Director: Sam Raimi
Written by: Mitchell Kapner (screenplay), David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.
Going into the film, I had expected many familiar scenes, familiar dialogue, and moments of homage towards The Wizard of Oz. While I would anticipate any prequel to include these elements out of respect for prior related films or to please the fan-base, I would also expect a prequel to use these elements sparingly in order to establish its independence. While Oz the Great and Powerful does have some entertaining moments, I saw quite a bit of hesitation and lack of courage when it came to distancing itself from The Wizard of Oz.
The film started off as you would suspect, just like The Wizard of Oz moving from black and white to color. I did enjoy the transition of black and white to color but the transition of a 4:3 aspect ratio to widescreen was a little too much and honestly distracting in my opinion. Once the transition to color occurred, the visuals were quite stunning, they were very colorful and vibrant like you would expect from an Oz film. The trailer depicts these colors well but it does not show the often change in background from full to flat. I believe it looks flat at times due to the many attempts of drawing from The Wizard of Oz. In the classic film, the flat backdrop is easily noticed and is also apparent in Oz the Great and Powerful. I found it to be confusing rather than pleasant. Why create this expansive world for the audience to immerse themselves in, release it in 3D, and then throw in flat backdrops that make no sense in a 3D world? From a cinematography aspect, I found this film to be very scattered with moments of enjoyable eye candy (Mila Kunis included on that) and moments of still, picturesque backgrounds that just didn’t seem to flow together.
The camera shots were not the only things that were scattered in this film. The acting moved back and forth from moments of sincerity to almost laughable moments of overacting. I attribute much of this to the dialogue because it is difficult to not go over the top with some of the lines in the film. Franco’s character has to be over the top at times due to him playing the role of a magician, but there were some moments where it just wasn’t applicable. When playing a witch, it is near impossible to not play the role a little over the top. I don’t see how any actress could pull off a witch’s laugh and be taken seriously. As for the rest of the characters, they had those over the top moments as well, but none were as apparent as the wizard and the witch. I think the problem again lies in the film’s tight cling to the original film. The Wizard of Oz followed a more theater driven approach in its setting, acting, dialogue, and even plot at times. While I love The Wizard of Oz for this, it’s because it maintains consistency with that approach. Oz the Great and Powerful, while thoroughly entertaining at times, does not maintain consistency and tends to mix aspects of theater with aspects of film and the two don’t always mesh well together.
The plot shared moments from The Wizard of Oz (as it had to) but I felt this element was the most unique element of the film. The story of the wizard, the witches, Glenda the good, and all the other expanded stories of the characters we know is what consistently intrigued me. The similarities to the original film did not bother me as much from the story aspect because the similarities are what identified this film as an expansion of the Oz world and story. There were moments that I wanted further expansion on but without going into spoilers, I cannot discuss those moments. Overall the plot had some familiar characters with unfamiliar stories that could have been expanded on but were entertaining nonetheless.
When reviewing this film, I thought it would be unfair to compare it to The Wizard of Oz, but with so many moments of apparent similarities, it makes it difficult to move away from the comparison. I think this film had some very enjoyable moments but it takes a bit of endurance to wait through the drab moments in order to get to the enjoyable ones. I had to think about this film for a bit to determine what I thought of it and I think the lack of consistency in certain elements is what made me not entirely enjoy this film.
Oz the Great and Powerful – 6.0 out of 10.
Entertaining but with distracting inconsistencies…