Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Based On: (Premise Suggested) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz By: L. Frank Baum
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG
Time: 130 minutes
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
USA Release: 3/8/2013
On DVD (USA):
Since Disney has a thing about “re-imagining” old material, I guess it’s no one’s surprise that they finally got around to doing a prequel of sorts to the 1939 classic film, “The Wizard of Oz”. I mean they did have huge box office success with Tim Burton’s retelling of “Alice and Wonderland”, although critics didn’t seem to care much for it. So you can see they are hoping for the same effect while the rest of us here in moviewatchingland are just hoping the movie doesn’t die behind the hype and effects.
In this telling of how the land of Oz was before we knew it, we first meet “Oz” or Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who is a carnival magician or con man as you will, who basically thinks he is the all powerful. When an incident occurs that forces Oscar into a hot air balloon he soon finds himself facing something more deadly then what is on the ground, a tornado. And soon he’s transported into the wonderful and now in full Technicolor world of Oz, and how fitting that they both share the same name? While there he meets three different witches all telling him that he is part of a prophecy that is to slay one of the witches that is deep down all bad, dark and of course evil with the capital E. And while he goes after the one he thinks to be the bad witch, with his gang that consist of a china doll and a flying monkey, he soon learns that he might not be able to con
his way into making everyone think that he really his the all mighty savor that they have been waiting for.
Alright to start, going into this film I was neither expecting to love it or hate it, I was sort of just blah about the whole thing, but don’t get me wrong I was hoping it would be somewhat entertaining seeing as it is two plus hours long. But even with that notion walking in I wasn’t really surprised of how the movie ended up being. Now before I start my hopefully not too long rant I just want to say that the idea was there just not executed the way I had hoped. Anyway one of the first things on a long list of things I didn’t like about the film is that it is way too long. For it being a two hour and ten minute movie you would think that they would use all the time to keep everything moving, sadly that wasn’t the case. There were many times during the movie that I saw ample opportunity for some editing, many of the scenes were much longer than they needed to be most of which starts after we go from black and white to color. It isn’t like the plot is super thick that you need more time to explain things, on the contrary the plot is about as thin as a piece of tissue paper so there is no need for a runtime like that, just look at the 1939 classic, it’s run time is one hour and forty-one minutes, “Oz the Great and Powerful” should have been about the same length, if they had done that it would have been a better and much tighter production.
Moving on, while it does look very beautiful even in 2D (I’ve heard that they used 3D very well for this movie, unfortunately I’m not a fan of 3D period) there were times that it looked faker than it should have, maybe it was just me thinking to much about it or the fact that we go from realistic black and white to having our scenes riled with the over bright look of Oz. Or maybe I just really would have like to see it filmed in a more realistic way like “The Wizard of Oz” was with big great sets but I guess because we have the technology they didn’t, that gives us the right to not try to make innovated and creative sets, just do it all in post production on a computer. And while I love what Sam Raimi did with the original “Spider-Man” trilogy (well except the third one, we all know that sucked) especially his use of interesting and unusual angles, which he uses in this along with paying homage to the classic film scenes with his use of Academy Ratio (like they used for “The Artist”) before switching to full Cinema Scope. But in the end I think that his directing was a bit low cal seeing as he was directing his actors with nothing but hand props and tons of green-screen sets. The same can be said for the writing which probably anyone over the age of say ten should be able to figure out the plot and who’s going to be the “Wicked Witch of the West” because they drop hints from the moment we arrive in Oz and they are pretty blatant. Also added to the downfall of the writing department is that the tone of the film is all over the place, like a scary roller coaster, there are many sudden drops with the tone. And much of the moments that you have dialog and not just close up of various looks on actors faces, the lines are kind of cheesy lines that are just as painful to hear as they probably were for the actors to say.
