Posted on 3/08/13 03:33 PM
Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Disney studios is hoping to generate another movie that would be a juggernaut at the box office like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland did three years ago. Though it was undeserving of it, Alice managed to reach the $1 billion dollar mark thanks to the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp duo and the fresh 3-D craze at that time caused by Avatar. The marketing has also gone to great lengths to make this a reality. Sam Raimi, the director of the Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogies, is the one in the director's chair.
The Wizard of Oz is undeniably a classic and one of the best films of all time. It's a huge favorite among critics and audiences alike even to this day. From the songs, the characters and set designs, The Wizard of Oz was pure movie magic.
But Oz the Great and Powerful presents has a big challenge to overcome. Having a prequel or sequel that is coming off of a movie that was made several decades ago produces some great risks. Some of the things done in the movie can ruin the classic in some ways. Just ask people how they felt about the Star Wars prequels or the rumors of a sequel to Casablanca, another old time classic. While it does soil The Wizard of Oz somewhat (I'll get to that later), it doesn't do so on a drastic level. Oz is a decent watch at the most and more worthy of a theater viewing than most of the films that came out this year so far, but it's mostly just what Alice in Wonderland was: a good visual feast with a couple of decent performances but somewhat lacks the magic.
The movie begins in Kansas featured in black-and-white (much like Wizard of Oz). We are introduced to a magician and con artist named Oscar Diggs (Spider-Man co-star James Franco). He performs most of the tricks that you would see a magician do, but is wanting more out of life. Claiming that he doesn't want to be just a "good man, I want to be a great one." But like Dorothy Gale, he gets sucked into a tornado and lands in the Land of Oz.
Here he meets two witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), who has taken a liking to him really quickly, and Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who rules over the Emerald City. It is believed that Oscar was the great wizard that was prophesied to bring down the Wicked Witch and bring peace to the Land of Oz. Evanora is not convinced that he is that wizard, so she sends him to kill the witch and reward him with the throne and riches beyond his wildest dreams.
Along the way, he is joined by two allies: Finley the Flying Monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and the glass statue China Girl (voiced by Joey King). But he soon finds out that Glinda (Michelle Williams), the witch he was ordered to kill, was not who she seems and that there was something darker at hand. Joining with her, Oz and the good people choose to fight against Evanora and Theodora, who has become the Wicked Witch of the West, and their army.
Will this movie be as big a hit as Alice in Wonderland was? While Sam Raimi and some of the main cast do have some appeal to their names along with this movie's connection to The Wizard of Oz, it doesn't have the household names of Depp and Burton. So while it will most likely be the biggest hit of the year at least until Iron Man 3 comes to theaters in two months, this will not reach the heights of Wonderland.
The movie moves at fairly decent pace. The visual effects are dazzling and some of the scenery is a little breathtaking. The costumes designs were really well done. The action scenes are also competently made, though some of it lacks excitement. The time when Oscar dons his "smoke-face" was really good to see. But in the end, that was all this movie set out to be: a visual feast.
The cast is a bit of a mixed bag. Unfortunately, none of the actors reach the charisma that Johnny Depp and the over-the-top Helena Bonham Carter had. James Franco was okay as Oz, but he didn't quite make me believe that he would become the great wizard that he was in Wizard of Oz. But to his credit, he was a much better protagonist than Mia Wasikowska's bland performance as Alice. Rachel Weisz gives a semi-decent performance as Evanora. Michelle Williams was mediocre as the Glinda. The voice acting from Zach Braff and Joey King was good and I liked their characters.
But the one performance that I didn't like and that was also my biggest issue with the movie was Mila Kunis as Theodora. It turns out that she becomes the Wicked Witch that eventually haunts Dorothy in the original. Her performance and how her character was written soiled the "I'll get you, my pretty" villain we knew. We would have originally thought that she was just outright evil in the original. But this movie showed that she became what she is because of her unrequited love for Oscar, which came out of nowhere to begin with.
Is this worth seeing? Well, if you're waiting for something to actually look forward to seeing in theaters, then yes. While this wasn't anything really good, it's a whole lot more worthwhile than most of the dismal releases we've been getting so far. I can't say on those personally since I've only seen Gangster Squad, so don't take my word for it. But if you're not too demanding of this movie and want a good visual experience, then this is the movie for you.