Review: Oz the Great and Powerful


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:
  • Review:

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.

Is Oz the Great and Powerful truly great? Hit the jump to follow the yellow brick road of my thoughts.oz

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.”

Let’s get the comparisons over and done with, shall we?oztgap

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.hr_oz_the_great_and_powerful_12

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.Oz-The-Great-and-Powerful

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.oz-great-powerful08

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.oza

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.”)oz-great-powerful-2-tv-ads

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: 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


  1. 1) I LOVE Oz – I was obsessed with the books as a child. 2) I LOVE Return to Oz!!! I watched it religiously when I was 7 and still own it and watch at least once a year. 3) I’m going to see this tomorrow (or rather today, I suppose…) – yay!! 4) Great review! Love how you broke everything down.


    • 1. Me too!
      2. I watched Return to Oz a few times, but man those langoliers and the headless queen and all scarred me for life as a little kid. haha.
      3. I hope you enjoy! Come back and let me know your thoughts, or link your review here)
      4. Thank you so much.

      fyi, Somewhere over the Rainbow holds a very special place in my heart and while I didn’t expect to hear that song (there were many legal things holding this film back…from a different color Green for the Wicked Witch, to the absence of a mole on her face, to no ruby red slippers…it’s ridiculous), I was still hoping to hear something memorable! 🙂


      • 1) Awesome – always happy making to meet another Oz fan!
        2) Haha, totally understand! I was terrified of them too! But I was also a dark and morbid child so they fascinated me. 😉
        3) I’ll definitely come back and let you know what I think! 🙂
        4) You’re welcome!

        Wow I didn’t know there were so many legalities and little things like that – that’s crazy. Disappointing that Somewhere Over the Rainbow wasn’t a part of it. Oh, fun random fact – I have actually played Dorothy twice on stage – definitely a dream role for me with my ❤ of Oz! 🙂


      • Yeah, so many little things that they had to dance around because of the legalities and picky contracts.

        twice! you were Dorothy twice? That is very impressive! Um, I can do a pretty good cowardly lion singing! 🙂


      • That’s awesome!!! I want to hear!! And yes, once in a stage version of The Wizard of Oz (non-musical) and once in Dorothy Meets Alice (where Dorothy and Alice from Wonderland meet up). Quite fun! 🙂


      • I watched tonight!

        “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.” ~ Definitely agree. My friends and I ended up watching in 3D (which I HATE) but the 3D part wasn’t too terrible. It was very underwhelming though – I expected so much more but visually it was fun and overall it was fun.

        “Though, I will say that something felt a little “off” about Mila Kunis in her role as the movie progressed.” ~ Also agreed here. I’m not sure what exactly it was but she was less believable to me as the wicked witch.

        My summary would be – lots of substance, small on plot (the actual plot was way too little); I kept getting knocked out of the story by how often and repeatedly they picked up and put down China Girl, often within a matter of seconds (what was that about??), visually appealing, some nice homages to the original. Also where was Bruce??? I didn’t see him at all!


      • hey Misty,
        sorry it took so long for me to reply.

        1. Somewhere over the Rainbow is super special because when I was born I had a teddybear given to me by my uncle. It had a windup dial on its back that would play an instrumental version of the song. My mom said it put me to sleep a lot and she loved the bear (placing it in my crib often). As I grew up, it was a song I learned to play on the cello for my mother and still love it. My uncle, unfortunately, passed away as a result of drunk-driving the wknd before Princess Diana did. When I hear the song, I think, not only of him, but my mom (who I play it for via webcam on my cello from time to time on Mother’s Day. She still cries like she did many years ago at my 6th grade recital). It’s a very special song.

        “King of the Forest”, however, is not a song I go around singing to other people that I want to like me. sounding just like the cowardly lion is a privilege just for my family to hear. hahaha 😀

        2. Bruce Campbell was a guard in the movie. You can see him here:

        3. Yep, i agree. lots of style, little substance. I wish I could say Mila was great. Glad we really see eye to eye on that.

        Thanks again for sharing your thoughts! 🙂 I enjoyed talking about the movie with you


  2. Good Review but I can’t agree with the visuals match up and I haven’t even seen the movie. The special effects and just use of color were mind blowing for the audience in 1939. I don’t believe that the 3D can compare to that. Still, awesome review.


    • You bring up a good point in that, for the time, it was amazing colors. But the visuals in Oz:TGAP were pretty legit. I liked them, but, might imagine more people said “wow” back in 1939.
      I hope you come back and share your thoughts after watching it. Thanks so much for commenting (love the thought-provoking debate of opposite views)! And appreciate the compliment


    • I’m gonna have to agree with this comment. The visuals for Oz (not that I’ve seen it, so I’m not exactly the most informed opinion) look pretty good, but the foundation of the visuals and that sense of wonder will always be rooted in the original.


  3. If anything, this movie reminded me that it was good to be back in Oz and it’s a place that I would have no problems still showing up to every now and again. Good review T.


  4. Nice review, Terrence. Sorry to hear this came across as a middling effort to you. About the music… do you mean there aren’t any songs, or just that they aren’t as catchy as the ones in Wizard of Oz?


      • OK. That’s not so bad, then. The only song from WoZ I really remember liking was “If I Only Had a Brain”. “Yellow Brick Road”, “Ding Dong” and “We Welcome You to Munchkinland” all get really old really fast.


  5. Nice review, Terrence!! I admit I wasn’t looking forward to this film, especially with Franco in the lead (given his track record with coming off as utterly laid back in roles) but I’m pleased to hear they haven’t managed to completely trash the Oz legacy. I note you’re “Alice-in Wonderland-ish” comment too – this is something I felt from all the trailers, was that they’d simply rehashed the AIW style of an overdose of CGi and green-screen work, allowing precious little for character. Glad to see they learned from Wonderland in time to balance it better with Oz. I’ll check this out on Blu, I think it’ll look fantastic!


  6. I thought the music was great… blended in well with the picture, and amped up the action.

    You are right about Mila Kunis, they could have gotten a better actress.


  7. I dunno, T. I liked it a bit more than you did, I think. I certainly wouldnt call it great, but it was better than mediocre. This was a solid win for a March movie, and I think audiences – especially families – are going to respond super well to it. 😉


  8. Great review T. I’m most curious to see how Franco fares in this role, as he’s not the first choice. I wish I had been able to make it to the press screening, but I still might pay for the matinee for this one.


    • Hi Ruth! Thank you for reading and for the compliment. I will say that Franco was pretty believable and did well. I wish you could’ve seen it early as well as, undoubtedly, several viewings now will be packed.

      Look forward to your thoughts on it.


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