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Well, let's start with...
The visual effects are 2nd to none. Raimi and his team have given their audience a bright and colorful world of wonder in a much more 'wowing' Land of Oz than that of the original film, and possibly even one that's more visually attractive than any other film to date. A very fun and crafty Rachel Weisz takes the role of Evanora and grips the audience with charm and viciousness in all the right doses. The supporting cast also performs pretty well, sometimes capturing that original 'Wizard of Oz' magic.
Going into this film with high expectations for the dialogue, & acting is going to leave you very disappointed. Two of the most featured roles of the film, Oz (played by James Franco) & Theodora, (played by Mila Kunis) are surprisingly and inexcusably portrayed very poorly. Franco's Oz is written to be about how you would expect him to be - complete with charm, wit, & deceit. However, the depth that you would expect to come with such an anticipated resurgence of a character is missing, & you can tell that Franco is having trouble buying into the role himself. The character quickly becomes stale at about 45 minutes in, and doesn't ever fully recover. Kunis feels the same - bored & devoid of passion for the lackluster lines given to her. Her character also has an issue with development, and is rushed from high to low so quickly that the audience doesn't have the opportunity to invest in her. The performances aren't the worst thing you'll ever see, but the lifeless script & awkward dialogue make it hard to stay focused. Even with a great script though, I feel as though Franco & Kunis weren't the best choices for their respective roles.
The worst part of this movie is the story. It leaves you waiting for some kind of clever & unexpected plot twist, a little divulgence of the characters motivations, or even just some depth for the main focal points of the story. It's also somewhat obnoxious that this film takes elements of the original film that should have been left alone because the original film portrays Dorothy's entire journey as a dream in the end. (Such as transferring characters of "the real world" into characters of The Land of Oz) Without saying too much, I can tell you that this film is stuck somewhere between being a fun and family friendly revitalization of the original story and being a serious and intriguing fantasy film for a wide movie-going audience - and the formula just doesn't work.
Having said all of that, I do not regret having gone to see Oz: The Great and Powerful, as the visuals do a great job of making up for everything that didn't work. I will warn you though, that the films run time of just over two hours can be difficult to sit through at times. Don't be afraid to take a bathroom break when it gets dry, you probably won't miss too much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mildly entertaining look at the origins of the characters from 'The
Wizard of Oz" has everything down pack. From great visuals to
imaginative set pieces, this film has everything. Its does not have
however a single interesting character outside of the film's main
villain and her good witch sister. Not to mention the fact that its
script is as thin as a sheet of paper and the plot reeks of a Star Wars
prequel but with out the light sabers. Its main hero Oscar Diggs
(Played by James Franco) is not interesting at all and it does not help
matters that Franco is miscast and while Oscar is supposed to be a bit
of a conman with a heart; Franco comes across more as a degenerate
deviant with his performance. While Franco is sputtering out of control
performances wise, it falls on his co-stars to pick up his slack and
one of them is Rachel Weisz, who plays the oldest witch sister Evanora,
who rules Oz with a velvet iron glove. She is manipulative and cunning
and in my mind the best thing about this film. While most of the things
in this film are mostly kids stuff, Weisz infuses her character with a
wickedly sassy seductive charm that elevates this film past most of its
problems. Her showmanship with the material is greatly appreciated,
especially when after a while; you are getting quite annoyed with most
of the characters in this movie, especially the computer generated
ones. Another actor who picks up Franco's slack is Michelle Williams,
who is very charming in a good girl kind of way and is the only actor
in the film who can hold the screen with Weisz performance wise. The
movie could have worked much better if it just had Weisz and Williams
as the leads but unfortunately, its not and we have to suffer though
Franco trying to be charming in a squirmy kind of way and suffer though
probably the movie's worse offense, which is the character of Theodora
played by Mila Kunis, who redefines the word "Miscast". Theodora is
supposed to be innocent in this film and gradually lose her innocence
to become (Spoiler) the iconic "Wicked Witch of the West".
Unfortunately, Mila comes across as interesting as a block of wood in
this film and her transformation towards the climax ends up being more
funny in a very bad sort of way than revealing. It does not help
matters that Mila looks as disinterested in her character as the
audience is and a better actor with more range could have brought more
All and all, it had its moments but its problems weight it down.
