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Magical Visuals, Uninspired Plot Equals a Family Film?

  • Mar 10, 2013
Intended to be a prequel to the novel “The Wonderful World of Oz” and indirectly tied to the 1939 classic film, director Sam Raimi’s “Oz The Great and Powerful” has a very standard and linear plot with the added extra trimmings to try and appeal to its fans. Disney plans to pull off a visual and aural feast similar to what it had done to Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”. It is what Hollywood does when it opts to put modern visual style and great performers in favor of storytelling. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is what it defines as a ‘family film’.

I do have to admit that I became interested with this movie once I heard that Sam Raimi was at its helm as director. Sure, the director had some misfires, but most of his successful movies often have one uniting formula; and that is its main character comes out of his shell and ends up finding himself and realizing just what is in his heart. Raimi’s Spider-man movies have expressed this message and even with his Ash character from “Army of Darkness”, it is about a hero who emerges to find his soul in the face of a challenge and becomes a true hero.

                            Rachel Weisz and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                            Mila Kunis and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                           James Franco and Michelle Williams in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

The film begins in a black and white (non-widescreen) opening act to try to inspire viewers to see its relation to the 1939 classic movie. It was a clever touch that I do have to admit carried that Raimi style in camera work. It introduces us to Oscar, a small time circus magician who is known by the name of Oz. He is selfish, narcissistic and egotistical. He is also a con man and a ladies’ man and that gets him into trouble that he had to flee from the circus muscleman in a hot air balloon. Little did Oscar know that this balloon will be caught in a tornado which would take him to the colorful and enchanting land of Oz. He quickly runs into a charming young witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis) who instantly sees him as the Oz of prophecy. Led by her to Emerald city, Oz is introduced to Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) as he also becomes motivated to fulfill this ‘prophecy’ due to the promise of gold and kingship. Oz must face and kill the wicked witch (Michelle Williams) with his new found friends, Finley the flying monkey/bellhop (Zach Braff) and a porcelain girl from “Chinatown” (Joey King). But things are not what they seemed, as the con man himself had been ‘conned’.

Not really sure, this Sam Raimi flick is definitely restricted as it is a prequel to the 1939 film, and it just shows. I mean, the set pieces and designs are impressive, it succeeds in bringing the viewer into this magical world, but the limitations were so obvious that the characters had very little space to grow and expand. The plot is so standard and linear that it fails to bring a necessary build up to its encounters, and it is just so restricted that it could not explore new narrative ideas in the land of Oz. Such is the weaknesses of prequels, you have already limited your options and one has barely started.

                     James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                    James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                     James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

Standard to Disney movies, it presents a ‘feel good’ atmosphere with the use of familiar devices that speak ‘family and friendship’. Oz, China Girl, and Finley were all designed to create such dynamics. They do succeed as unit somewhat, but it was a hard sell to connect with James Franco’s Oz, he was already unlikable in the beginning and putting such standard elements to expand on him was just doomed to fail. I did not feel that connection as I have with other types of characters. I also thought that the final encounter seemed to be a little too underwhelming, and even with the ‘modern ingenuity and gadgetry’ used against magic kind of deal, it was just something done so much better in Raimi’s “Army of Darkness”.

I also felt that the greatest flaw of the script was the fact that it made Theodora and Evanora much more interesting than the protagonists. The antagonists drove more of the essence of the story, leaving the Oz character left with little room but to play the bumbling oaf who reaches redemption. Sure, the Theodora and Evanora dynamics carried the usual stereotypes as in a ‘woman scorned’ and the manipulative wicked sister, but they were better written than Oz. Kunis and Weisz were convincing in their roles and credible with their performances. Weisz worked really well with Kunis and they formed excellent chemistry. Franco was miscast as Oz, he lacked the needed charisma to sell his character. It was a good thing that Michelle Williams plays Glinda, the good witch and she was believable, despite the fact that the script did not give her much room to grow.

                       Finley voiced by Zach Braff, China Girl voiced by Joey King and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                      James Franco and Rachel Weisz in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                      Finley voiced by Zach Braff and James Franco as Oscar Diggs in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

To try and immerse the viewer, Sam Raimi tries to rely on its visuals to do favor to the land of Oz. The story and characters certainly fails to do so, but Raimi does manage to bring the viewer into this magical land. After the black and white opening act, the viewer is taken to a land (shot in widescreen) with vivid colors and stunning set designs. I could imagine how this movie would look in 3D, an enhancement I usually skip since I always favored storytelling to gimmicks. It almost felt cartoon-like and it yet they all looked so solid and real. The camerawork emulates what I could imagine the novel from which it was based on. Sound was terrific as well, that the young viewers would no doubt be impressed and enthralled.

Perhaps I was over-thinking this movie since family movies are not usually my kind of thing. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much with Sam Raimi, and “Oz the Great and Powerful” did not have a person like me in mind. I could certainly see how it could charm children, but really, I do still believe that movies such as “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Hugo” would be a better fit to charm the young and young at heart alike. “Oz the Great and Powerful” had a uninspired plot, and while it can say that it was restricted due to the fact that it was a prequel, I just feel that it could’ve been much better. It just could not offer anything new, and it was just an exercise how screenwriters can be limited down to pursue a very narrow path. Franco’s Oz struggled to sell the character and the underwhelming intended ‘epic’ climax feels incomplete that it did not deliver. Raimi thankfully manages to keep things modestly controlled, that I think it can be entertaining to the right viewer in mind. RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

                    Michelle Williams in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

Poster art for "Oz: The Great and Powerful." Poster art for "Oz: The Great and Powerful."
Magical Visuals, Uninspired Plot Equals a Family Film?

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September 09, 2013
Great review and pictures too! Imagine this movie in 3D!
March 21, 2013
Nice review. I'll probably wait for this one on DVD. Had no big desire to see it in the first place, and Raimi is hit-or-miss for me.
March 21, 2013
I will be seeing this today with my brother and little cuz, can't wait to spot the Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi cameos.
More Oz: The Great and Powerful (20... reviews
review by . March 31, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
I'll admit my bias right away......several of my friends were background extras in this film. However, I have seen several movies with friends who were extras and disliked the film very much.      With that said, I was actually not expecting much. I expected all flash and little to no content. What I saw was something else.      Yes, the visuals were stunning. I saw it in 3D, so I got to experience all the effects at their full effect. However, even if …
review by . July 31, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Rented this movie over the weekend and it put me to sleep. James Franco is a charleton working in a traveling circus as a magician. He is more interested in giving music boxes to his female assistants than he seems to be interested in performing magic. He deals with hostile audiences that look for wires holding up his suspended assistant and then try to kill him when he is not able to make a handicapped child walk. He flees a strongman and gets whisked by a tornado to Oz.      …
review by . March 08, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
'Oz The Great And Powerful'...Not Great But Loads Of Fun For The Family (video)
'We're off to see the Wizard...The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz'...except...      In Sam Raimi's 'Oz The Great And Powerful' he's not exactly wonderful or a wizard.      In fact he' Oscar Diggs (James Franco) a 3rd rate circus magician/con artist who escapes from Kansas in a hot air balloon, only to land in the beautiful, magical Land of Oz.                   &n …
Quick Tip by . March 16, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Saw this in 3D. Stunning visuals and creativity. It's one of those few movies that inspires me to go back to the cinema again. I hate wearing the 3D glasses though!    Highly predictable plot and more of a movie for kids than adults. Still, I was pleasantly entertained!
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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