Review: 'Oz The Great And Powerful' Is A Visual Wonder, But Has Its Flaws
Sam Raimi’s re-creation of L Frank Baum’s “Oz The Great And Powerful” has its high highs and a bit of low lows, but it doesn’t reap one’s benefit of opening up our minds, bodies, and souls to a prequel linked to one of the world’s most beloved narratives ever!
The story follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco) – known as Oz – as a typical man just going through his own flow as a circus magician dropping jaws wherever he goes. There’s a catch to this guy though, as great and vibrant as he may be, there’s a side to this guy that’s just sleazy, in a con-artistic way, sprinkled with a little womanizing talents along with it.
During a mishap, a necessary getaway goes into play followed by an unexpected happening transporting this particular, egotistical being from one world to another. The catch here is the world he’s entered (known as Oz), is one in which unbeknownst to him, he’s made to believe he’s been waited upon to be worshiped like a great wizard. However, there’s a catch before this unbelievable act actually goes into play, and that’s a task that entails defying an evil witch whose been causing chaos with her evil magic, alongside the help of her minions!
Up for the task, this magical experience serves as a lesson in which helps morph this man into a good leading, wizard, however, most importantly…a good man!
Following through with pretty much what we already know, “Oz The Great And Powerful” doesn’t steer too much away from “The Wizard Of Oz.” From start to finish, the format is the same, the difference between the two is cinematic magic has gone a long way; having Raimi welcome it into the 21st century made this film optically delicious! From waterfalls, to magical, blossoming gardens, unique, cute insects with scary looking teeth, lions, flying baboons, China dolls, and an amazing array of scenery within the land of Oz allowed me to enjoy this film more than actually expected.
The wonderful experiences tend to fall a bit short when there’s less of the character development we saw for example with Dorothy as she moved along and came across Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. On the flip: Once made aware of his presence, purpose, and duties – at the hands of two of the world’s most beautiful witches: Theodora / The Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz) – Oscar’s journey introduces him to Finley (Zach Braff), China Girl (Joey King), and the empowering Glinda (Michelle Williams), who also happens to be a gorgeous witch.
Layered with their purposes and objectives, there’s a bit of emptiness that erupted as the story moved along. It seemed pretty rushed at times, however, making up for its lack of details. It’s pieced quite well as we never really get to see prior to their stories, but we get a sense of it based on actions and reactions.
What also had a bit of a miss at times was the arc in which Oscar experiences between his conning ways into a humble man. James Franco is a fantastic actor, and one that can get lost in his characters. However, his presence, demeanor, and gummy smile at times left me feeling a bit bothered. Something about this role either wasn’t really owned by him, or simply not too much emphasis went into it when steps within his change of heart occurs… This of course also threw me off knowing Johnny Depp and Robert Downey, Jr. were originally in talks for the role. If any of those two would have been cast as Oscar, then I truly believe their aura would have worked better. It’s simply who they are, the characters they’ve played, and attitude in which they carry on a screen that would have been perfect for the role of Oz.
Overall, Franco did what he needed to do and the outcome remains!
Along with Raimi’s touch, one also gets to see and feel Disney. If there’s something Disney made sure of is that they wanted their latest touches to feel and sound like their trademark. Much of the scenery – especially a waterfall scene – gives off that Disney-like affect. If you’ve visited any of the parks, that’s pretty much the sense, only you’re in a theater and not experiencing the atmosphere; or even one of the steep, falling water rides.
Overall, “Oz The Great And Powerful” does what it needed to do despite its misses. It seemed at times it tried to overshadow its predecessor in ways where it stamps its place as a prequel - while simultaneously referencing what and who we already know, but the fact that it’s impossible to outdo the first is obvious for many reasons. It doesn’t matter though because it’s able to entertain, providing both: adults with grown-up jokes/themes and scares at the hands of the flying baboons, and the innocence it carries with characters like China Girl and Finley keeping the little ones laughing and entertained.
Rest assured if this turns out to be a big hit – chances are it might – L. Frank Baum’s wonderful land of Oz my have future films on the rise!
Grade: B- / Genre: Fantasy Action/Adventure, Prequel / Rated: PG / Run Time: 2 Hrs. 10 Min.
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King
Directed by: Sam Raimi
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