I went into this film prepared to be disappointed. Tim Burton's Alice
in Wonderland felt a bit lifeless to me (except for Johnny Depp's
Hatter) and I couldn't help but compare this movie to that one in my
head. So, I went and saw this one with reservations.
I'm a huge Oz fan. I love the original books. I love the movie. I love Wicked (book and musical), Tin Man, Return to Oz, The Wiz (the musical more than the movie), and even Geoff Ryman's oh-so-depressing novel Was. There's no such thing as an "official" version of the story anymore, so I don't mind a little pastiche here and there. After all, Baum's Witch was short, wore an eye patch and a very tall hat, and brandished an umbrella, but Margaret Hamilton effectively erased that version in favor of the glorious green-skinned villain we all know and love. So talk of "the real version of the story" is pretty much moot at this point.
This movie didn't disappoint me at all. Yes, it had some issues, but I didn't really mind overall. I left the theater with a big goofy grin and I'll probably go see it again. It was an enjoyable romp through a gorgeous landscape with enough insider references to merit multiple viewings. It rarely takes itself too seriously, and never tries to step on the toes of any other version of the story. There are references to events in the books which, before now, have never made it into any other adaptations (such as the China Girl), as well as many familiar visual cues from the 1939 film (the guard's outfits, the spiral where one fork of the Yellow Brick Road begins, and even a shot of the Kansas horizon with a scraggly grasping tree seem comfortably familiar). There was even a visual cue that, while it may not have been taken from this source, certainly suggested a character from Tin Man.
I felt that Mila Kunis came across as a bit flat. Her character arc seems too forced and we don't really get to see much progression. I didn't mind James Franco, to be completely honest. He was appropriately sleazy when he needed to be and charming in a goofy way when needed. I think he could have invested his character with a bit more depth, but it never really turned me off his character at all. Superficiality is a huge part of his character, and I thought it worked, overall. The side characters were a delight, with some of the best comedic lines coming from Oz's traveling companions. And, of course, Rachel Weisz steals the show with a delicious performance, embodying a great number of classic villains from Snow White's Evil Queen to Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine.
Visually, the film is a delight. Sam Raimi turns Oz into its own wonderland without it ever seeming predictable or tired. One criticism I had with Burton's Alice was that it didn't really give the audience a chance to luxuriate in the bizarre landscapes of Underland all that much. It had great character design, but the landscape seemed a bit low- key. Raimi, on the other hand, gives audiences exactly what they're looking for. Gems, flowers, waterfalls, mountains, rock formations, sunsets, etc. that are completely breathtaking. Not only that, but the CGI is crisp and clean.
Danny Elfman's score was...OK. One thing I've noticed with him lately is that almost everything he does now sounds less and less unique. We've got the requisite haunting waltz and the spectacular pounding swirling opening credits theme, but other than that, I found almost everything to be a bit forgettable, which is sad because Elfman is one of my favorite film composers. The music isn't bad, but it just doesn't add as much as it could have.
But overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It's a delightful romp through a colorful wilderness that asks nothing more from its audience than a chance to have fun. This isn't a thoughtful, complex Oscar-winner nor is it a gritty realistic fantasy a la Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. It's a kaleidoscopic portrait that seems at once familiar and new. Children will love it (though very young children may be scared by a few of the antagonistic creatures) adults will enjoy picking out all the loving homages to the books and the 1939 film. It's a fun way to spend an evening, and you won't be disappointed, just don't go in expecting deep, complex high fantasy. If you liked Burton's Alice, you will definitely enjoy this film (and you'll probably enjoy it more, if I may so myself).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sam Raimi's prequel to L Frank Baum's Series of children's books plays
greatly into Raimi's strengths as a director. A strong imaginary world
that is covered in light and darkness and characters that inhabit that
world with a quirky feel of childhood imagination. Raimi literally puts
his heart and soul into this production and it shows, giving a festival
of the senses with the viewer's imagination. While Raimi is working
over time to make all of this work, a weak script and bad casting of
two very important key roles set him back. The only thing that puts
this film back on track is the game performances by two of the film's
other actors, one in particular whose performance keeps this film from
sinking from its own lack of depth.
