Oz the Great and Powerful
- Starring: James Franco (Spider-Man), Michelle Williams (Shutter Island), Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and more.
- Directed by: Sam Raimi (Spider-Man)
- Synopsis: “When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity—and even a bit of wizardry—Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.”
- Rated: Rated PG for slightly scary sequences and mild language.
- Must-Watch Trailer:
When news first broke out about this project, many misunderstood the film’s intent and first thought that the classic Wizard of Oz was about to be remade. Soon after it became clear that it was not a “remake” but was, in fact, set to be a prequel and sighs of relief came from many…until, perhaps, people learned the director of the disappointing Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi) would be at the helm with “Mr. Smug” (James Franco) himself in the title role. I actually didn’t mind any of these factors and with anticipation looked forward to what I hoped would be the first great movie of 2013.
Sam Raimi quite skillfully and pleasantly takes us back to the land of Oz for the “first” time and it never looked prettier! The vibrant colors, the odd creatures…Oz looks exactly how I wanted it to and the Emerald City…wow. Impressively, Raimi brings us into the land of Oz but first takes after the pattern of Dorothy’s famous travels by landing us smackdab in the middle of a black and white Kansas to see the beginning of the soon-to-be wizard’s journey to greatness.
Wisely, this prequel draws greatly on the successes of its cinematically canonized “continuation.” The familiar introduction in Kansas and then in Oz is welcoming and enjoyable. The comparisons between this prequel and The Wizard of Oz are inevitable to be certain. That being the case, while Oz the Great and Powerful (hereafter referred to as “Oz: TGAP”) definitely meets/exceeds the Wizard of Oz in certain aspects (**Gasp**), there are several other elements that keep Oz: TGAP from being truly “great.”
Suffice it to say, Oz:TGAP is an underwhelming, yet fun film to watch (and even more so in 3D), but nothing still beats the original. I think we all expected that. Aside from a few things like poor pacing and the underdevelopment of characters, there are some things that I’d like to point out.
1. Casting. Something MUST be said for the rather impressive casting of Oz:TGAP. Major props to Casting director John Papsidera who also directed the casting for a few other little films like The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Zombieland, Inception, the upcoming film Ender’s Game and more (although, we must forgive his casting for the dreadful Dragonball Z: Evolution). James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff and, yes, even Bruce Campbell all grace the screen as characters in this beautiful prequel…and they do it pretty well. James Franco, not surprisingly, really pulls off being a self-indulgent, over-confident, pompous wizard. Though, I will say that something felt a little “off” about Mila Kunis in her role as the movie progressed.
2. Background. This film has the benefit of The Wizard of Oz‘s success. Good thing they do not ignore most of it as it serves to really flush out some of the things that would otherwise require even further longer explanation amid the semi-dragging story. The nostalgia from the classic keeps parts of this otherwise mediocre, yet beautiful, movie alive.
3. Visuals. So glad that Raimi did this in the fashion he did as opposed to the scary look and feel of Return to Oz (anyone remember that horrible sequel?). The visuals make this movie pop and help keep the attention as the story’s excitement fades in and out. Although, it was a bit too much “Alice in Wonderland“-ish for my liking.
4. But where was the music, Mr. Raimi?? I wish I could tell you that “music” was a win for Oz:TGAP. You’d think after all of the “musical” emphasis made in Hollywood over the past year and a half or so, that they’d bring in some great songs to the prequel of one of the greatest musicals of all time. Nope. Not a single memorable song here, folks. Nada. ZERO “Charm” points in that department. (Nothing even close to as catchy as the following tunes: “We’re off to see the Wizard,” “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead,” “Munchkin Land,” “If I only had a Brain,” “If I were the King of the Forest,” or my all-time favorite song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”)
There’s not even an: ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ “Oh-Ee-YOh. ee-YOHH-ho!” ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬
Ultimately, Disney has a magically mediocre win on their hands with Oz the Great and Powerful…but barely. Raimi reintroduces the world of Oz in fantastic form through some fun, albeit superfluous additional characters, amazing visuals and a strong cast. While it lacks in memorable characters, songs and dialogue, its use or reuse of other elements from The Wizard of Oz keep it afloat. (Or perhaps, more so, our curiosity to know how the Wiz became the “wonderful wiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was” keeps it afloat.)
Although, I’m not sure that whatever tricks the wizard may have in his hat will be enough to keep it going for the already planned sequel. But keep the hope alive, because, “if ever a wonderful wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one because….because, because, because, because, because”…aww, you know how it goes.
Score: 3 out of 5 stars for Oz the Great and Powerful (It’s good, just not great.)
(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 200 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
–T, The Focused Filmographer