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.


Daniel Fogarty


82 thoughts on “Oz the Great and Powerful

  1. With all the positive reviews I keep reading, it surprises me that it hit “rotten” territory on RT. I’m a fan of Oz and its many adaptations even when they’re not all that great (like the Witches of Oz mini-series) so I’m real excited to see this one. Really hope I can make it to theaters for it.

    • I was surprised too. And when I was done watching the movie, I realized I was going to be going against the grain a bit at least, posting a review this positive of it. But I have to say, I enjoyed it quite a bit. A lot of the issues I’m seeing brought up (Franco, the pacing, the story…) didnt bother me at all. I had a lot of fun with it!

  2. I am really glad that you loved it so much. I liked it, but certainly didn’t love it as much as you did. I enjoyed the general mechanics of it, but I felt like it had some problems holding it back from greatness. I didn’t see it in 3D, and about 15 minutes into the film, I regretted that. But as a whole, I thought the CGI wasn’t as fantastic as it could have been. Not that it was bad, but I noticed little things along the way that bothered me. I thought Mila Kunis was terribly cast. So that held back from my enjoyment. But I thought the pacing was great. There was no part that I felt was dragging on too long. And just when I thought it might go off the deep end, and changed course and grabbed my attention again. It was a fun film, and I am glad that I didn’t get talked out of seeing it by numerous people that said it looked horrible.

    • I dont know that I “Loved it” per se, but I definitely thought it was really good. It’s the perfect March movie. If it were any better, they’d have bumped it to the summer 😉 LOL

      I thought the CGI was great across the board. I mean, occasionally the monkey looked a little dicey, but that happens with CGI characters. I thought the landscape/environment work was phenomenal. Really spectacular looking. And the 3D was awesome. I definitely recommend it in 3d, this was one of those films that took full advantage of it.

      Kunis was alright, but at the end she went a little over the top. I think that that’s got to be an easy temptation in that role though. LOL

  3. Just like you I really enjoyed the film. Since its a prequel to the classic its definitely getting unfair criticism. Sam Raimi delivered a really good film. Great review.

  4. I loved this movie (and I haven’t even seen it in 3-D yet!). I was disappointed that its tomatometer wasn’t higher on Rotten Tomatoes (at this time it’s 60%), but like 1985’s Return To Oz, critics will always keep the 1939 Wizard of Oz in the backs of their minds when judging a new Oz film. Sam Raimi did a great job with this film. I actually thought James Franco was pretty good in the role. I will be pissed off if Danny Elfman’s score DOESN”T get one of the film’s Oscar nods next January.

    • Glad to hear you liked it so much. Yeah, the Tomato Meter is pretty disappointing for this one, without a doubt.

      Franco was fine here. I did wonder what a more charismatic lead could have done with the part, but still, he didnt take me out of the movie or anything. And yeah, this has got to go down as a win for Raimi, right? I suppose we’ll see how the box office does… but I’m betting its going to be a big hit. 😉

  5. I went to see it in 2D last night (being old with progressive lenses sucks for 3D movies)

    I thought during the whole movie, “Oh that was a great shot for a 3D movie but it did NOTHING for the plot or scene.” It was a visual treat for this ADD girl but WOW it was 2 hours and FELT it! Ya know that feeling? And I LOVED LOVED LOVED the herd of horses and the flowers, oh my the bell flowers and the gem ones. I want some of Raimi’s acid!

    All in all, a good story and it was a good prequel. I had a problem with my mind wandering to the Wicked character names. That is in no way a reflection on this movie but a refection over the glut of Oz inspired books/movies/musicals.

    I thought Mila Kunis stole the show. She had me convinced that she was a good witch but when she turned bad, she played it well. I thought Michelle Williams was like cotton candy, LOL, or maybe the 1932 Wicked Witch, if you throw water on her, she would just melt – no substance at all!

    Second show stealer, CGI faves Finley and China Girl. I want my own little Finley to carry my bags and be my own little cheerleader.

    Dan, sorry to spout all over your blog. It’s rare that I see a movie or stay away for a whole movie! I see, maybe 3 movies in the theaters a year and I already slept thru The Croods (a 3D movie at a Girl Scout event at 4:45am- see previous comment about being OLD!)

    • No problem Andi, I know how it goes. I get volumous comments here a lot, trust me 😉

      I didn’t really get bored by it, I didnt thnk it was too long. I’ve seen others point that out though, so youre not alone.

      Yeah, I definitely loved all the call backs to the original movie too. I loved how they worked in the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion even though they didnt have the rights. LOL

      I dont know that Kunis stole the show for me, but she was ok. As was Williams. At least they chose not to have her use that “lilting voice” lol 😯

      I enjoyed Finley and the China Girl, too. I thought they were great new Oz denziens! 😀

  6. Good review man. It’s not one that I loved, but one that I definitely enjoyed the hell out of and had a great time with. Wouldn’t say it comes anywhere close to the original classic, but at least it doesn’t rain on it’s parade either.

  7. I might “have” to see this because of my GF so at least your review wasn’t bad. That might make this a little bit easier (although I doubt it).

  8. Pingback: Oz the Great and Powerful Review: 99 Problems and a Witch… is pretty much all of them | Rorschach Reviews

  9. Great review, Fogs. Loved the little tribute song at the beginning. I’m glad to hear that this mostly lives up to expectations… that mixed RT score had me a little concerned.

    • Yeah, I basically felt they live up to their promises, you know? They weren’t going to author some phenomenal, for the ages, greatest movie of all time or anything. All you could ask for was some really cool VFX a good story and fun characters. I think they did that just fine.

      • Yeah, I wonder how many of the middling-to-poor reviews are solely because people were thinking “This is in the same universe as an all-time classic, so it has to be an all-time classic as well.”

  10. Dang, looks like I’m ending up on the other end of the stick again, heh. I didn’t see it in 3D, but what I did see didn’t impress me. The movie had a very artificial style to me that I just didn’t find appealing, which was a shame since I was most looking forward to the visuals going in. Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree again on this one. *shrug* 😛

    • That’s fine. It happens. Wish you had a little more fun with it, but I can see where you’re coming from. I don’t know about the “artificial style” though, I mean, that’s how 3/4 of today’s movies are made. I thought it looked great, given all the CGI they employed. CGI fests can look a lot worse than that!

  11. Great review! I’m borrowing a kid from my cousin and seeing it sometime next week, I’m actually excited about 3D – the trailer looked fantastic!

    • LOL “Borrowing a kid”. I do that sometimes from my sister for animated movies. LOL 😀

      The 3D was great when I saw it, I was impressed. Unfortunately we all know that that stuff can vary from showing to showing 😦 Hope its good when you go!

    • I’m a pushover. 😉

      Seriously though, I dont give a shit about being “critical” really. I hope I have fun at every movie I go to.

      And you know what? This one was pretty fun. It’s probably not going to wind up in my top ten for the year or anything (I hope not at least, I think that would be a sign of a weak year), but I definitely enjoyed myself!

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