For what does not work, look no further than the script, which is not very well put together. Yes, it is a kid's film but kids are a lot more sophisticated than some of the dialog here and some of the kids in the audience I was with moaned a bit while hearing it. Moreover, yes, it is a prequel to a story that many people know, so there should not be any real surprises but that is no excuse to be lazy with the script and the scriptwriting is lazy here. What makes the problems with the script jump out here is some of the casting, which is just bad. A good actor is able to make a bad script some how work for their character; a bad actor only magnifies the scripts problems and makes their character look worse. Unfortunately, we have two actors completely wrong for their roles here and it only makes this movie even a bigger chore to sit throw. The first cinematic offense is the main character Oscar Diggs, who is not only the weakest character in the film but has an actor who just not believable in the role. James Franco can be a decent actor when he tries and he can be infuriatingly bad when he just stands there and not care about his performance, which he does here in this film. The character of Oscar Diggs is supposed to be the anchor of this film, a man that has to see the error of his ways in order to be the man that he is destine to be. However, thanks to Franco's lazy performance and the weakness of the script, we really cannot see the good in the character and is not impressed with his changed of heart when the time came to prove himself. Oscar comes across more as a sleazy opportunist than a man conflicted with his inner self and we cannot root for him at all. The character is wasted opportunity and really does not add to the story and thanks to Franco's inability to show sincerity with his role, we really do not care at all about poor Oscar or his problems. Another character we end up not caring for is the character of Theodora, who (Come on, the cat has been out of the bag for a while) becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. Thanks to the script and Mila Kunis inability to show range or any emotion outside of anger, we do not care about how this character loses her innocents to become the evil witch and we do not care what happens afterwords. While both Kunis and Franco fall flat on their faces performance wise, not all the actors fall by the waste side and some of them are able to transcend the weak script in order to gives performances than is able to salvage the good Sam Raimi tries to give to this film. The first one belongs to Michelle Williams, who plays Glenda the good witch and manages to give off the right kind of goodness and decency that her character needed to be believable with out the added fake sweetness. She is genuine and believable and is able to make her character work despite the weakness of the script. It also helps that Williams is an amazing actor with a lot of range and is able to tap into her strengths to achieve this feat. The best performance however belongs to the great Rachel Weisz, who almost single handedly saves this film from all of its shortcomings with a performance that not only transcends its weak script but also manages to be even better technically than the film as a whole. When the script keeps moving south, Its Weisz that keeps moving the film forward. She gives a fun and sassy performance that manages to make the character of Evanora much more than the standard fairy tale villain and manages to give off a level of understanding and complexity that does not talk down to its audience. It is a brilliant performance with a weak script and only the best actors manage to accomplish that feat with out breaking a sweat and Weisz does that effortlessly.
While the script is weak and some of the performances pretty bad, it is the efforts of Weisz, Williams and Raimi that keeps it from falling off a cliff. For them only is the reason you should see this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sam Raimi's excursion into the Land of Oz is somewhat of a sight to
behold, with great sets and wonderful use of CGI that does not over
power the senses or your cinematic tastes. Too bad for this film, bad
casting decisions on two of the characters and a way too simplistic
story sets it back somewhat. Raimi does not throw up too many
computerize affects and a great deal of Oz is old school charm with
grand sets and costuming. That benefits this film greatly and makes Oz
a real cinematic treat. The performances are for the most part spot on
with great turns by Rachel Weisz (Weisz has the most fun in her role)
Michelle Williams, who gives a noble performance as Glenda the good
witch and the third best belongs to the voice over of Zach Braff, who
gives a funny performance as a talking monkey sidekick. With these
performances and Raimi's technical savvy, the film almost takes off,
almost. What keeps it from being any better is the story, which is fine
but flimsy and predicable. Yes, it is a sort of prequel and you know
what is going to happen but there are no surprises to be found here and
most of the so-called surprises are ruined thanks to the marketing if
you have been following this movie. Another factor that keeps this
movie from soaring to better heights is some of the other casting,
which is baffling to say the least. Mila Kunis is disappointing as the
younger sister Theodora, who of course becomes the Wicked Witch of the
West. No flare in her part and just looks miserable through out the
entire film. The biggest casting violation is James Franco who comes
across as sleepy and somewhat creepy as the main character Oscar (Oz).
