Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) Directed by Sam Raimi. Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, & Mila Kunis. IMDB says: ”A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.”
There’s something to be said for a movie that goes the extra step from just phoning in a remake. Oz the Great and Powerful could have easily been played out as a Wizard of Oz remake with the Tim Burton treatment. What we got from Oz was at least a step up from the cinematic aggravations of 2010′s Alice in Wonderland or 2005′s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead of just CGI-ing the same classic (but certainly a worse version), Oz actually makes some effort to craft an original story for this prequel. Of course there’s enough to go off of from The Wizard of Oz, to really not make it too hard of a job to accomplish. Unfortunately, this Oz just doesn’t nearly reach the level of imagination and beloved qualities that its inspiration has been praised for since its release.
The film opens with a black and white sequence similar to the start of The Wizard of Oz, with James Franco struggling to make it as a fraudulent magician with his assistant (Braff). He gets sucked up via tornado to the land of Oz where he is greeted by the witch Theodora (Kunis) who explains that a prophecy predicted his arrival to save the people of Oz (conveniently a wizard with the same name as the world). He is enticed to fulfill this prophecy because of the riches and power that come with it, but has to deal with the whole problem of not actually having any magical powers to do it. Weisz and Williams play the other two witches, the shady Evanora and the effervescent Glinda.
From there a fairly straightforward story plays out that does its best to match up with the story that will come in Dorothy’s tale. When aspects match up it’s sort of fun, but the rest of the film doesn’t do a great job of creating intrigue with its original concepts. Sam Raimi does not really live up to his past projects. The feeling of the film is a little too childlike for some of his signature styling to shine. It’s especially disappointing since The Wizard of Oz is successful partly because of its campy feel, which should be a perfect fit for Raimi. When it shows up it’s welcome and peeks at a better movie hidden inside this animated safe version.
Not only is Raimi not up to his potential, but Franco is seriously phoning it in. Luckily he has enough natural charm for it not to get completely old, but he’s really not trying very hard to become a character in this. Kunis has a different problem. She’s not terrible by any means but as the movie goes on her theatrical take on the character just doesn’t gel completely. On the other hand, Williams and Weisz seem to get it just right. Not everything in the film fails for sure.
Overall, it’s not a pain to watch this film in the least. It does have enjoyable qualities, a decent sense of humor, and the animated scenery can be gorgeous at time (although I much prefer the handmade sets from the original). It’s at least inoffensive to the film it piggy backs off of, and isn’t the worst way to spend two hours at the theater.
When I was younger, I always wanted someone to make a movie with the plot of Oz the Great and Powerful. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is dropped into this place that seemed to have such a rich history. It’s nice that a movie studio has produced a prequel telling the story of what they think happened. However this is a very middle of the road type movie and I wish that the movie had more of the genuine feel that the film from 1939 had.
Oz the Great and Powerful looks very much like an updated movie. This works well for some aspects of the movie. The first time you see Oz, the landscape is very sweeping. The movie is in 3D, and it does 3D well, but this causes some backgrounds to be blurred out so that you focus on a character or animal in the foreground. I felt that a few times I was more interested in what the background of the setting. Overall, Oz seems much less like a dreamland than The Wizard of Oz created.
I was very interested in the cast when I originally saw the trailer for Oz. I like everyone that was on board for the film. Having seen the movie, I think some actors were better for their roles than others. Rachel Weisz did a great job with her character. James Franco obviously seemed like he was acting, though. It just seemed like James Franco doing magic tricks, not the actual character of Oz. I was also excited to see a new movie by Sam Raimi. There was a few scenes where you could notice Raimi’s signature camera moves, and those scenes were some of my favorites.
I would say if you are a big fan of The Wizard of Oz, probably check out this film. I think the biggest draw is for fans of the original. The movie doesn’t feel like a total cash-grab, but it doesn’t feel like the type of movie that will live on for decades like the Judy Garland Wizard of Oz.