I had high expectations for Oz The Great And Powerful, but ultimately (as I usually am) I was let down. I’ll admit, I’ve never read L. Frank Baum’s books, so what I know of Oz is from the 1939 movie Wizard of Oz and Wicked. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t already have an idea of exactly how the world should be. While Raimi got some of it right, he also get a lot of it so very, very wrong. This movie had all the potential to be an insta-classic, much like Wizard of Oz, unfortunately it failed.

 

Oz The Great And Powerful
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Abigal Spencer, Joey King

Premise: The story of Wizard Of Oz is a well-known one, but the story of how the wizard came to be the Wizard is lesser known. Oscar Diggs, aka Oz (James Franco), is a con-man, working at a failing travelling circus, charming oblivious women with his cunning tricks. Oscar finds himself on the run when he scams the wrong person. He manages to escape in a hot air balloon, and right toward a tornado. The tornado takes him to Oz, a world of many colors, figuratively and literally. He finds himself in the center of a witchy rivalry, the city hoping he is the proclaimed Wizard prophesied to save their land from the Wicked Witch. Accompanied by Finley, a friendly flying monkey, and a China Doll (Joey King), Oscar embarks on a journey that changes his life forever.

 

WHAT IT GOT RIGHT:

The World Of Oz – Oz was beautiful, very reminiscent of the 1939 movie which I appreciated. The scenery was vibrant making Oz the place we all imagined (with advanced color correction). It was magical, and quirky, and unusual, from the costumes, to the make-up, to the set design.

Monkeys – First, the Evil Flying Monkeys were genuinely scary and I was happy about that. Gone was the bellhop uniform (at least for the evil flying monkey) and it was replaced by a frightening monsters that provided for some heart-racing moments. But Raimi didn’t fail us, still giving us the Oz monkey we know and love. Blue, bellhop and funny looking, Finely was Oscar’s lovable, loyal companion providing the audience with comical moments.

The Emotional Beats – This movie had some great moments. Oscar in China Town with the little China Doll was probably the sweetest, saddest, most emotional moment in the movie. It really was fantastic in every way. Another powerful moment came near the end. Revealing the Wizard was as outstanding as it should have been. The special effects worked well in this instance, where in other places it did not.

Rachel Weisz – I don’t know what it was, but her presence automatically elevated the movie. I can’t explain it, but when you see it you’ll know what I mean. She was as regal and beautiful as she was evil and I was mesmerized by her emerald green necklace. (I know costume design had more to do with it, than Weisz herself, but I’m a girl and needed to slip jewelry in here somehow.) She was a great casting choice as the evil Evanora.

 

WHERE IT WENT WRONG:

The Stiff/Proper Qualities to Theodora and Glinda – I don’t understand why the witches couldn’t have had a bit more personality. Rachel Weisz was fantastically evil. Her coldness worked for her, but she still had that passionate spark. With Michelle Williams, where she was going for whimsy, she came off a bit too doe-eyed. (Anne Hathaway in Alice And Wonderland also had a similar problem in Burton’s Alice and Wonderland.) Billy Burke’s version of Glinda had more personality, while keeping that fantastical quality. She wasn’t stiff…just eccentric. As for Theodora, her “proper” qualities worked for her in the beginning though I think she could have bad a bit more spunk, but later on in the movie the stiffness works against her. She was missing that special spark.

Mila Kunis – Ok, I love this girl. Seriously. I’m pretty sure if we met each other we’d be best friends or at least drinking buddies. (And I mean that in the least creepiest way possible.) One of the things I love about her are the way her eyes sparkle when she’s angry. Her huge eyes are just so expressive it makes the rest of her face come alive. Maybe it was the make-up, or maybe it was the way she was directed, but she was much more subdued. It made her harder to relate to. She lost all her spunky, fiery personality—something the movie could have used. So maybe it’s not so much her fault as it is the way she was directed or the way her character was interpreted. And again, I love the girl.

The Movie Catered To The Wrong Demographic – Ok, so there are kids’ movies that adults can appreciate and kids’ movies that alienate adults. While the Giant Slayer teetered on this line, Oz The Great and Powerful crossed it and then some. I would have enjoyed this movie better if it was a bit more serious. Everything felt cartoonish, from the blatant exploitation of the 3D technology (things jumping out on screen toward the audience) and the slapstick comedy of characters hitting each other with objects, to the portrayals of the witches. The movie would have been better if it were edgier.

The Cheesy/Campy/Corny-ness – I know I said this in the last point, but it was just too over-the-top: Characters, situations, dialogue. It was predictable, when it should have been quirkier. For example, good monkey’s and evil monkeys – not predictable. “China Town” cute, yet quirky. All of these things were successful. The over-the-top, overly dramatic but somehow stiff acting from James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams?…Not so successful. I love the fact that we are left guessing who the Wicked Witch really is, but the dialogue was pedestrian. I think Raimi needed a bit of Tim Burton’s influence.

Not Enough Characters From “Real World” Incorporated Into Oz World*minor spoiler alert* In true Oz fashion, some characters from the real world need to carry over into Oz. Zach Braff was both Oscar’s assistant and Monkey friend, Michelle Williams was Annie Gale and Glinda…But that was it. Anyone else think Oscar’s female assistant should have been played by Mila Kunis’ character? Jealousy, heartbreak and all?

 

Rating: 3 Stars

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. I actually enjoyed this one, but agree and said the same thing about targeting the kid audience in my own review. Either we’re increasingly desensitized to suspense and fear in film, or we need to pull the reigns in on Hollywood. Probably both. I definitely would like to have seen more of what made the wicked witch.

    • Yes, I think more back story would have helped it a lot. I felt like Raimi was relying on the audience knowing the story too much. Also, it might be James Franco’s fault. He could have been more charming.

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