He overacts in some parts and under acts in others and is with out a
doubt the weakest member of the cast.
While there is a lot to admire with this film, the problems it has (Mainly the story and the miscasting of Kunis and Franco) keep it from achieving a better grade from me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unbalance prequel to the classic "The Wizard of Oz" has a lot to offer
thanks to the directorial grace of Sam Raimi and the game performances
of both Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Unfortunately, their
efforts are almost torpedoed thanks to a bland script that needed a lot
more heart and the shocking miscasting of two of its major roles.
First we should start with the look of the film, which is to my surprised tame considering the gluttony of CGI in today's films. Sam Raimi gives an old school feel to this film that manages to balance the right tone of epic nostalgia and childlike intimacy with a hint of Raimi's signature manic style of energy. It is a beautiful film to look at and it is very inviting. The character's looks all represent their personalities and the CGI animated effects for the imaginary characters match the feel and look of the film. From the childlike wonder of China Doll to the scary fanged flying baboon, Raimi manages to let them connect on a visual level with their environment and not for once that they over power the seamless look of the film. It is a beautiful, visual affair and that is all thanks to the grace that Sam Raimi and his ability to let the audiences feel their way around this beautiful world. Unfortunately, while this movie is beautiful to look at, not even Raimi's efforts are enough to cover over the fact that the movie's script is as bland as a stale cracker and some of the performances are just flat out bad. The story lacks punch and its barley passable as a narrative. The character's motives are flimsy at best and a hint of irony and complexity could have added a lot more to the film. It is only through the efforts of the movie's best actors (Rachel Weisz and Michele Williams) that give this film the fun, irony and complexity that the script does not manage to even give itself. Unfortunately, while Weisz and Williams are bring more than humanly possible to their perspective roles, both James Franco and Mila Kunis look like they rather not be there are all. The bad part is that both Franco and Kunis are so miscast that it makes you question the mentality of the casting agent who though that they were good choices for their roles.
This leads me to the acting of this film, which is disjointed to say the least. James Franco has done good work in past films but here he just looks like he just does not care about his fellow actors or his performance. He looks like someone who just wants to cash a check and just cost by on what little he can do. He lacks charisma, charm and presence in the role of Oscar Diggs and the bad part is that he is the movie's lead character. Franco's attitude is well displayed on screen and it hurts the film and you end up wondering on why he was even cast in the first place. The same goes to Mila Kunis, who tries a bit harder than Franco on her performance but ends up almost as bad. She just does not have it in her to pull off the role of Theodora, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West and her performance on screen shows that she is well aware of that. Therefore, she just gives up half way and leaves both Weisz and Williams to fend for themselves. This is not a bad thing when you think about it because both of them manage to hold the film above water while the script just falls flat, Franco continues to not care about anyone but himself and Kunis just does not bother.
This leads me to the best parts of the movie, which are the performances of Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, who both should get overtime pay for keeping the film from self-destructing. Both actresses are probably the best we have working today and in this film, it shows. Weisz plays the oldest sister Evanora, who is the villain of the film and let me tell you, she is so much fun that its criminal and her performance is the best of the film. She gives the character of Evanora such a sassy, fun presence that you do not need Kunis to transform into the Wicked Witch of the west to get a charge, because Weisz does more with less and gets the job done. Her performance keeps the movie afloat and the viewer is more than happy to follow her, which is strange because she is the villain of the film and has more charisma and charm that the hero himself. The second best is Michelle Williams who plays Gilda, the good witch and manages to keep her character from going way too far with the sweetness and have a bit of an edge as well. Williams brings humanity to her performance and the film and gives a perfect foil to Weisz's evil Evanora. If Disney had any sense, a sequel or prequel to this film would have just both Weisz and Williams and leave out Franco and Kunis but I seriously doubt it.
You should follow this yellow brick road just to see Sam Raimi give his all to this beautiful world and see on how good actors Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams are in their roles but this road has potholes (Which are the script and the performances of James Franco and Mila Kunis) that cannot be avoided. Let's just hope you have good wheels to go around them to get to the good this film has to offer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To attempt a follow-up to a beloved classic such as 'The Wizard of Oz'
would seem entirely foolhardy; yet there is sheer magic in Sam Raimi's
'Oz: The Great and Powerful', an always engaging, consistently
entertaining and utterly bewitching fairy tale fable that elegantly
evokes the 1939 classic while being entirely in tune with the
sensibilities of modern-day audiences.
