Monday, March 11, 2013

Review 138: "Oz the Great and Powerful"

Knowing Sam Raimi this first film will be solid, but forgettable. The second one will be a classic. And the third will be polarizing toward fans!

Don't Follow the Yellow Brick Road

      Oz the Great and Powerful had the small set back of MGM not allowing Disney to use any of the actually icons in the original 1939 Wizard of Oz film, which for a film that seems to bill itself more as an unofficial prequel to the film and not to the original stories by L. Frank Baum. The film, directed by Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell) and written Mitchell Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards) and David Lindsey-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians), the newly released film rises above these challenges, but not quite more. The film follows Oz (James Franco, Spider-Man 3), a magician living a poor life in Kansas, when one day his hot air balloon gets sucked into a tornado and he finds himself in the aptly named Land of Oz. There he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis, Ted), Evanora (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy) and Glinda (Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn) and discovers that he is supposed to be a great wizard that can stop the Wicked Witch. Along the way, he teams up with a monkey bellhop Finley (Zach Braff, Chicken Little) and a China Girl (Joey King, Ramona and Beezus), who help him on his quest.

James Franco is a dark forest?

The Wizard of Awesome

      Sam Raimi, who directed Oz the Great and Powerful, The Evil Dead and Spider-Man, might not seem like the first director you'd imagine doing a Wizard of Oz, but once you realize that the plot is almost exactly like Army of Darkness, you know, poor man finds himself king in strange world, womanizes women and pays for it, needs to actually save the day in the end. Plus, here he's able to bring his usual visual flair to the proceedings, clearly trying for yet another Alice in Wonderland size hit for Disney. And this movie is MUCH better than Alice (Though really stepping on a Lego is better than Alice in Wonderland). Raimi creates a great new Oz, while subtly referencing the original and keeping his own trademarks to a minimum, though in case you were wondering, Bruce Campbell does show up at one point, very quickly. The story might not be the most original, but it is tons of fun and always manages to keep you glued to the screen.


      The cast is certainly game and is clearly enjoying themselves. Though, who actually does a good job does kinda vary. Franco is normally fine as Oz. He brings some likableness to a pretty despicable role and you do root for him, though not really as much as you should. Kunis is great as the witch scorned (Tear scars are bad-ass!), though she does tend to become hammy as the film goes on. Weisz and Williams both do great, in fact probably the best out of anyone, as the two feuding witch sisters, with Weisz clearly loving the role and making every scene she's in a blast. Braff tones it down a bit and is funny as a monkey. But King steals the show as the standout character of the China Girl. I'd see a sequel just for her alone. Overall, together they do well and the supporting cast does do well too. But, in the case of Oz himself, I could think of a few people who'd be better suited for the role. And as for the Wicked Witch of the West, some one else, namely one of the other witches, could have probably done a lot better in the classic role. But overall, pretty strong, my pretty. I hate myself.

Hey, random thought. Do you remember Black Swan?

The Verdict

      Oz the Great and Powerful is the best film I've seen in 2013 so far. Granted I've only seen two other though. No, Oz probably won't be on my Top Ten list, though that doesn't mean you shouldn't see it. The film is a ton of fun and kids will absolutely love it. Raimi is stellar as always, making the Land of Oz jump off-screen. Not though, by the 3D. See it in 2D. Pretty lame. Just sayin'. Some of the roles aren't necessarily miscast, but could have been cast better and the story is a little generic, but still, when having this much fun, it doesn't really matter. Oz the Great and Powerful is great, but isn't that powerful. Oz the Great and Powerful gets 5 stars out of 6.

Bonus Trivia and Notes

- To elaborate a little, the 3D is solid before we get to Oz, oddly enough. Besides one REALLY good snow effect that actually had me try to wipe my glasses off, the 3D is never really utilized all that well.

- This continues Raimi's tradition of making me feel the same way about all of his series. What I mean is, I found that I feel the exact same way about Evil Dead 1 and Spider-Man 1 (Very strong, not amazing). And I felt the exactly same way about Evil Dead II and Spider-Man 2 (Best in the genre). And I felt the exact same way about Army of Darkness (Bit too goofy, but still fun). So, let's just say I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

- Mila Kunis original starred in a Wizard of Oz play in 3rd grade and played Dorothy on That 70's Show.

- Also thought of to play Oz was Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp.

- James Franco actually took a course on magic to prepare for this film.

1 comment:

  1. For a story that travels past the 2 hour mark, there are plot details that seem a little light in nature; however, the story as a whole gets it done. Good review Alex.