Oz the Great and Powerful.
In this prequel to the classic 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, we get a re-envisioning of the world courtesy of director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead). This movie focuses on “Oz,” a carnival magician and conman played by James Franco. In a tornado, he is swept away to the magical land of Oz where tries to con its inhabitants into thinking he’s a real wizard.
Supporting cast members include three witches played by Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz. There’s also substantial voice acting by Zach Braff and the young star Joey King.
The general tone of the movie works perfectly, balancing the feel of the original with current technology. For example, the movie begins a square frame ratio. People thought the ends were cut off and even yelled a little bit, but at a key moment in the movie, the square expands to full widescreen (and also from black and white to color). The effects are also balanced, keeping some of the that quirky and beyond realistic feeling from the original, but some also really cool effects such as the loveable China Doll character.
Let’s talk about the film’s two CGI characters that stood out. China Doll and Finley the flying monkey. Finley is voiced by Zach Braff and I had heard some complaints that he was a distraction and the equivalent to a Jar Jar Binks kind of character. I didn’t feel this way at all. I enjoyed Finley and thought he had some nice and sweet moments. China Doll, voiced by young actress Joey King, is not only very cool visually but also one of the deepest characters in the movie. Very impressed with the work that they did on this little girl.
For live acting, the highlight was definitely Michelle Williams as Glinda. Franco played some parts well when things slowed down but there was a majority of the movie where he seemed like the same James Franco character pulled straight from movies like Pineapple Express. Vacant eyes and cheesy pickup lines. Williams somehow managed to make the duo work however.
What didn’t work?
Again, Franco wasn’t spectacular. Kunis and Weisz both struggled with the script it felt like. Weisz at least went full force, where Kunis’ transformation throughout the movie was unbelievable and it didn’t help that the CGI of the Wicked Witch looked strangely plastic as opposed to organic.
Some of the other effects were poorly done as well. The movie had a nice retro feeling but there would be effects that stood out as being extremely complicated CGI creations but yet incredibly fake looking. In the original film, so much was done practically, that I wish more had been done that way this time around.
Also the run time is a little too long and the pacing dragged at key moments.
I went into Oz the Great and Powerful with really low expectations, so I was actually really impressed. It was funny, sweet, and provided a nice little adventure. Not spectacular and a lot of you will find it a slow and dragging… But it’s decent. If you think you’d be interested, give it a shot and you might find some cool pieces to enjoy here.