Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the great and powerful

It’s safe to see the wizard, Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz
You’ll see he is a whiz of a wiz, if ever a wiz there was
If ever, oh ever a wiz there was, the Wizard of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful things he does
So go and see the wizard, Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz

Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a magician in a travelling circus. He doesn’t earn much money, but his work allows him plenty of opportunity for philandering. He realizes though that his occupation makes him unsuitable as a husband… unsuitable for anything, really. He longs to do or be something great. Fate intervenes when he gets chased into his hot air balloon by an angry, jealous strongman on a day when a tornado is approaching. Oz and his craft are sucked into the storm.

When he emerges, he’s not in Kansas anymore. He’s found his way to the wonderful land of Oz. It’s a beauteous, magical realm filled with plants and creatures beyond the imagination. Almost as soon as he lands, however, Oz is greeted as the fulfillment of a prophecy. He’s greeted by Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good Witch who informs him that the kingdom of Oz is plagued by a Wicked Witch, but that it’s prophesied that a great Wizard will fall from the sky and defeat her, before claiming his place on the throne.

Oz doesn’t know how to react to that. For one thing, he’s attracted to Theodora, and doesn’t want to dispel her illusions of him. Eventually, as he’s led into the Emerald City and Theodora’s sister Evenora (Rachel Weisz) shows him the royal treasure, he wants to keep pretenses up to get ahold of the mountain of gold. But the truth is, he’s just a man, and the only magic he knows is some slight of hand.

Nonetheless, he sets off to find and defeat the Wicked Witch. With the help of a flying monkey in a bellhops’ uniform (voiced by Zack Braff) and a small talking China Doll (Joey King) he meets along the way, Oz learns he has more going in his favor than he initially thought. He has the belief of the people of Oz.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” is a gorgeous, fun slice of family entertainment.

The land of Oz itself benefits greatly from 3D and CGI. The Emerald City and Yellow Brick Road look fantastic, and the surrounding landscapes are lavish and detailed. Director Sam Raimi expertly mixes in practical sets and green screen work in order to create a believable, beautiful environment. This kind of fantasy film is the perfect playground for digital artists, and they take full advantage of it by creating a wondrous realm and then rendering it in 3D that the audience can actually see and feel.

Within this world, a simple, but charming story takes place. Franco’s Oz comes from a life full of bs’ing people, but when it comes times to prove what he’s got for real, he balks. It isn’t until he realizes that his great con-man skills could come into play here as well that he starts to make headway. His companions, Braff’s monkey and King’s doll are sweet substitute’s for Dorothy’s companions from the ’39 film. The plot machinations aren’t complex, but they do have a worthwhile story to be told, and it works nicely as a prequel to the events of the original.

Acting wise, certainly James Franco isn’t a threat to win any awards for this performance. The many criticisms of him and his abilities won’t be dispelled with this role. But with everything else that’s going on being so colorful, he’s not asked to carry the show. There’s plenty of support surrounding him, most notably Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz as the three witches of the land.

Certainly, this movie is no threat to eclipse “The Wizard of Oz” in anyone’s heart. That film had an incomparable cast, legendary songs, and has had 80 years of being beloved. As a prequel and companion piece, however, we could do much worse. In today’s day and age of shameless cash grabs and unworthy remakes and sequels, it’s refreshing to see a property being revisited in a respectful manner. “Great and Powerful” is a prequel that makes sense within the mythos, and offers viewers a new and entertaining story, all while maintaining the spirit and tone of the original film.

That in itself is a rarity, and worth recommending.

A-

Daniel Fogarty

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82 thoughts on “Oz the Great and Powerful

  1. I thought James Franco was great in this movie… Mila Kunis was the weakest link in the cast, they should have gotten a better actress. But overall I liked the movie, I was surprised they didn’t somehow sneak in the famous Kansas line

    • I’d give Franco as far as “Good”, LOL. Personally I think I’d stop shy of “Great” ;)

      Kunis was ok, the part called for her to go a little overboard I think.

      As far as the Kansas line, they probably didnt want to play with fire on things they didnt have the rights to…

  2. Once again great minds think alike. An impressive companion to the Musical. I think the final confrontation sequences when Oz reveals the kind of Wizard he is capable of being were true to the original story and did not over do the CGI impusles of today’s film makers. To me, Williams was the one who stole the movie. She was just right. The new characters were brilliant and I loved the way the material integrated the backstory from Kansas into the Oz story, just like 75 years ago. I’ll sing along with you.
    “Somewhere over the marquee, down the road,
    there’s a movie I read of on the blogpage of Fogs.”

    • LOL. Funny stuff. I guess if I start doing it, I should expect people’ll give it right back to me, huh?

      Yeah, I really kind of liked the finale, and the way they showed Oz utilizing the tricks of his trade. Clever, and it plays nicely into what we know of Oz in the future. Williams was good, but I liked the new characters better. :D

  3. As long as it’s a decent story and imaginative that lets me explore Oz in a new way, expanding upon the great original, thats all I care about.

    Drive in here will be opening soon. Hopefully this will be one of their double features that weekend and me and the old lady will check it out then. Definitely looking forward to going back to that realm after all these years.

    • Yeah, Josh, I think that’s exactly what it was. Fun and imaginative and with a bunch of new Oz residents to meet and a couple of new areas to explore.

      The story wasn’t anything that’s going to win screenplay awards or anything, but it did fine. I know I enjoyed it! :D

  4. Is this worth paying extra money for in seeing in IMAX 3-D – or maybe just 3-D – or would regular 2-D be sufficient? I am thinking of seeing it in IMAX 3-D but only want to do so if the graphics are going to blow me away. What do you think??

