Review: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
Director Sam Raimi sits behind the curtain as he takes us back down the fabled yellow brick road to witness Oz The Great and Powerful in this lavish and ambitious prequel to the famous 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz – captivating audiences with stunning visuals and childlike enthusiasm.
The film’s spectacular visuals are undoubtedly its strongest asset. While Raimi was legally forbidden from replicating many visual elements from the 1939 classic (Warner Bros. holds the rights for much of the iconic imagery), he still manages to create lush and colorful landscapes with eye-popping CG and 3D effects.
Disney was unable to use ruby red slippers or recreate any character likenesses from the previous film. This particular dilemma extended all the way down to the green hue of the Wicked Witch’s skin (which Disney’s legal department now calls “theostein” for this film), or the mole on her elongated chin.
The first 20 minutes or so of the film are creatively presented in a 4:3 ratio rendered in black and white that works as a worthy tribute to its predecessor. We also see a fantastic title sequence presented as a puppet show which makes effective use of the 3D.
It’s during the remarkable prologue where we are introduced to the film’s title character, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) – known as “Oz” among his friends. Oz is a magician in the traveling circus, which has just made its most recent stop in small town Kansas. Oz is a con artist and quite the ladies’ man, which subsequently leads to him trying to escape from the clutches of the circus strong man – after making a pass at his girlfriend. It is in this moment where the clever Oz is tested.
The 3D is pushed to its limits as Oz tries to escape in a hot air balloon, only to get sucked in by a tornado. In a dazzling sequence of dust and debris, Oz quickly realizes that he’s not in Kansas anymore.
As Oscar floats down into the land of Oz, Raimi’s world slowly expands from 4:3 to widescreen to reveal the massive and colorful landscape of this vibrant world.
James Franco, cast in a role initially offered to Robert Downey Jr. in 2010, doesn’t need much to deliver in this performance. He starts out as a rather unappealing character as he is selfish and arrogant while treating the people around him like dirt. The only aspect in which Franco falls flat is during its more heroic moments, wherein he’s expected to deliver a battle speech.
Upon Oz’s arrival, he is mistaken for the great wizard who is to fulfill the prophecy as he is introduced to three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). The three sisters complement each other very well, although Kunis seems out of place in her role during many moments in the film. Evanora is cold and calculated while Theodora is naive and vulnerable, but it’s Glinda’s radiance that really captures the audience’s gaze.
China Girl (Joey King) is impossible not to love, and Oz’s winged monkey partner Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) provides most of the film’s comic relief – a department in which I thought the film was severely lacking.
The fantastic first act and wonderful conclusion make the film worth the price of admission, while the second act sort of feels empty.
Fans new to the wonderful world of Oz will find much to love in Oz The Great and Powerful, while those more familiar with its predecessor may find things to gripe about. While the film is far from perfect, there’s still much to be appreciated.
Stunning 3D visual effects are what drives Sam Raimi’s noble trip down the yellow brick road. He hasn’t created a classic like Victor Fleming, but he has conjured a form of wizardry worthy of praise.
Oz The Great and Powerful hits theaters everywhere on March 8th, 2013.
Posted on March 5, 2013, in Reviews and tagged Disney, Film, James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Movies, Oz, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Rachel Weisz, Review, Sam Raimi, The Wizard of Oz. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.