As clear reverence to that legendary picture, it opens in black-and- white and framed in Academy ratio with the traveling magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) at the Baum Family Circus in 1905 Kansas. It's no secret that Oscar will eventually become the Wizard; all that matters is how he gets there, and what follows is a beautiful journey imagined by screenwriters Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire of how an ordinary man can become a great man with a good heart and a little bit of faith.
As such tales do, this one starts with who Oscar isn't and that is, an honest and reliable person. No doubt as a magician, Oscar will always have a trick up his sleeve; but Oscar hasn't simply been hoodwinking his audience. Instead, the smooth talker has also been fooling any beautiful lady whom he meets; even as one such lady (Michelle Williams) hopes to persuade him in his trailer to marry her, the relative of another broken-hearted woman gives furious chase, forcing him to climb into his hot-air balloon for escape.
That is the first of many narrative sleight-of-hands in which fans will immediately recall Victor Fleming's original. Here, a giant tornado whisks him right into its eye, where he watches with wide-eyed horror as every manner of debris flies dangerously around him. Once again taking a cue from the original, this sequence is filmed for maximum thrills especially so with an added dimension with an exhilarating ride down a gushing waterfall added in for good measure.
As Dorothy was in 'The Wizard of Oz', Oscar is greeted by a kind and beautiful witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who is immediately spellbound by the possibility that he could very well be the great and wonderful wizard that an ancient prophecy had foretold. Those familiar with the tale will recall that Theodora is but one of the witches of Oz; besides her, there is her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) as well as the supposed evil one called Glinda (Williams again) whom Evanora accuses of murdering her father.
The fates of these pivotal witches of Oz is intertwined closely with Oscar's transformation from an opportunistic and self-centred trickster to a revered hero of the people of Oz, and like Dorothy, Oscar is joined on his adventure by two unlikely companions a flying monkey (Zach Braff) and an all-porcelain China Girl (Joey King). Along the way, fans of both Baum's novels as well as the original will recognise the other cleverly placed narrative sleights including flying baboons, singing and dancing Munchkins, poisonous-scented poppy fields, and floating magic bubbles.
Yet at no point do these plentiful references ever feel slavish; rather, building on a solid foundation from Kapner and Abaire, Raimi creates a visually resplendent world wowing in its lovingly rendered details that feels fresh and original. The effect is, we dare say, just as magical as that audiences in the past were transported on when Fleming's Technicolour visual effects fantasy was first unveiled, and perhaps even more so with the wonder of today's CGI advances put to work.
There is of course much more than just visual bombast on display; in fact, Raimi uses these in service of a story that is full of heart and nerve. Cast as an unprepared man whom destiny calls to greatness, the Wizard is a surprisingly poignant character study of a flawed hero who eventually finds it within himself to rise above himself. That change of heart is portrayed in a befittingly heart-stopping climax engineered on illusion and ingenuity, a grand magic show set right in the heart of Emerald City that again brings to mind the revelation at the end of 'The Wizard of Oz' of the Wizard's identity.
If there is one blemish to an otherwise outstanding accomplishment, it is James Franco's casting as the Wizard. While he does bring a slippery charm to the Wizard, he lacks the dramatic stature necessary to make the character a more compelling one. Among the three witches, it is Williams and Weisz who steal the show, the former's radiant goodness a perfect complement against the latter's icy malevolence. And though we do not see him after the film's extended prologue, Braff's voice-over for the Wizard's winged companion brings much spirited humour to the proceedings.
So like 'The Wizard of Oz', this prequel is good old-fashioned family entertainment. And just because this comes late in Hollywood's recent obsession with fairy tales should not at all deter you from making a beeline for it because this is hands down the best of them (even better than Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' in fact). True to its title, it is great and wonderful, an ageless and timeless fantasy deserved to be enjoyed in history with its forbearer.
Oz the Great and Powerful .. or maybe not so great, but still highly
Franco plays the little man behind the curtain, while Kunis, normally a favourite of mine, appears to be stuck in that tornado. Neither manage to defy gravity but the rest of the cast were pleasant, especially Weisz - even with her Emperor-like green force lightning.