    • Yeah, I think it would be good. I didnt go IMAX, its kind of a drive for me, but I did go 3d. And I’d definitely recommend at least that. I thought the 3d was really worthwhile here! :D

    • Thanks Chris. I guess if you can’t stand the guy, you might have trouble with it… but he wasn’t that bad, here. I mean, they didnt ask him to stretch that much as an actor or anything, you know? And the rest of the film is built pretty solidily around him, so, you might be surprised!

      • I felt like I got a good old nap in and then I woke up and it was STILL GOING! I have odd taste though. My husband loves telling people that I fell asleep in Die Hard and he still married me.

    • Yeah, I liked it. I dont hink its going to wind up one of the best of the year or anything, but it was still decent enough… I’m happy about it too, we really needed a decent movie. 2013 has been kind of rough so far!

  5. An A- ! Wow you weren’t kidding when you said you enjoyed this more than me. The visual are gorgeous as you point out. However the story is just a direct copy of the original minus the music, charm and heart. There are so few live action PG rated films, so it’s worth seeing. But when compared to the last one (Life of Pi) this falls WAY short.

    • How is the story a direct copy of the original :???: Because they have to defeat a witch and find friends along the way in both? Pretty sure that’s where the similarities end….

      And yeah, this is no Life of Pi. Obviously. But we cant play the comparison game between unrelated films, I mean… pick your favorite film of last year and “Its no Godfather”… what does that say?

  6. Glad this got your approval. It’s on my list of ones to see. Based on the commercials, I’m thinking that it could get some Production Design and Visual Effects nods like Alice in Wonderland did.

    • Oh yeah. That wouldnt surprise me. The effects were definitely worthy. Maybe… long shot? A nom for best costumes, too. There were a bunch of Oz denziens in Munchkin garb, Oz palace guard costumes, the witches all had fancy dresses… when they were in Kansas, it was a period piece, so, I could see it. Long shot, but maybe.

  7. Great write-up! ““Great and Powerful” is a prequel that makes sense within the mythos, and offers viewers a new and entertaining story, all while maintaining the spirit and tone of the original film.” Could not have said it better myself!

    Although Disney cannot directly say it is connected to the original Wizard of Oz they paid as much respect to it as they could and didn’t make any discrepancies to question that it isn’t. It wasn’t a masterpiece but I did enjoy it and I do consider it a prequel. Gotta give respect to Disney for pulling this one off!

    • Boom. Totally agree Morals ;) I wasnt expecting a masterpiece, and certainly, it wasn’t one, but it was highly entertaining, and absolutely respectful to the original! It’s a tricky thing to do, and Disney did it well.

      I’m still surprised by all the complaining this one received around the blogosphere, I thought it was fun!

  8. I’m planning on trying to see this at an Imax showing if it is still there Saturday. I’m trying to save money for a probable move this summer but this will be my entertainment splurge. I may catch a 5$ showing of something else to, not sure what yet. I’m busy rereading all the books.

    • All the Oz books? Hm. I wonder how it will play to someone knowledgeable of all the books… I thought it was very entertaining. Its light, family fare… and certainly no classic, but I’m not about to kick it around for that, like many other bloggers have :(

      Hope you enjoy, if you do go!!

      • L Frank Baum is a very simplistic writer. From what I saw of the trailers, I think the movie looks like it would fit right in with what he wrote. For a man who claimed to want to create modern fairy tales without any moral lessons, just fun stories kids would like to read, the lessons are as obvious as getting hit by a brick. The cowardly lion always had courage, right from the start. The tin man was deeply caring though he thought he had no heart. The Scarecrow was clever and practical and saw to the root of the matter even thought he thought he was a fool with no brain. It’s more ovbious in the book than the movie 1939 movie. I don’t think the books would have ended up as classics if the 1939 movie version had not been made.

  9. I wasn’t going to see this movie because I loved the original so much and thought this one wouldn’t live up to that classic. After reading your review, I plan on seeing it now. Thanks!!

    • Wellllllll… in fairness, living up to the classic is hard to do. Lets put it this way, I dont think that this movie diminishes the classic in any way, like so many sequels of classics can and have. It was fun AND respectful. So check it out, you’ll like it!

  10. I didn’t really like it sadly. Apart from the the visuals there was nothing engaging in it. I thought I was going to see something really magical and fun but left the screen disappointed. :(

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  12. Okay, this is a really, really delayed comment, but I need to rant =P Haha I finally just got to see this in the theater and HATED it!

    Aside from all the little things with acting and such, my biggest problem with this is that it didn’t answer the questions that lead us up to The Wizard of Oz. A: The movie should have ended with Dorothy’s House landing on the Wicked Witch of the East and B: They should have created the characters of the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. They teased a little bit and I thought we were going to get to see where they came from, but then it just never got mentioned again.

    I think the point of a prequel is to show how things came to be in the original and for me this failed miserably. It could have been done so much better. Okay, rant over. But the acting was really, really terrible also! =P

    • You HATED it? Wha-aaat? Aw, that’s too bad!

      I’ll tell you though, there were things they couldnt do. They couldnt do much more than allude to the things you said you’d like to see, they didnt have the right to the original 1939 film. So, things like the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man, Ruby slippers… couldnt do it. :(

      I wont defend the acting, though, it wasn’t great. I didnt mind it, but I know a lot of people disliked it. :(

      Sorry to hear you didnt enjoy it Nicole, I thought it was a fun family type move, and for an early march release, I dont think things get much better! 8O

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