Dee Discusses: Oz the Great and Powerful

Posted: March 13, 2013 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

It is impossible to really discuss this movie without spoiling, so I’m just going to put right up front there will be spoilers in this review. The things I want to talk about are too wrapped up in the plot to try a shallow review. So this movie is a prequel of sorts to the extremely popular classic The Wizard of Oz. It has many nods and winks to the film, and it does take place in the same world. You don’t necessarily need to see the original first, but it does help give more context.  They lean on some of the information from the books, although to say it’s based off the books at all is about as true as the original doing the same. It takes concepts and some names, but no, if you like the books, you’re probably not going to think of this as an adaptation. I don’t think it’s meant to be. But you should read the books! They are fantastic. No more rambling though, on to Oz the Great and Powerful.

Oscar (James Franco) is a circus con artist and magician. He has big dreams and aspirations, and he doesn’t want to settle down in his native home of Kansas. He wants adventure, but he’s also greedy, duplicitous, and has a liking for the ladies. He’s handsome, charming, manipulative, and apparently shameless. He seems to have a soft spot for children, since during his show a young girl begs him to use his magic on her legs, and he’s heartbroken to say he can’t. He meets his former childhood sweetheart in his trailer and she tries to see if he’ll leave his wandering life for her. He won’t. She is played by Michelle Williams, who will show up again later on, and this is one of the first nods to the first film. In that, Dorothy’s friends in Oz were all played by farm hands and people she knew back home. This Annie shows up as Glinda later on, and Zach Braff as his assistant becomes his assistant again as a flying monkey. So there are nods. It also is in black and white in the beginning and turns into color when he gets to Oz. Oscar runs away and jumps into a hot air balloon when the husband of a woman he messed around with goes chasing after him. He is caught into a tornado and begs the heavens for a second chance. He lands in the beautiful world of Oz.

Oscar is immediately greeted by a beautiful young woman named Theodora (Mila Kunis). She admits she’s a good witch and that her sister is holding the throne for the prophesied famous wizard. He is supposed to defeat the evil witch and save the people, becoming the new king in the process. All Oscar hears is “king, throne, very wealthy” and he’s on board. He’s wanted worship and attention, and this is the way to do it. He charms Theodora with his tricks and seduction tactics, and since she is a young and extremely naive woman, she falls for it hook line and sinker. Almost immediately afterward she thinks they are in love and to be married, which understandably freaks out Oscar, but he doesn’t correct her. They save a trapped talking monkey (Zach Braff) from a lion and he swears his life to Oscar. He uses this promise to tell Finley the truth about himself, and Finley is like oh hellllllll no. But he has to help now, he owes him a debt. They meet Theodora’s sister, fellow witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who is a lot more skeptical of Oscar. She promises him a lot of money and power if he kills the evil witch, the King’s daughter who poisoned him. Lol yeah like that’s true. It’s pretty obvious from early on she is eeeeeeevil. Just look at her dress.

Finley and Oscar set out to find the evil witch and come across a little China Girl. Her entire village was broken by the “evil witch” and her minions, and Oscar helps glue her legs back to her body. They bond and he takes her along on his trip. They come across the evil witch and find out it’s Glinda, and Evanora is the one who killed her father. You can tell since she’s all in white and Evanora’s all in black. Just saying. Obvious themes here. Glinda takes him to the Munchkin castle and Theodora thinks he’s betrayed her with her sister AND with Glinda. So she goes evil, eats a green apple that turns her heart black, and becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. Everyone looks to Oscar for a plan on how to defeat the evil witches, save everyone, and do it all while holding by a strict ‘no killing’ principle. Or will he go with his selfish desires and betray everyone? Clearly he just leaves. It’s not like we know he’s the leader of Oz decades later oh wait yes we do. I’ll admit that takes some of the mystery out of it, but there is one thing they do that made me laugh. We know that he eventually becomes a big face of smoke that terrifies everyone. The way they have that happen here is so fun to watch. I clapped a little when I saw it. They added that just where it needed to be.

So how was the movie? It’s beautiful. Stunning. I saw it on IMAX 3D and oh my goodness was it worth the extra price. They do an excellent job of starting it in black and white, transitioning to color but still having subdued shades, and then it explodes into brilliant color for the second half. I could watch this movie with the sound off and have a blast, it’s great eye candy. The character and set designs are great. How they choose to use Oscar’s tricks to their advantage was entertaining and creative. I really enjoyed the presentation and design of this movie. All the nods to the Wizard of Oz are fun too. Annie’s last name is Gale and John Gale wants to marry her, aka Dorothy’s parents maybe? Following the same plot line of getting a quest and picking up colorful friends on the yellow brick road? Lovely. Like I said above the way they develop him as the fake head of smoke is brilliant. I knew that was coming in soon, but seeing it was fun. It’s a decent story, it is fond of the source material, and it looks like a dream.

I guess I only have a few criticisms. I think Franco might not have been right for the role. He tried, I believe that, but he doesn’t have the right charisma and chemistry for it. You need to walk a fine line between sleazy but charming to be Oscar, and I wasn’t rooting for him. His chemistry with the women wasn’t very good either, which is a problem since we have to try and believe this guy could convince women to fall head over heels for him. Not so much. Unfortunately Mila Kunis has one of the most interesting characters, but she doesn’t get a lot of development for that. It’s just hard to buy that Theodora was so innocent that she bought this guy would love her and felt betrayed so easily. If we’re supposed to think he actually slept with her … that one maybe I’d lean more toward as realistic. There seemed to be a lot of backstory with her and Evanora, and how Theodora was already leaning on the potentially wicked side with her powerful magic. The plot needed her to be the Wicked Witch of the West, so she was pushed there fast. The best thing in the whole movie with her was when she cried and they burned into her skin because of her issue with water. Fantastic. Rachel Weisz is an amazing actress but she’s barely used as this, which is a shame because again Evanora seemed like she had a lot of substance to her, but we never got a chance to see it. The only place Franco really worked was with the China Girl, and that character could’ve been annoying but she was very endearing instead. And I enjoyed their relationship.

Overall I would say it’s a good time. It’s not especially dramatic or deep, but it doesn’t try to be either. I think Franco is probably the weakest element, which is a problem since he’s the main character and everything hinges on him. I’m not a huge fan of these three strong women having all of their stories surrounding him. It leans into the Love Cures and Love Turns Evil ideas. But that’s just an obvious set of tropes. Personally, I don’t think they needed the Glinda/Oz love story. I liked the idea of the two of them working together for their own causes. Because Franco didn’t have a lot of chemistry with her, I sort of shrugged at it. They really had a lot of meat here they didn’t get a chance to go into with the witches and what made them tick, I wonder if there are deleted scenes I can look forward to on the DVD. I’d still say you should see the movie if the premise interests you. Don’t expect an award winning flick, but it’s entertaining. It’s good enough that I’ll buy the DVD or blu-ray when it comes out and put it next to The Wizard of Oz.

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