• A movie review of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

    OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL may be a visit to a land we already know, but the journey to Oz has never been so vibrant and exciting. One part prequel and another part relaunch, the film is an ambitious adventure taking us 30 years before Dorothy drops in for a visit.

    The new story is filled with much more action and suspense than we've seen before and it introduces us to the influential characters of Oz. And while the saccharine bubble-gum world of the 1939 classic this is not, the creators did well with their strides to play homage to the original movie.

    The formula for arriving in Oz is strangely familiar. A mysterious new land, a yellow-brick journey, new friends along the way, and of course the fearsome witch. The parallels between Dorothy's journey and the Wizard's are a subtle smart touch not to be overlooked. In fact, most all of the blink-and-you'll-miss-them homages are done so well that they hardly ever feel tongue-in-cheek. The film fares well by not beating us over the head with nostalgic reminders.

    While this return to Oz is also wisely much less musical, it is still quite the visual wonder. The land feels massive and it is filled with distinct realms that would make Walt Disney proud. Combined with the 3D treatment, the vistas expand beyond painted backdrops creating a truly immersive world. It's a Disneyland in its own right, grounded by a majestic emerald castle in the center.

    The 3D itself, as expected, provides great depth as we move across the sweeping landscapes; sometimes to a fault. While the film isn't heavy-handed in its use of gimmicky 3D, there are quite a few brief moments from beginning to end with questionable use of elements flying straight at you as if it were a theme park attraction. I almost anticipated my seat to start shaking or water to be sprayed on me.

    One of the most compelling facets is the exciting action and a good bit of suspense. I wouldn't say there's anything too overly scary for the munchkins but there are definitely some expertly done scenes featuring the winged-baboon henchmen that really were quite panic-inducing. These creatures are really scary in a way that I didn't think would even be possible for today's audiences.

    Director Sam Raimi and crew really seemed to strive for an Oz that was a bit more believable with its emotion and yet somehow the effect comes off oddly disjointed. Perhaps the best suited to their roles were Michelle Williams as Glinda and Rachel Weisz as Evanora. One a good witch striving to find her place and the other a ruthless and wickedly canniving enchantress. Literally at opposite ends of the spectrum of good and evil.

    Mila Kunis, despite looking absolutely stunning on screen, does not evoke much a truly iconic character although I don't know that it's necessarily her performance that is to blame. Her character seemed to be written far too shallow in emotion compared to the others.

    James Franco
    , despite playing the titular character, does not command as a leading man. His portrayal of Oscar Diggs comes off as a lovable goof but his character does not seem to really endure any growth throughout the entire film despite his character's initial yearnings to become a truly great man. The performance was neither Great or Powerful.

    Oddly, some of the most memorable performances were from the two secondary characters; Finley the flying monkey (Zach Braff) who surprisingly packs in a great sidekick performance and the delightfully adorable China Girl (Joey King) whose symbolic fragility brings a surprisingly suitable character to life.

    Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful is a great time at the movies. While the back-stories that are laid out don't pack quite the punch that I was hoping for, the film is still the grand epic that it promises from its trailers. It engages, it delivers likable characters, and it offers an absolutely gorgeous new world.

    Oz the Great and Powerful is a great movie and it shouldn't have trouble finding an audience. Despite its minor faults, there's far too much positively going on for it not to do well. I honestly can't wait to see this one again. Plus, with a subtle tie-in at the beginning leading to potential for a sequel, I'm left poised and waiting to know... when's Dorothy dropping in?
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. jawknee's Avatar
      I went in with low expectations only because the initial reviews weren't looking too good. It sounded like it was going to be another Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland: visually stunning, weak storyline and execution. However, I was quite impressed with everything. The only thing I wasn't too fond of was Mila Kunis -- she was lovely at first, but once she transforms, she just wasn't selling it to me. I fell in love with all the other characters though: china doll, Finley, Glinda (ooh la la). I'd like to see it again.
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