Movie review: Oz the Great and Powerful
March 21, 2013
Oz the Great and Powerful looked so very promising with its bright colors and cast of stars. The finished product, however, suffers greatly from those very same elements.
For clarification, Oz the Great and Powerful is not a remake of, but rather a prequel to, the Wizard of Oz (1939) that we all know and love. And even then, this film is supposed to be based directly on L. Frank Baum’s children’s books, since the 1939 Wizard of Oz film’s rights are still tightly held by Warner Brothers. Disney reportedly was careful not to infringe on the iconic film, but within Oz the Great and Powerful, any viewer can match the similarities, even if the Wicked Witch is a slightly different shade of green.
As a big Disney production, the animation blends fairly well with live action, the CGI blossoms, and the 3D rendering is stunning for most of the film. The flying baboons are frightening and most likely why the film carries a PG rating.
Though bright and shiny, I don’t feel as if the grand scale of production matched with the story. The scenes seemed fragmented, as if there were transition pieces trimmed out to fit the film into the two-hour range it ends up occupying. The storyline is a simple god-vs.-evil set up, but the execution is muddled, leaving you sympathizing with the bad girls and not really liking the designated good guy. Maybe Disney is crossing into the postmodern. I wish they wouldn’t.
About those witches, Glinda, played by the angelic Michelle Williams, is the best character in the whole movie. She’s smart enough to see through the shenanigans of the wizard but kind enough to believe in him in spite of his ineptitude. What bothers me about Glinda is that she doesn’t use her wits and charm to take back the Emerald City on her own.
The two witches who may or may not be evil are played by Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz. Kunis appears to have forgotten how to act. Weisz does a better job of being a children’s evil queen-type, though I think she’s also a confusing character. These two witches are jealous and not clever, making them poor villains in my book.
Lastly, there’s Oz himself, the small-time magician turned great and powerful wizard played by James Franco. He’s not right for the role at all. He’s flat. It’s as if he’s too good to be participating in the adventure. As an adult, I think Franco kills whatever charm the movie could have had. Watching Oz the Great and Powerful as a children’s movie, I think there would be enough entertainment value from the graphics and supporting characters to keep littler crowds engaged, but the heart I had hoped to find is absent. The Tin Man had more cardiac activity.
I’m sure there are those who will love this rendition of Oz, and I don’t begrudge you your right to appreciate the film. I feel as though my favorite old friends have been replaced by a cast of pretenders.