I remember when I first heard that a new Wizard of Oz movie was in the works, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it.  This was before any news of the casting and other details, so I wondered if the old favorite was going to be done as a remake.  Of course, that doesn’t always lead to an equally great movie in many movie-goers’ opinions.

However, as time went on, it turned out that the new Oz movie would be a backstory to the wizard character.  I couldn’t wait to see it; for starters, the special effects in the trailers looked amazing and that’s an element I love in many movies.  Plus, Sam Raimi is one of my favorite directors and the main cast include some of my favorites in acting.  With those factors, “Oz: The Great and Powerful” became a must-see.

When the 3-D trend became really popular in recent years, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it.  But it depends on the film and what this technology brought out, scene by scene.  In “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” 3-D adds to the vibrant world in which the wizard finds himself after the hot air balloon is whisked into a twister.  Just as Dorothy did in “The Wizard of Oz,” the wizard this time around starts out in a vintage-look world of Kansas.

After his badly-ending performance in Kansas, Oz receives a visitor who talks of a goodness in his heart.  It is Annie (Michelle Williams), who comes to tell him some news in her life.  She assures him about his character, especially after the doubt coming across in his demeanor.  Oz and Annie’s meeting is cut short abruptly, as an angered man is out for revenge against the magician who is suspected of flirting with the man’s wife.  The chase is on through the carnival grounds.

Yet his quick getaway is followed by the dangers of nature and of storm debris flying at him from every direction.  With the 3-D effects, it’s beyond what Dorothy went through while up inside a twister and within the walls of her farmhouse.  Just as the characters in Raimi’s movie, the audience gets a sense of having to dodge whatever comes their way.  As a story filled with magic, the use of 3-D was a great decision in bringing the movie to life and make viewers feel a part of it.

I love that the backstory to the wizard reveals him to be a bit of a ladies’ man and with James Franco in the role, Oz is handsome and dashing.  As a magician, whether in Kansas or in the magical land of Oz, Oz the man charms with his sly smile and carnival tricks.  Although Oz has a desire for riches and grand stages on which to perform his magic, his journey strengthens him as an ultimately good soul.

Theodora (Mila Kunis) is the first to meet Oz after he crash lands into mysterious and colorful new surroundings.  She has a strange demeanor, talking to Oz in a way as if to leave him guessing and wanting to know more.  Along with that, Theodora has her moments of being rather perky and of course, it adds to how her personality will take a 180-degree turn eventually.

Oz next meets Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who appears smitten by the attractive wizard and flashes a flirtatious smile his way.  She convinces him to go after the wicked witch by way of showing him the great riches that will be his if he does so successfully.  In her gorgeous, shimmery green gown, Evanora easily bewitches as the victim of another witch actually being the wicked one.  She displays expressions and emotions of the party who desperately needs the wizard’s help.

With now two companions, Finley and the China Girl, Oz makes his way through a creepy forest to seek out one more witch.  Under the pretenses that Glinda (Williams) is the wicked witch, they aim to destroy her source of power.  The witch comes into their view, emerging through the gates of a classic ghostly graveyard.  She even moves as though she were a phantom in her dark, hooded cloak.  Upon being found out by Glinda, Oz finds a familiar face looking back at him and he soon learns who is the true wicked witch.

Along with the cast, director and special effects, there were a few other elements throughout “Oz: The Great and Powerful” that I enjoyed.  These include moments early on in the movie that hint at and connect to those within the land of Oz.  One example is a scene in Oz’s trailer, when he calls his assistant Frank (Zach Braff), a trained monkey.  Later, Braff is the voiceover for Finley, the bellhop-suited monkey companion on the yellow brick road.  Another example is when one young girl (Joey King), in Oz’s Kansas carnival audience, wants his help to cure her ailment.  Once on the hunt for a wicked witch, Oz finds the China Girl (King) with a similar problem and is able to provide a remedy.  It’s reminiscent of “The Wizard of Oz,” as the farm hands Dorothy knew back home also appear over the rainbow as the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion.

That brings me to another great element of similar scenes between the classic and Raimi’s movie.  A plan to defeat the wicked witch sisters comes to Oz and it is one that will incorporate what magicians are all about: trickery.  Glinda uses her magical powers to assist her people under disguise of clouds billowing out over their forces.  The scary flying monkeys are sent out to attack, some of which are mysteriously brought down by a scent.  This brought to mind the scene in “The Wizard of Oz,” in which Dorothy and her friends become sleepy in a field of poppies enchanted by the Wicked Witch’s spell.  So, in Dorothy’s time, maybe the Wicked Witch uses the same spell for her own evil agenda to stop the Kansas farm girl with the ruby red slippers.  It reminds me of reading Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” and how the characters Elphaba and Galinda / Glinda play out, how they direct what they once learned.

One of my favorite quotes from the movie comes from Glinda, while still held captive by Theodora and Evanora.  As she faces possible doom, Glinda makes an inspiring statement about the peoples’ dreams.  I loved it because it makes me think the same way about people in real life and their dreams as well.

Although this was only the first movie of 2013 that I went out to see, “Oz: The Great and Powerful” is definitely an early favorite.  I hope it will receive some accolades during the next award season.