His Dark Materials
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Though the visuals look really cheap and it's plot is a tad Cliched, one with a child's heart can easily see why this has gained such a following with its memorable characters, funny lines, and charming atmosphere, even if it's in a so-weird-it's-good kind of way.
A delightful oddity. With the exception of the presence of the Ruby Slippers, just about everything in the movie runs counter to the iconic 1939 film, which makes "Return to Oz" a sequel to nothing. The movie is even darker than the Baum books its based on.
This is a difficult movie to rate because it's very good in some categories and very bad in others. The part that stood out most to me was the film score, as it crescendoed appropriately with plot points and was noticeable even outside of those moments. The acting from Fairuza was also very solid. Where it lacked were in having relatable leading characters, as there wasn't really enough difference between them and the bad guys, who didn't seem particularly bad. The tone was quite dark with the whole hostile takeover of Oz. The worst part to me was that despite the Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, the effects used to make it look like the rocks/other inanimate objects were talking were absolutely hokey, even by '85 standards in my opinion. Their Oscar nomination speaks more to a dearth of worthy contenders for the award than it does to this movie's effects.
A mesmerizing fantasy film for families!
Walter Murch's dark fantasy film Return to OZ (1985) pays tribute to Victor Fleming's The Wizard of OZ without feeling inauthentic. It's a genuinely scary movie with such frightening imagery like The Wheelers or Princess Mombi so that kids of all ages will find it horrifying. With desolate atmosphere and a bleak attitude, Return to OZ finds its heart in its heartfelt side characters as new friends to aid Dorothy Gale, played by an adorably innocent Fairuza Balk in her feature debut, in her quest to rescue The Scarecrow. Balk is charming so that the viewer always wants her childish optimism to prevail over the evil forces occupying OZ. You can tell Fairuza Balk was going to be a famous star from her charismatic acting here in Return to OZ. Return to OZ's 109 minute running time passes by quickly with its spooky tone and thrilling events like a warm afternoon of pleasant times and enjoyable Fall days.
Murch's writing is clever and dark with a penchant for haunting scenarios and expressive characters. The practical effects are enchanting as ever with real puppets, clay stop-motion, background paintings, flashing lights, and more delightful special effects to capture the magic of The Land of OZ as first imagined by L. Frank Baum's novels. The Nome King, played by an imposing Nicol Williamson full of gravitas, looks cool with his shifting rock appearance thanks to the clay stop motion animation. Williamson's mysterious and magical performance matches Return to OZ's relentless approach to dark fantasy.
On the other hand, Piper Laurie is a warm presence in a cold world as Aunt Em. Sean Barrett is a very fun robot called Tik-Tok. Brian Henson is a childlike sentient pumpkin named Jack Pumpkinhead. Denise Bryer voices an actual cute chicken with a goofy shrill voice to accompany Dorothy upon her perilous journey. Lyle Conway voices a silly talking green moose named The Gump. Justin Case does a wonderful job voicing The Scarecrow as an intelligent and friendly character. John Alexander gets a quick role as a fuzzy version of The Cowardly Lion. Deep Roy is a nice voice for The Tin Man. Lastly, Emma Ridley is sweet and intriguing as Princess Ozma.
Walter Murch's direction is striking as he pulls every trick he can to engage the audience with neat visuals and fun adventure. His use of mirrors is particularly inspired with reflective images and reversed images all over the place. Many shots have a haunting quality as the close-ups reveal an inner fear or tenderness every time. You are entranced by Return to OZ's direction the entire time. The dismal state of OZ makes for eerie production design and fascinating juxtaposition to the lavish inner palace of Princess Mombi.
Jean Marsh is seriously scary as Mombi as she screams, removes her head, and chases Dorothy; however, she is deceptively unassuming as she plays her lute. Marsh makes Return to OZ that much scarier of a Disney sanctioned fever dream.
It's astonishing that Disney allowed such a disturbing and subversive film like Return to OZ, but the early 1980's was when Disney was involved with The Dark Crystal, Return to OZ, The Black Cauldron, and Labyrinth, so it was par for the course then.
I adore the heavenly score from David Shire. His sweeping melodies for Return to OZ are sincerely warm and genuinely moving. The high strings soar over this fantasy film like a radiant dust blanketing the scenery.
In all, Return to OZ is a killer children's fantasy movie that will scare the life out of your kids for sure!
Love it my kids love it too frank l baum is amazing
One of the scariest and best children's movies ever made. It shows how scary being a child without consideration and care can be, with the metaphors of oz. It's not similar to the 1939 film, and is very unique. It's a new and terrifying world that Dorothy attempts to save. It's a combination of two Oz books and looks more accurate to the original illustrations than the previous.
Excellent film, different from wizard of oz but equally as good
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Underrated and ahead of its time! The natural progression of the story in my eyes.
It's a true humiliation that people would constantly compare the film to the Wizard of Oz. This is not supposed to have the same feel as that film, it's supposed to be its own thing...which it is. Its originality, creativity, and confidence to go dark really make it an underrated masterpiece of its own. The main characters are such a likeable group of various creatures, and it does have some strong emotional quality of its own. I feel people are very bias towards this film because of the comparisons they make to the Wizard of Oz, and boy does that make my stomach turn.