It would have been a more visually stunning Oz had the effects been simplified. Conversely, the story lacked depth and with some rather clumsy dialogue (especially for Kunis), it was all perhaps a little too light and "Disney".
Doesn't quite get the ruby slipper, but maybe 3 out of 5 wands.
A magician finds himself transported to the magical land of Oz, where
witches, flying monkeys and yellow brick roads exist. He is mistaken
for the saviour of Oz and must decide whether or not to stay and be
king, or leave and find his way home.
I love Sam Raimi, the man and his invented work with a camera are what made me want to get into filmmaking in the first place. So to see him handling big projects like this (and Spiderman) was a joy for me to see. Oz the Great & Powerful is a CGI heavy film that demands a creative eye behind the lens. After his work on big budget films like Spiderman, it seemed like an easy choice for Raimi to be the one behind Oz and for the most part, it works. The films shortcomings keep it from being really magical and memorable, like the original from 39, but Oz has enough whimsy to keep the kids entertained and the adults smiling.
The land of Oz is indeed magical, with vibrant colours around every corner, memorable spots like the poppy fields and the dark forest for us older viewers, but even in saying all that I can't help but feel how fake it all is. This film suffers from the same troubles that plagued Burton's Alice in Wonderland, the visuals, although great for the story, add no sense of realism to the image. I hate overly used CGI in films to the point of noticing the awkward placement of actors in front of the green screen. The first major offender of this is Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, none of the actors made me believe they were in the settings they were. Both Wonderland and Oz have this same feeling.
While I'm getting the negatives out of the way, I must say that what everyone is saying about Mila Kunis is true, she was miscast in this role. I think she was chosen more for her beauty and star power than her acting abilities, which is sad cause it looks like she really is trying here. The story for her character here is a sad one and the second half I think suffers a bit because the threat from her is not really present. I don't really know why I'm tip-toeing around the issue because those who know The Wizard of Oz, know that Dorothy kills one witch with her house and the other with water, leaving Glinda the good witch in a bubble as the saviour. Seeing the Kunis character go in the direction she does didn't really effect me as much as I wanted it to. Consider that the failure of the script more so than the actors. Not enough time is really given to her for her transformation to affect the viewer.
The film opens in black & white and and the transformation to colour had a smile on my face. Despite the "fakeness" of some of the scenes (not all) Raimi does a decent job of not letting the effects overpower the film. Raimi steers the film in the right direction, but it is James Franco's shoulders it has to rest on. He is the type of actor that comes off as not really caring. It works in some films like Pineapple Express and he does manage to turn in some great performances, look at 127 days or Freaks & Geeks for that. Unfortunately I don't know if he has enough charisma and power to command a film like this. At times it looked like he was in the role, other times it felt like he couldn't care. Maybe it's his acting style, I can't really put my finger on it, but clearly Raimi sees something in him because he has worked with him previously on the Spiderman films.
Where the acting does work, marvellously and in every scene is Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Two polar opposites that look like they actually enjoy the characters and the movie they are in. They elevate the material a bit to make the drama more tangible. Whereas without them I think the film would have fallen more flat. The drama and character choices didn't really bring me into the story. The film didn't feel like it took chances, or tried to have complex situations for the characters. It had mapped out beats, hit them and marched on.
It was nice seeing some nice Raimi touches in the final product. More than 25 years later and I still smile when I see Bruce Campbell getting hit in the face, knowing full well that it is Sam Raimi on the other end of the camera hitting him. Surprisingly, moments did indeed feel Evil Deadish to me, with the flying witches holding out their hands in a deadite possession form. But I digress. Oz is a good film, with weaknesses that bring it down. Raimi and two witches try their best to elevate some bland material and in the end we are left with a film that is neither great, nor memorable....just satisfactory enough.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I admit I hadn't really known much about this movie (such as what the
story was about and who was playing who) until recently. Though I did
find out before going to see it and, well, I think you'd be better off
going into this film knowing very little about it. I've seen numerous
complaints about the 'spoiling' of Theodora (Mila Kunis) turning out to
be The Wicked Witch of the West, but in hindsight, the signs are all
clearly there. Her big floppy hat, for one (which deserves its own
credit). Then there's her voice, that you just KNOW is going to turn
into that classic evil witchy cackle - which she does plenty of.
