We’re off to see the wizard the wonderful Wizard of Oz,” oh crap wrong movie. This hasn’t happened yet.
These days when Hollywood wants to retell a similar story in a familiar setting, they make a prequel to the original. Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the beloved classic, “The Wizard of Oz.” It may not end up becoming a classic like the original but it is still a fun and entertaining film, that kids and adults will love.
The plot follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), who is called “Oz” by all his friends. He is transported to the magical land of Oz by a Tornado. There he mets three witches, all sisters – Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) – who want him to save the citizens from the threat of the Wicked Witch.
Who is the Wicked Witch? Well, the movie tells you exactly who half way through and if you pay really close attention to the opening credits they tell you who she is played by. The film is not concerned about playing this off as mystery but focuses more on the power struggle between the sisters.
Oz the Great and Powerful makes full use of modern-technology. Everything is grander and filled with much more spectacle. The movie is visually stunning with only a few moments where you can see the faults in the CGI. But for me this hurt the movie because it went from one moment of spectacle to another. The moments of exposition feel sometimes like they are just thrown in there as padding.
The are a few great performances in the film. Franco is perfectly cast. He brings the slimy con-man and the genuine heart to Oz. Rachel Weisz is a scene stealer, playing her role to such amazing villainy. On the other hand, you have Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis. I’m going to chalk William’s bland lackluster performance to her playing Glinda. She has to be the living embodiment of good but her performance is just so damn sugary. Kunis on the other hand I have a harder time over looking. Her Theodora is very boring to watch. I understand they wanted to make her seem oblivious and easily manipulable but her performance just falls flat.
Spoilers, but not really, Theodora is the one who transforms in the Wicked Witch of the West. Even here her performance just didn’t do it for me. Her Wicked Witch came across as a green dominatrix rather than the stuff of nightmare that Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch was. Even the laugh bothered me, it is missing that cackle and terror, that has been associated with the character.
I also have to talk about Oz’s two companions: Finely the flying monkey and Little China Girl. I know some people found Finely to be annoying but I think he worked really well. Unlike characters like Jar Jar Binks (Star Wars: Episode I) and Donkey (Shrek), who just never knew when to shut up, he did. His banter with Franco is entertaining to watch and represents that Sam Rami humor and wit you always find in his films. Little China Girl is easily the best character in this film. From the moment you meet her she just steals your heart away. She is charming, she is heart warming and she is funny.
Director Sam Rami has no attention in trying to recreate or out do the Wizard of Oz but spends most of the movie paying homage to it. You can see it from the start, when the movie begins in black and white and shifts in aspect ratio when Oz enters the magical land. It works as a way to pay tribute to what came before and taps into some nostalgia. There are also hints in the film, like did we just hear about Dorothy’s parents, but I’ll leave you to discover those for yourself.
My major problem with Oz the Great and Powerful is that it the visuals detract from the plot and overshadow many characters. The land of Oz is truly spectacular and brilliantly mapped out but is treated as the main attraction instead of being used to bring more life to the characters. I mean, “Avatar” did it. It used Pandora as tool to cause awe and brought it’s characters to the forefront. Oz the Great and Powerful, just constantly throws spectacle at you.
Not only does it throw spectacle but it also throws hats, coins, fire, wood, monkeys, the list goes on. I’m speaking obviously of the 3D in the film, which is not really used to create a more immersive environment and depth in the image. It’s used to have things constantly leap out of the screen. The use of 3D also tells about the type of audience that Oz wants to attract: your kids.
I thought that Oz the Great and Powerful could have been so much better. It has the potential but it never strives to be anything great. There is lots to love about this film but it never came together for me. I’ve said it at least six times in this review but I’ll say it again, Oz the Great and Powerful is good entertainment for the whole family. It should be watched, it isn’t perfect but it is enjoyable.
Score: 2.5 out of 4