Oz the Great and Powerful
Release Date: March 8th, 2013Actors: James Franco, Mila Kunis
Director: Sam Raimi
Current Location: In Theaters
When Oscar Diggs, 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, Evanora and Glinda, 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 wizard but into a better man as well. When small-time magician Oscar Diggs pulls one flimflam too many, he finds himself hurled into the fantastical Land of Oz where he must somehow transform himself into the great wizard-and just maybe into a better man as well.
Regardless of negative reviews, I believe most people who adore Wizard of Oz will want to take a look at Oz the Great and Powerful purely for being able to see the yellow brick road, Emerald City and all the other wonderful things that make Oz so special and close to the heart.
There were things to be admired in the film prequel, but there were also elements that didn't quite reach the mark. Let's start with the good. Sam Raimi the director of Oz and also the Spider-Man trilogy was able to show us the wonderful world -- this time with appealing graphics. Krista wished there was less CGI, but I had no problem watching roses bloom at ultra speed. However, we never really got to see the flying monkeys up close, and they didn't seem as terrifying as they did in the original. Perhaps because these were CGI?
Franco's "friends" that helped him along his journey overshadowed his portrayal as the fraud Oscar Diggs. The China Girl -- who wee meet at a new place called China Town -- provided the most comedic relief as well as the monkey bellhop (voiced by Zach Braff). The three witches each held their own, and you'll walk away feeling as though Mila Kunis outshone the rest. But really, Glenda the Good witch is a bit one-dimensional, so it's no discredit to Michelle Williams who played her excellently.
What Raimi failed to do was tell an intriguing story. Once we were catapulted into the world, I was waiting for more. Nothing. Maybe the main problem was that the entire film lacked any singing. There was a small moment where the munchkins emerge and they sing a little jingle, but that's it. Without the music, the film really fell flat and lost any magical whimsy.
And James Franco...he was horribly miscast. While he succeeded in being a bad guy willing to take advantage of his situation in Oz and make out with the treasure, he also failed at being entirely believable throughout. Really, when he's on screen, it's hard even take him seriously. He has a way of acting as though he's making fun of a role. The way he delivers lines with his half-smirk and droopy eyes just comes across like he thinks the film is ridiculous and he'd rather be giggling in another Pineapple Express.
I'll end with a bit of good. Raimi paid homage to the world of Oz and the previous film by showing us horses that change color, the poppy field, munchkins, Glenda in her bubble, the origin of the Wicked Witch and her broom, the origin of the Wizard's machine, and of course, the yellow brick road.
ROBOT VERDICT: An old world brought to life in a similar way, but with a dull plot and a grating lead. Worth seeing in theaters for Oz on the big screen, but once you have your fill of the world, you won't want to visit again.