Lastly, her conversation with her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz - who
deserves all the praise she's getting, as she really *does* have fun in
the role and is one of the stand-out performances), is about as subtle
as a train wreck. Theodora insists she's NOT 'wicked' (a word you'll
hear a plenty of throughout the film) and then promptly tosses a
fireball. What ultimately turns her evil? Thinking she was the 'one and
only' witch for Oz (James Franco), then believing she's but *one* of
his 'one and only's, thanks to her sister's deceit. Yes, it's one of
THOSE origin stories. I'd actually originally thought Weisz would turn
into the Wicked Witch, back when all I knew about the movie was who was
starring in it. Then once I read a bit of info about the film, it
became clear this wasn't the case. Maybe the movie would have benefited
from her being cast in the role? Kunis does a good witch cackle, and
certainly looks the part - all greened up, pointy hat and broom-flying
- but ultimately, she doesn't really convey that
much...well..'wickedness'. Probably the nicest/most subtle touch was
her streaking tears burning her cheeks.
Those hoping for an origin story that has lots of depth and substance may find this a bit disappointing. Theodora meets Oz when he crash-lands in the wondrous realm of Oz, and within a very brief amount of time, is already infatuated with him (of course, she believes he really *is* a wizard with actual powers, so that probably has something to do with it). I didn't mind Mila when she was skipping merrily along The Yellow Brick Road, despite her naivety, but there just wasn't enough time spent developing a real solid attachment between her and Oz before she descends into villain territory. Given the overlong runtime of the film, more of it should have been devoted to their burgeoning relationship, I think. It's hard to believe Weisz wasn't Raimi's/the studio's first choice for Evanora, as she plays her perfectly. She and Glinda (Michelle Williams) have quite the witch battle at the end. The real crime here is Evanora's punishment she suffers at the end - as robbing Rachel Weisz of her beauty is just not on! I guess it does set her up to become a future pancake underneath Dorothy's house, though. Williams as Glinda is kind and sweet and floats around in a bubble (though that's apparently just for show) and has a crown that never falls off. She can also take a hit or two and manage to bounce back after Evanora goes all Emperor on her arse, zapping her with green lightning shooting from her fingertips. Williams' Glinda is fine, if not particularly interesting/memorable. The last we see of the two Wicked Witches does suggest that this may be set-up for sequels to come...or, if not, then it serves as simply a prequel to the two already existing 'Oz' films.
Kunis's Theordora utters the words 'how predictable' at one point in the film, and that really could apply to the movie as a whole. It's not exactly a story you haven't seen before. There's Oz, who pretends to be a great magician, but really just uses cheap tricks. When he comes to the Land of Oz, he is of course mistaken for a real wizard. There's the expected self-doubt, then the bit where he makes everyone thinks he really is a coward, only to reveal himself to have turned noble in the end and save everyone. Nothing new to see here. Franco is adequate in the role, though his grin really makes you want to punch him in the face at times. He's also somewhat overshadowed by the witches. At least Oz's career in illusion comes in handy at the end - even if it's a bit hard to believe that such powerful witches are so easily fooled and give in so quickly. Zach Braff is Oz's offsider, both in Kansas and in the Land Of Oz - although, in the latter he is a flying monkey valet. He is intended as the film's main source of comic relief, and he has his moments. While there is some humour in the film, it's not exactly big on laughs. Joey King, meanwhile, does tug at the heartstrings as a girl in a wheelchair who asks Oz to make her walk, when she's seeing his performance. She also provides the voice for China Girl - a wonderfully brought to life creation...that sadly verges on the irritating, personality-wise. So much damn crying! And that must have been some fast-acting glue Oz had on him that he used to put her back together.
Starting the film in black & white and a vintage aspect ratio does help set the tone of the film, plus it creates that nostalgic feel for the classic original film. The visuals are quite stunning, but after a while the novelty wears off. Visuals can't make up for a lacklustre story, and sadly, despite the direction/look of the film and some good performances, Oz the Great and Powerful just doesn't quite live up to its title. In the end, it's good...but not great.
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