Robyn's Review of Oz the Great and Powerful
"Oz the Great and Powerful" managed to accomplish what I didn't think was possible - it continued the spirit of its legendary predecessor. With flight of fancy marked with darkness and tention--it's glorious to watch for the visual effects alone. Director Sam Raimi utilizes them to full effectiveness. The story is as straightforward as it was in 1939, and the characters, although not quite as beloved, are a memorable. I really enjoyed the fact the the film contained many nods to "The Wizard of Oz", without it feeling forced or taking away from the story at hand--acknowledging the sweet moments for those with a fondness for the childhood classic.
Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks it's a dream come true-- fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes-however-when he meets three witches; Theodora (Kunis), Evanora (Weiz), and Glinda (Williams)- who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the "Land of Oz" and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil-- before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, but into a better man as well. A visual delight that that will likely please an audience of all ages--doing a satisfying job of establishing the foundations of the original Wizard of Oz story, in an empathetic and engaging manner.
The film starts off in black & white as we are introduced to Oz's ho-hum life as a magician in a travelling carnival. Color only enters the world when Oz is transported to this new magical land; and when he gets there, it certainly does come to life. Fleeing his carnival life, Oz's hot-air balloon is caught in a spectacularly staged tornado that transports him to the wondrous land of Oz. Oscar's arrival is afforded the full color, widescreen treatment by Raimi and his band of CGI landscapers. Though garishly convincing, the world of Oz lacks the 'wow' factor of James Cameron's "Avatar" (2009).The visuals here are for the most part stunning - magical creatures, lush tropical plants, and fantastical cities fill the world. A bit too much green-screening is overused (a minor issue), but doesn't take away from the overall effects and experience.
James Franco does a great job at carrying this film, for the most part. Oscar comes across more as a sleazy opportunist--a man conflicted with his inner-demons. His charm and cocky attitude-works well in this film-as he is forced to politely lie and muddle his way through the adventure. Fortunately, the triumvirate of witches fare far better, and whilst to discuss any of the three characters in any detail would spoil significant portions of the plot and film, the latter half of the film in particular is dominated by the trio, and thankfully so. Weisz and Williams are fitting antitheses as Evanora and Glinda--but it is Mila Kunis, who truly comes to dominate the film with her commanding performance as Theodora.
It is largely an entertaining piece of eye candy (despite over-length) that benefits by having a director who brings energy, humor, and emotion to what could have been a soulless exercise, much like "Alice in Wonderland" (2010). "Oz the Great and Powerful" was never going to hit the same heights as the 1939 classic, nor was it ever fair to expect or presume it to do so. It is a film decidedly of it's era, and while it is quite the spectacle, the ubiquitous nature of the CGI effects means it will likely become dated and overlooked relatively quickly. It is, however, a relatively faithful and entertaining adventure.
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