Dir: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Joey King
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.
*Reviewer Note: This review, like all my other reviews, will be spoiler free and will NOT compare this movie to The Wizard of Oz (only a bit but huge like some other review out there). Also, I did not see this in 3D but I hear the 3D is great*
“I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great one” – Oz
This is essentially the journey we take with our main character Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco) as he lands in “The Land of Oz.” The movie itself acts a as a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s original story of The Wizard of Oz and follows Oz who is a pretty much selfish, womanizing and ego driven small town magician in a traveling circus who dreams of being that great man. Oz eventually lands in The Land of Oz after getting caught in a tornado and meets Theodora (Kunis).
Once there he finds out that there is a legend of a great wizard that will get rid of the wicked witch that is causing chaos and destruction all over the land. Oz goes along with it when he finds out that it comes with a nice reward of a room full of gold and being named king. Even though Theodora believes in him her sister, Evanora (Weisz), isn’t so impressed and to prove that he is the great wizard they have been waiting for she sends him to the Dark Forrest to get rid of the Wicked Witch.
On his journey he has companions in Finley the Flying Monkey (voiced by Braff), who is pretty much the comic relief on the group and also delivers his line with some charm. Then there is little China Girl (voice by King), made of porcelain, and is found by Finley and Oz in a destroyed city and looks to be the last of her kind. She’s probably going to be some people’s favorite characters with her witty-ness, charming, and tough attitude.
Then they encounter Glinda the good (Williams) and from there the movie changes in some tone and performances. I know that sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you’re not familiar with The Wizard of Oz (which really? The movie came out in 1939 COME ON) or Baum’s story.
Now let’s get performances shall we. Franco as the lead is good to a point. You can tell he’s having fun with the role and plays the character in a way like he’s always performing on a stage. As the movie progress he does change a bit but never in the way that hurts the film. Williams as Glinda is very calm and never really changes her attitude from the moment that we see her. Kunis is the interesting choice all of them, her performance may come off as “off putting” at times but other times it seems like some she could fit in the 30’s or 40’s era films. Then there’s the always reliable Rachel Weisz who like Franco looks to be having fun with her role and you’re almost kind of drawn to her when he’s on screen.
Now, I know people are going to try to find things that allude to The Wizard of Oz and it’s not a bad thing. There is quiet a lot of references and allusion to the Wizard of Oz, then again it is a prequel, that aren’t always in your face. You kind have to look for them in the background or listen to the characters (or watch for similarities of some). For example the movie starts in a black and white frame like the original and then the frame expands with color once we get to Oz and even the famous “Yellow Brick Road.”
However, the biggest thing in this movie is “the land of Oz” itself. The effects in the movie are really beautiful to look at and stunning that make the landscape just a part of the movie as much as the characters. Sometimes the landscape saves the movie or at least improves the scenes.
Oz the Great and Powerful is pretty much a family film in the classic sense of the word. It is filled with big, colorful effects, lovable characters (what’s more lovable about a flying monkey that can talk and cracks jokes right?) and humor. But, it doesn’t mean adults or older audience won’t like the movie either. There are some “horror” moments that could be a little freighting for young viewers but will be nice for Raimi fans.
All in all, Sam Raimi does a pretty good job of bringing us back to the Land of Oz but the movie does slow down at times which kills the momentum just a bit. Will all fans be happy with the final product? Who knows but it’s still a pretty fun movie with action, thrills and humor.
Oz the Great and Powerful
3.5 out of 5