Return to Oz - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Return to Oz Reviews

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½ January 15, 2017
There's a darkness to this movie that feels so pervasive throughout that you never truly find yourself settling to enjoy it. It has some nice moments of humour and lots of inventiveness but is just a little to creepy for it's own good.
½ January 14, 2017
A cash grab for little kids to watch.
January 12, 2017
When I was 6 my teachers in school had decided to show this to my class. It was the most terrifying movie I had ever seen and I had nightmares for months afterwards. To this day as an adult I haven't wanted to watch it again. I have no idea what possessed people to show this to 6 year olds!
October 30, 2016
Sooo dark yet so intriguing. So many hidden messages, and freaky effects that stay true to the books of the Oz. It's basically a mish mash of the most effective parts of two of the books, mixed into one movie. It's very well done and always a classic forever in the hearts of kids who like spooky tales.
August 30, 2016
I give the creators credit for the wild imaginations that they've shown on the design of this world! But wow! They didn't have to go so far as to give us nightmares, therefore scarring us for life! Compared to this, the Neverending Story is freakin Braveheart!
August 25, 2016
This odd continuation of the Oz series left me feeling conflicted: on one hand, it's well done and the craftsmanship of its special effects hold up really well for 1985. But it's kinda cringey to watch throughout, and a little unsettling. It had that bleak Narnia vibe to it that I can't quite put an observation on.
July 24, 2016
Being an OZ FAN....this is one of the best Disney Oz films out there. So close to the books...since it is based on - and truly a cult classic for many, many years to come. Being a producer myself of Oz related films and a few Oz documentaries - I treasure this film and remains very close to my heart. - Aaron Pacentine, Producer of The Wonderful World of Oz, & Remembering Return To Oz
June 13, 2016
Love it, a classic of childhood. It's delightfully dark.
March 30, 2016
Very overlooked, underrated film. Entertaining, scary, and whimsical, this movie has it all.
March 21, 2016
This is an underrated fantasy movie. Not only is it closer to the original Oz books than any other movie but it respects kids enough not to pander to them. This movie has a dark tone and is occasionally creepy and that really makes this movie work that plus some pretty cool special effects for the time to build its creepy world
March 11, 2016
One of Disney's underrated gems of the 80s. Certain parts might be too scary for younger children, but that being said this movie achieved of bringing the darkness hidden between the lines of the pages of L. Frank Baum's second and third novels. The special effects are spectacular, and I still don't understand how one of cinema's finest music scores didn't get nominated for an Oscar. It may be difficult for some people to enjoy this movie without trying to compare it with MGM's musical classic, and I think that's why it hasn't gotten the recognition it truly deserves. This movie may not be for everyone, but it will still remain a treasured favorite right along with 1939's THE WIZARD OF OZ
February 17, 2016
GREAT movie! Scared the shit of me as a child. Recently rewatched and it's fantastic while still slightly terrifying.
½ February 1, 2016
I can't say it's world class, nor pure entertainment, but it's classic in a number of important ways and has a certain purity and abundance of imagination. Plus, it's pretty scary too at points, even for an adult.
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2016
Ah, the long forgotten sequel, of sorts, to the classic 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. Now, this little gem of a movie was actually loosely based on the novel []iThe Marvelous Land of Oz[/i] by L. Frank Baum and in part his other novel [i]Ozma of Oz[/i]. The plot takes place six months after Dorothy's (Fairuza Balk) original adventure to Oz (in the year 1899) and sees her struggling with insomnia. She is sent off for electric shock treatment at some spooky clinic because in this era people didn't know any better, she isn't being punished, people just thought these methods helped. Anyway, Ozma appears and helps Dorothy escape during a frightful storm, in the midst of the panic Dorothy leaps into a fast flowing river and is swept away. Exit the real world, welcome to the fantasy zone. Dorothy awakes after the storm, but she is no longer in Kansas, she is now once again in the magical land of Oz.

