening experience. The color design and seamless integration between physical and virtual sets, as well as physical and CGI characters is great technically, and soundtrack, with the experience of a few intimate conversational dialog sequences is fantastic.

Also, the provided bonus features are definitely worth watching, especially the segments showing how the character China Girl was developed and executed in the film, the segment on how Mila Kunis was physically transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West, and a very interesting segment on how Walt Disney was trying to put together his own Oz film back in the 1950's, which in includes some pre-production drawings and plans.

On the other hand, as good as this film is technically, it didn't quite have the magical spark that I would have hoped for in the story. A few things seemed a little rushed, and although James Franco does an OK job as Oscar Diggs/The Wizard, he just didn't have quite the intensity that some of the supporting cast projected. Also, Mila Kunis had a lot to live up to as the Wicked Witch of the West and although she did a credible job, once again, not intense enough (and no facial warts! - which even she indicated she would have liked).

Even though this movie will not attain the status as the classic we all know, it is worth viewing with a fantastic visual look, great sound, and provides the background of how the Wizard became the Wizard and how his life is intertwined with both the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, the Good. The film, combined with the bonus features, provides a great evening's entertainment.

However, it must be noted that one downside for this package is that up until this release, with its 3D films, Disney has been providing both a complete 3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack, but that is no longer the case. 3D and 2D versions are now only offered separately.

For those that are not 3D fans that may not be a big deal, but when you consider that Disney is still charging the same price for the 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack as they did previously for the one that also included the 3D version, that is not a good deal, as you are paying the same and getting less.

The only consolation is that Disney provides a coupon to purchase either version for $5.99 - if you have already purchased one of the versions. In other words, you pay the full price that once included both 3D and 2D versions to purchase either the 3D or 2D version separately, and then still have to pay $5.99 to get the other version if you want it. In essence, a price increase. Obviously, this new approach is getting some criticism.

Compare Prices for the 2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Package

Also Available:

3D Blu-ray/Digital Copy - Compare Prices (Note: The 3D package does not contain any on-disc bonus content). Read my review of the 3D Blu-ray Disc Edition

Blu-ray/Digital Copy - Compare Prices

DVD/Digital Copy - Compare Prices

SD/HD/3D Streaming and On-Demand - Refer to your service provider for pricing.

Also recommended:

The Wizard of Oz (1939) - On Blu-ray and DVD - Compare Prices

Return to Oz (1985) - DVD - Compare Prices

Components Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-103.

TV/Monitor: Panasonic TCL-42E60 LED/LCD TV (on review loan).

Home Theater Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR705

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System (7.1 channels): Fluance XL Series High Performance 5.1 Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System with DB150 Powered Subwoofer (on review loan) with Two Klipsch B-3 Bookshelf Speakers added as surround back speakers for full 7.1 channel setup specifically for the Oz Great and Powerful review.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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