Release Date(s)2013 (June 11th, 2013)
Studio(s)Walt Disney Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: F
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke
The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic, enjoyed these last 80-odd years by countless millions around the world. It’s one of those movies for which attempting a direct remake is at best a risky proposition, and at worst something that would be declared from the highest mountain to be grand heresy. So Disney, hoping to duplicate the success they had with Alice in Wonderland, let director Sam Raimi take a break from spinning webs for a quick trip down the yellow brick road. While not directly based on any L. Frank Baum book, this prequel attempts to tell the tale of the Wizard’s arrival, the origins of the Wicked Witches, and how his sideshow flimflammery became a new kind of magic, while receiving the heart he never new he wanted.
I should say this right up front... Oz: The Great and Powerful is, bar-none, the best Blu-ray 3D experience thus far this year. Virtually every shot features multiple planes of depth, with smooth, gradual transitions between them for a more natural look. The only complaint I have is that Disney chose to keep the scope ratio throughout the entire film, window-boxing the 1.33:1 image in the center of the 2.35:1 letterbox. I understand that this was probably to preserve the scope transition, but it gets a little small until the tornado shows up. The one interesting part is that the 3D is deliberately subdued until the storm actually hits, then it gradually ramps up until bits and pieces are flying out of the frame, rising with the wind and the proximity of Oz.
The DTS-MA audio here is no slouch either. Expanding from a near-mono in Kansas to a full 7.1 surround just like the 3D, the surround never stops once the movie shifts into color, and is one of the more active mixes I’ve heard in awhile. Oz is a beautiful film that showcases its technology just as effectively as the classic Hollywood musical exhibited 3-strip Technicolor, so if you’re looking for a system-stunner, Oz is Great and Powerful indeed.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no bonus material on the Blu-ray 3D – there’s not even a trailer on this full-price, single disc (with Digital Copy) release. For extras, you have to seek out the separate 2D Blu-ray version. And that’s one branch of a bigger tree.
3D combo packs have been the source of great riches for eBay scalpers since their beginning. Knock $5 off retail and just sell the 3D disc, and a bunch of people with too much money will buy it, leaving you to enjoy your nearly free 2D spoils. Unfortunately, it also cuts a huge chunk of out Disney’s business, and that’s why they’re now separating the 3D from the rest of the Combo pack, though they do offer a 2D version via separate mail offer (that conveniently won’t arrive till after the launch window is over).
I tried playing this Blu-ray 3D disc (which is supposed to allow 2D playback as well by showing you video data for just one eye) on PowerDVD 13, on my 3D-capable Panasonic DMP-BDT300 and my old Panny 2D DMP-BD80. The first two both support 3D playback, and did indeed play the move in 2D, but the latter simply refused outright. I personally believe that if Disney is going to continue this practice, they need to adjust the price of the 3D version down so that your end expenditure is the same, or no one is going to buy it – a sentiment seemingly shared by retailers judging by the 3D disc’s conspicuous absence from next week’s ads. If Disney wants to experiment with new configurations that will make the discs cheaper for them to produce without sacrificing quality, I think that’s great. But if they’re not going to pass at least some of that savings onto the consumer, and expect people to pay full freight for half of what they used to get for the same money, then this effort is doomed to failure from the beginning.
In any case, with Oz: The Great and Powerful, Disney has produced a great film that lovingly pays homage to one of the most beloved classic movies of all time. I just hope retailer apathy, or enthusiast anger, doesn’t stop people from seeing it the way it’s intended.
- Jeff Kleist