Okay lets get down n dirty here, this movie didn't do very well upon release, although I have no idea why. It was 1985, Star Wars mania was still in full flow, Lucas, Spielberg and Henson were the grand overlords of Hollywood, fantasy was the big thing in the movie industry and this movie had plenty of that. Just looking at the films poster you can see the influence people like Lucas and Henson had on everything, that recognisable, glorious hand drawn style with the typical character posing positions which you saw in many 80's fantasy posters, it looks like a Lucasfilm/Henson Film product. Next to that the visuals even looked like something from Lucas or Henson, the effects in this movie were of a high standard for the time and anyone of a certain age can instantly see the similarities to other movies of the genre, from that that era. Basically I'm saying the movie felt very much like a Lucas or Henson movie, so the fact it didn't do well was a curious one (although many of these films got greater recognition later in life).

Now admittedly I don't know much about Baum's stories, I haven't read the books, but just with a little bit of research I found myself genuinely impressed with the levels of faithfulness this movie incorporated. The movie appears to pick n choose bits to use from the books and they aren't exactly the same, but in general the essence is there. The first and most obvious nod to the original material are the characters. Now back in the day I was always confused why the characters looked so vastly different to the 1939 version, but its actually the 39 version that was way off base (obviously for limited technical reasons). In this movie the characters are actually very faithfully recreated and what's more, they all look fudging brilliant!

First up the Scarecrow, gotta be honest, I don't like the look of this character in this movie, he looks bloody creepy. Its a bloke in a suit wearing a large full covering mask, but the masks face doesn't actually move, the expression was fixed, its only in quick cuts do we see a different expression, bloody creepy I tells ya. But as I already said he does look exactly as drawn way back in the 1904 novel. The tin woodsman doesn't really show in this film, he's there but only in briefly and doesn't say anything, a shame because this character looks awesome, they really nailed his look perfectly. The same can be said for the Cowardly Lion, again he only pops up at the end in a cameo, we don't hear him speak or anything, he's just a large but very well created animatronic puppet.

The new characters are a joy, a real blend of fantasy and imagination brought to life with much scope. Tik-Tok is a squat, big and round, completely copper, wind-up soldier from the Army of Oz, with the appearance of a typical WWI soldier. Now this character is easily one of the most impressive feats in this film, he's a full blown complete costume that does actually look like its been made out of actual metal. The character waddles around awkwardly, so much so that it makes it hard to believe this guy could actually be of any use because he moves so slowly and loudly and constantly requires winding-up, a lot of artistic license and suspension of disbelief required for this guy. Jack Pumpkinhead immediately serves up one thought, did Tim Burton see this movie and get the idea for Jack Skellington? bloody looks like it doesn't it. Anyway again its another fantastic full body suit for a very tall slender fellow, the head being slightly animatronic as it does appear to shift at times for expressions of horror, although not too much. The Gump is, I believe, based very loosely on the sawhorse that Dorothy uses to escape Mombi? This guy is a collection of various items all tied together to create a flying creature, mainly a large couch with wings and a moose-like head, the head being fully animatronic. There is also Dorothy's faithful chicken that appears to be completely animatronic for the most part, and again is damn impressive, looks pretty real.

This leaves the Nome King (played by Nicol Williamson), a character that seems to be living rock and wants to become alive or human in form, presumably so he can rule easier. At first the King appears as just an aged face in the rock, but as time passes we see him in full humanoid form, looking more like a traditional King but made out of rock. The Kings visual appearance seems to be accomplished using claymation (in my opinion), just like all his demon-like minions whom only appear as faces on rock surfaces. The effect is simple stop-motion yet very effective, it clearly takes time and effort to accomplish and still holds up very well. Later makeup effects to make the King appear more human (or alive) are actually really fantastic, you can see its merely face paint/face makeup, prosthetics and clever lighting but my God its good. The combination of Williamson's acting and the spectacular makeup on top really make the Nome Kings scenes the best in the movie. Hell even the Wheelers are well created even though they are just blokes on stilts with wheels on the bottom. Their costumes may come across as a bit stupid looking these days (although their masks are pretty sweet) but their gangly, gaunt appearance accompanied by that eerie rusty, squeaky sound effect (their wheels) which precedes their emergence, is what makes them so bone-chilling.

