Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
It has been quite some time since we’ve had a seriously taken cinematic revisit to the Merry Old Land Of Oz and now Sam Rami provides us with such in his rendition of the origin story of the most infamous fraudulent wizard in literature. Being a rather large Oz fan (reading the first book and seeing almost every film taking place in Oz), here is where I place my feather firmly in my hat and let high my flag of Ozian snobbery fly. That being said, I am however not a huge Sam Rami fan having only seen his Spider-Man flicks (Yes!! I’m one of those weirdos who hasn’t seen Evil Dead; what of it?!!??) and, well, we saw Spider-Man 3…… As such, it was with high hopes, harsh expectations, and a very critical eye I went in to see Oz the Great and Powerful. Here we go.
From the start, I really wanted this movie to work but had a strange feeling, during the opening credits, that something was off. As the Wizard was introduced and the audience became privy to the world that he sprung from a few things were painfully obvious. First, the story starts with a gloriously lethargic pace. It took way too long for anything interesting to happen. As the original Wizard of Oz had been around for nearly 75 years, its hard to find someone who isn’t at the least aware of the story. That being said, the time taken to establish the Wizard’s character and start him on a journey to more familiar (for us) territory was drawn out way too much. Then there was the establishment of the world; there was none. Being a prequel to the Wizard of Oz story, I expected a small amount of exposition just to help explain what things were and where they come from; i.e.-yellow brick road, emerald city, talking animals. Finally there was a ‘plot twist’ almost worthy of M. Night! The biggest problem was that after a while, this so-called plot twist could be seen well before it happened and then took forever long to come to fruition. And that was where the movie just got out of hand. The story was about as solid and Jello, with some nice moments to it, but was all executed poorly. Then at some point, the Wizard says something directly out of Dark Knight with him basically not being the wizard Oz needs but the being the right wizard for Oz. Woof!
As far as performance for the flick, I felt like the leads of the cast were all told take things over the top for the sake of a children’s movie….NEVER a good idea. Mila Kunis has way better chops than what she displayed here; and as her character develops, her choices for the character became somewhat unnerving. Rachel Wiez had absolutely no business in this flick; her skills were clearly way underused in this picture. It was clear she tried to maintain a sense of empathy with her character but her surrounding circumstances (and possibly her direction) placed her in a strange acting limbo. The supporting actors and their characters in the picture worked significantly better than the leads. Zach Braff as Finley the monkey was actually quite brilliant. Tony Cox’s Knuck was pushed a bit to far but still worked well for the brand of comic relief the character provided. Bill Cobbs as the Master Tinker, brief though his part/appearances were, stayed grounded and believable. And Joey King as the China Girl was absolutely heartwarming and, well, cute. (and that’s a word I hardly ever use) Unfortunately though, Michelle Williams as Glinda was reduced to not much more that a pretty face. And James Franco….was horrendously ham-fisted the entire film, I don’t remember him being that hard to watch in the Spider-Man flicks but, woof!
The look of the film was another thing that was simply unfortunate. The CG was something worthy of a Pixar effort which is of course is a good thing but made LOTS of things look out-of-place in a live action picture. The 3-D effects were painfully obvious and there was a black and white to color ‘gimmick’ used, that was exactly the same as seen in all the trailers; taking away any freshness of the effect. While some character models and elemental effects came off well, again, it was the environments that just did not match the needed level of realism to fit into a live action movie. And at some point it was clearly seen that Glinda was in sequins and for a multi-million dollar budget movie like this, that’s just wrong! Again, woof!! With a poorly executed plot and with acting that was worse than some high school shows that I’ve seen,
- there’s only one way to describe Oz the Great and Powerful, “It’s a trap!!”