I have never seen the original Wizard of Oz. It’s a crime I know (one I am rectifying this week), but because of that, my opinion of this film may differ greatly from anyone who has fond memories, or any memories at all, of the original Wizard of Oz film.
With all that said, I liked this movie a lot more than I expected to.
James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, his friends call him Oz, a conman magician who’s selfish and a little egotistical. He sees magic as a way to make money, and spends his free time fooling women into falling in love with him and wishing he was as great a man as Harry Houdini or Albert Einstein.
But when he miraculously survives a run-in with a particularly nasty-looking tornado, Oz finds himself right in the middle of the fantastical land of Oz.
First off, this is a very pretty film to look at. The first twenty-minutes take place in a black-and-white setting, and while I’m not normally a fan of color filters, I thought they were used really well here, and made the eventual reveal of the Land of Oz all the more stunning.
While some of the set-pieces fall short in terms of riveting CGI, for the most part Oz is truly beautiful. The vistas are breathtaking, and discovering the land along with Oz himself is a big part of the adventure.
While I know a lot of people have a thing against James Franco, he’s never really bothered me, and I thought he did a fine job here as the morally-conflicted Oz. While he won’t win any awards for sure, he played his part well, and when he eventually decides to really turns things around for himself, you find yourself rooting for him. Even if his smile is a little exaggerated.
In fact, one of this movie’s greatest strengths is the cast. In addition to Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams are all great as the beautiful three witches of Oz. While Kunis’ character does fine, she’s written in such a way that her own personal story comes across as a little rushed, and as such, her acting seems a little forced at times. Especially when compared to Weisz and Williams.
Weisz and Williams are not only absolutely gorgeous in their own right, but their characters are truly the highlight of the film. The tension between these different sisters give us some of the more intense, even frightening scenes of the movie, and when these two get to interact, the movie is at its best.
Zach Braff and Joey King also perform surprisingly well as Oz’s two sidekicks. Braff’s character Finley, a flying monkey in a bellhop suit, isn’t nearly as annoying as you think he would be, and while some of his more humorous moments do fall a little flat, he’s overall an entertaining addition to the movie, and will no doubt be a hit with the kids.
And King, while only a young girl still, is also great. Playing a little china girl (literally, she’s made out of China-glass), she’s cute and charming, and you can’t help but fall in love with her. Also, the animation for China Girl and Finley is quite impressive. It really cements them as characters, rather than throwaway comic reliefs, and it makes their scenes all the more enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
To be honest, this isn’t your typical kids movie. While there are certainly moments where you can tell it was designed for a family crowd, some scenes are really quite creepy. While my nine-year old sister was fine throughout, I can imagine some younger kids would definitely be freaked out by some of the more intense moments.
Even though I haven’t seen the Wizard of Oz movies itself, I was able to see enough throwbacks to it here that I’m sure fans will appreciate, while also giving us some nice backstory to the events leading up to Dorothy’s famous journey itself.
While I did really enjoy this movie, there are some frustrating flaws. For instance, I was not a fan with the way the Wicked Witch was handled at all. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say that the build-up to her first appearance is scary and intense, but then, when we actually get to see her for ourselves, well, it’s really disappointing.
The Wicked Witch’s costume and makeup looked so ridiculous, so over-the-top dumb that it took a truly creepy scene, and turned it into a laughable one. So much, in fact, that I couldn’t take her character seriously for the rest of the film, which definitely detracted some from the climax.
In addition, there were definitely some aspects of this movie that came across more silly than intended. Some of the film’s twists were predictable, and a lot of the scenes that built-up to the climax, which was great in its own right, were a little too dependent on past fairy-tale cliches to really build the appropriate suspense.
Overall though, Oz: The Great and the Powerful is a fun, entertaining movie that is able to overcome most of its flaws due to the mostly gorgeous special-effects and a stand-out cast. There’s more than enough here to entertain all kinds of movie-goers, both kids and adults alike.
You’ll have to suspend your disbelief at times (obviously), but if you go in with an open enough mind, you might just enjoy Oz. it may not be a great movie, but it is a good one.