Now I guess I should give what little prise I have for this film before you stop reading this review on the ground that I must have hated everything about this film. Instead, one of the (few) things I liked in this film were the acting voicing styling of Zack Braff and Joey King or in case you don’t know who I’m talking about they voiced the characters of the Finley the flying monkey that Oscar befriends and the china girl respectively. In my eyes they alone, made this movie tolerable, if they weren’t in it, being the comic relive, I probably would have walked out of the theater (which is something I rarely do, even if I end up hating the movie). It’s funny though for some people out there those were the annoying characters of the movie but I found myself only laughing during their parts so go figure.
For this next part though it’s more of a sad note to have to say what I’m about to say about the actors in the film, as they have some on multiple occasions proven their amazing acting ability but sadly that is not seen even for a second in this movie. First I guess I’ll start with the star of the film James Franco who plays Oscar or Oz. He unfortunately hasn’t really proven his acting ability yet, while he was pretty good playing what turns into an evil character in the Spider-Man trilogy playing Harry Osborn, but that was hardly a big meaty role. Since then he hasn’t really done a lot of attention grabbing roles, except maybe “127 Hours” but that was more about the content then his acting ability. Anyways in this it seems that Franco has his soap opera switch turned on because he was over acting all over the place especially the more serious scenes. I have to give him some credit he can play slimy somewhat well, but it still seemed fake. I understand that the character is supose to be somewhat over the top but he could never convince me that it was the character overacting and not just him. As I understand originally Robert Downy Jr. was to play the role of Oscar, now that is a man who could play that character convincingly in his sleep. Downy has shown that he can be broad and over the top without making it seem at all fake, if only Franco could have done the same. So hopefully this isn’t too mean but here’s a tip to Mr. Franco, stick to Soap Operas where overacting is accepted, heck rejoiced because in the real world of acting you look like you can’t act your way out of a paper bag.
Unfortunately Franco isn’t the only one showing some disappointing acting in this movie, it seems that the bug was also passed to the three leading ladies as well. Starting with Rachel Weisz who played Evanora, of the three she was probably the best at acting in this film, but that’s not saying too much. But Mrs. Weisz has proven herself to be a fine actress for instance her performance in “The Constant Gardener” was extremely moving and beautiful, the movie on a whole is just breathtaking. And I also enjoyed her in “The Brothers Bloom” and “Definitely, Maybe”. However in this, she just seemed to be phoning it all in, she does get to have some fun playing an evil witch, but it was all the same, a disappointment. Not that Williams or Kunis delivered anything different, on the contrary it was actually a bit worse. For Williams who plays Glinda, she seemed to be stuck thinking she was still playing Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn” because much of the time she is talking in that same small sultry voice I guess to try to sound innocent and of course good, but than other times she sounds like herself. Like Weisz she has proven she is a very versatile actress with great performances in films like “Brokeback Mountain”, “Dick” and “Blue Valentine”, but in this it is not seen either. You will hear me say this over and over again, they all (except Franco) seemed to be phoning in there performance, showing no effort at all. They all seem flat and unenthusiastic. Anyways all that’s left is Mila Kunis who plays Theodora and again just another flat role from this cast. Kunis showed that she is much more than a comedic beauty by showing off her scary dramatic skills in “Black Swan” but you would have thought with this pitiful colorless performance that she was fresh off of “That 70’s Show”. Just a waste, in fact all of the actresses in this are wasted and wasting their talents in this movie.
Overall, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I would highly recommend that you just skip this movie. Unless you are a little kid, you will probably be disappointed by how little effort is put into this movie except in the CGI and special effect departments. Unlike “The Wizard of Oz” this movie doesn’t try to challenge your mind by giving you a great adventure story, instead you get a watered down movie with uneven tone and a thin plot. So if you do happen to see this, be prepared to just turn your brain off or fall asleep for the overlong two hours and ten minutes you are stuck in the theater. There is some hope as the film does have some funny moments mostly delivered by everyone but James Franco. Basically just don’t expect to much from him outside the first twenty minutes or so.