Other effects in the movie aren't quite up to speed though I must be honest. Whilst there are lots of decent matte paintings being used for landscapes, which work nicely, there is also a lot of bad bluescreen going on, every now and then you get a truly disastrous bluescreen effects shot that just pops up outta nowhere. Some of the sets range from being quite lavish and authentic, to being really fake looking, obviously plastic of foam. Whilst some sequences are really very very poor looking, Dorothy falling down into the Nome Kings lair is dreadful looking, like something from the 50's. Its basically a live action Balk pasted against a horrific kaleidoscope of colours in the background via bluescreen (or rear projection). Other sequences such as Dorothy and co falling through the sky were always gonna be crap looking and totally ridiculous.

What I did like about this movie, character effects aside, was the darkness, the fact that director Murch went out of his way to actually make this a much gloomier affair. This is supposed to be a kids flick but there is so much going on that will scare them, it always gave me the willy's back in the day. Right from the start with Dorothy being taken to Dr. Worley and his house of horrors for shock treatment. Then you have the witch Mombi played with such ferocity by Jean Marsh, she really lays into that character with such force and conviction, especially with all the heads she collects stored away neatly in glass cabinets. Add to that her headless body that stumbles around like Frankenstein's monster whilst all the disembodied heads scream from their glass prisons! Holy nightmare! hardly the stuff for children! The finale against the Nome King isn't for the faint-hearted child either as the giant stone head tries to devour everyone, until he gets poisoned and pretty much rots away roaring in agony leaving a skeletal stone structure.

Just like the original 1939 movie, the whole adventure is hinted at nothing more than a dream with some characters from the real world that manifest themselves in Oz. Of course there is always a little twist to make you keep wondering. Overall I really struggle to fault this movie despite its negative points and glaring plot holes (how did Billina the chicken wind up in Oz with Dorothy? come to think of it how did Dorothy wind up in Oz?). Yes the film is way too dark for kids which is the target audience, the heroes are just as scary as the baddies to be honest, visually at least. So that's an issue, Jack Pumpkinhead is suppose to be the nice, soft, scaredy-cat type fellow, but he looks bloody terrifying! (for kids), thus making it hard for people to relate. On the other hand I must applaud the bravery and attention to faithfulness of the source material. In general it all looks wonderful...if slightly cheesy and corny by today's standards naturally. Yes you could say I'm looking through rose tinted specs and you'd be a degree, nevertheless this film still makes a grand impact with solid performances (including the young Balk). A classic whimsical fairytale which is engaging, endearing and dare I say...retro, well worth your time.
December 18, 2015
The most faithful translation of Frank L. Baum works to the screen.
If you read the books of Oz is impossible to not love this movie, is pure fanservice from the fans.
The problem with this movie is that most of people want more of the MGM fim, and they dont have a clue that was based in a book and has a lot of sequels.
One better than the other.
Reading reviews from people who didnt like this movie, I see that they judge based in the mgm musical and not as a movie on hid owm.
I had the pleasure to watch as a kid, and all the other kids loved, but many grown ups are upset.
First time I saw the: "My childhood was raped" Reaction.

The great
December 7, 2015
Awesome film the mental hospital scenes are great.
September 29, 2015
Dark, creepy and relentlessly sinister, this movie is a dread soaked nightmare horror flick dressed up as a kids movie. The Wheelers are especially terrifying, "brrrr".
½ September 12, 2015
I never really liked the original but I always liked this one as a creepy, 'The Neverending Story'-like film.
½ August 17, 2015
Talk about not being in Kansas anymore! Return to Oz takes a direction unlike any sequel to a classic has done. The type of feeling this movie has is almost exactly the opposite of the original, Wizard of Oz......and I loved it, which was a surprise. It's one of those times where a sequel very different from the first, i thought was really enjoyable to watch. Some effects do look a bit cheesy by today's standards, but the imagination is incredible, and I loved watching it. To my mind, it's an underrated-forgotten classic.
August 5, 2015
Ridiculously underrated. Possibly one of the best films of all time. It is so very packed with little things, that no wonder critics snubbed it. Everything went over their shallow heads.
But yes, too childish for adults, too scary for kids... in 1985. Perfect for everyone now.
This is truer to the stories, so really the original, the 1939 version, falls flat on its face compared.
Wonderful. If you don't get it, do some research. Pages among pages of information you've likely missed while watching this.
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