Oz the Great and Powerful 3D review

Sam Raimi's epic fantasy prequel conjures up a new benchmark for 3D Blu-ray

Given the reverence so many fans have for the legendary 1939 MGM musical, it's no surprise that some consider any plans to do a prequel to The Wizard of Oz to be completely sacrilegious.

But somehow writer Michael Kapner and director Sam Raimi have managed to magic up a dizzying and manically inventive fantasy film that feels like a natural part of the universe Frank L. Baum created. By exploring the origin of the Wizard, this blockbuster prequel feels fresh and unpredictable, whilst also delivering plenty of nods and winks for fans of the original film (and Baum's books).

Buoyed by game performances from all the principals and Raimi's energetic direction, Oz the Great and Powerful is a fun slice of fantastical whimsy wrapped up in dazzling layers of 3D eye-candy. So, even if it doesn't really measure up to the original, it's still a whole lot of fun.

Picture: Step aside Avatar, there's a new king of 3D Blu-ray. Disney's MVC-encoded stereoscopic presentation of Oz the Great and Powerful not only sets a new technical benchmark for the format – the native 3D photography is so involving that it easily makes the film more enjoyable that the 'flat' version.

The sheer depth of the image and the volumetric dimensionality of everything inhabiting it is frankly awe-inspiring. Nothing about it feels forced or hokey (not even the odd out-of-the-screen moment such as the lion in Chapter 13); it just feels perfectly natural.

Colour presentation is probably the most vibrant we've seen in a 3D presentation and fills the widescreen 2.40:1 at all times (at least it does from Chapter 8 when the action moves to Oz – prior to that it's 1.33:1 black-and-white).

The 2D AVC 2.40:1 1080p is equally impressive, with no trace of colour banding, macroblocking, compression artefacts or edge enhancement. So, while we think the film itself works better in its stereoscopic guise, whatever your video preference, Oz the Great and Powerful's HD imagery is truly magical.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Both the 2D and 3D presentations of the film are accompanied by what Disney is openly touting as a 'near-field' DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. This indicates that the mix has been optimised for 'smaller' environments – but don't worry, this is something that Disney has apparently done with a lot of its mixes in the past (albeit without the labelling) and, as it happens, Oz the Great and Powerful's 7.1-channel soundtrack is a match for the reference-quality visuals.

Admittedly, things start in a rather subdued mode, with the audio accompanying the monochrome opening being deliberately wedded to the front stereo spread. However, once our hero is sucked up by the tornado in Chapter 7 the full 7.1 mix explodes into life. Front and rear speakers are employed aggressively and consistently from that point onwards, building layer upon layer of audio in the soundfield to dynamic effect. And it's all ably supported by the authoritative presence of the track's LFE channel.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Oddly, when Oz the Great and Powerful was released on Blu-ray in the US, consumers were only given the chance of buying separate 2D and 3D versions – there was no set containing both Blu-rays (although each did ship with a redemption code allowing owners of one to buy the other for just $5.99).

Happily, here in the UK Disney has stuck with its traditional release strategy and the 3D Blu-ray release comes with a copy of the 2D disc packed-in. Which is a good thing too, as that's the only one of the two platters to offer anything in the way of bonus material.

Walt Disney and the Road to Oz (10 minutes) is a fascinating account of the filmmaker's love of the Oz books and his many attempts to get a film adaptation off the ground over the years – including a horrible-looking TV movie featuring the Mouseketeers that was thankfully scrapped.

"My Journey in Oz" by James Franco (22 minutes) finds the actor armed with a video camera and interviewing the principal cast and crew, as well as going behind-the-scenes to see how the movie was made. Franco is as much fun off-screen as he is on and has a great rapport with the rest of the team, making this a refreshing and informative spin on the usual Making of… documentary.

China Girl: The Suspension of Disbelief (five minutes), Before Your Eyes: From Kansas to Oz (11 minutes), Mila's Metamorphosis (eight minutes) and Mr. Elfman's Musical Concoctions (seven minutes) all focus on different aspects of the production – from visual effects and costumes to make-up and music – and are also well worth a shufti. Finally, there's a blooper reel (five minutes) featuring the usual mix of flubbed lines and mucking around.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Disney's entertaining fantasy film is not only much better in 3D, it also sets a new reference standard for the format 

Oz the Great and Powerful 3D, Walt Disney, All-region BD, £25 Approx