Sunday, March 10, 2013

“Oz The Great And Powerful” – Movie Review


This weekend, my movie class held a bonus screening of the new Sam Raimi directed film, “Oz The Great And Powerful”, starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. 


When a cheesy carnival magician accidentally finds himself in a mystical new land, he sees an opportunity for the success he’s longed for – but after learning that the place is overtaken by evil witches, will he be able to defeat them in order to achieve his goals?


Early in the 20th century, Oscar (Franco) has been working as something of a small-time prestidigitator at a traveling carnival for quite some time now, utterly frustrated by the fact that he hasn’t received the professional recognition he feels he so sorely deserves for his abilities.  Unable to achieve his high aspirations, he instead resorts to seducing women – whether they be local residents of the current Midwestern town the carnival is visiting, audience members or co-workers.  However, when Oscar is caught romancing the wife of the carny’s strong man, he escapes his wrath by flying off in a hot air balloon – but when the balloon gets caught in a twister, it eventually lands him in an unusual, faraway land straight out of a fairy tale … a land named Oz. 

Immediately upon emerging from the now-destroyed hot air balloon, Oscar meets Theodora (Kunis), a beautiful young woman who believes he is the legendary wizard who has come to save her village from an evil witch who oppresses all of the townspeople.  But just as a mutual attraction grows between the two, Oscar learns the truth about Theodora – that she herself is also a witch, albeit a good one.  Bringing Oscar to The Emerald City where he will live as its ruler, Theodora introduces him to her sister, Evanora (Weisz), who, as luck would have it, is also a witch.  Once they are alone, Evanora explains to Oscar that for him to become king, he must kill the evil witch who holds the residents under her power. 

Upon entering The Dark Forest, Oscar confronts Glinda, the evil witch about whom he has heard so much.  Soon, however, Oscar comes to learn that he has been fooled – Glinda is, in fact, a good witch while Evanora and Theodora are actually the evil witches who must be defeated.  Together, Oscar and Glinda decide to join forces to reclaim the land of Oz for its good citizens – but once Glinda realizes that Oscar is not the great wizard that everyone hoped for, will he still be able to rescue the people of Oz from the evil witches?


A prequel to the classic movie “The Wizard Of Oz”, “Oz The Great And Powerful” was a movie that had a strongly mixed reaction by the students in my movie class; it was one of those films you either liked quite a good deal or absolutely hated.  For those in the audience that brought their kids (or grandchildren), it seemed that while the younger generation appeared to enjoy the motion picture (at least somewhat), the grownups were considerably less enthusiastic. 

Oz The Great And Powerful” is not a movie I feel comfortable recommending – even though what some would believe to be its intended audience of younger viewers might like it (at least based on the small, random sampling from the class).  It lacks a great deal of the charm one might expect – at least based on the classic film – and the story feels a little cluttered at times with the whole relationship between the witches being hard to follow, at least during portions of the film.  However, if the movie is being geared more towards an adult audience, then it has certainly missed its mark; while its attempts at humor are clear, the viewer is increasingly overwhelmed by special effects rather than maintaining a focus on compelling characters engaged in an interesting (and entertaining) story. 

Both before and after the screening, our instructor shared information about the background of this movie.  For those unfamiliar with the literary history, the iconic “The Wizard Of Oz” was based on a novel by L. Frank Baum, who authored a series of books about this mythological town; “Oz The Great And Powerful” is one of the books in that series, coming well before the one that inspired the motion picture that starred the young Judy Garland in the 1930’s.  The movie “Oz The Great And Powerful” has a rather convoluted background; originally planned to star Robert Downey, Jr., he bailed out on the project and it eventually went to Johnny Depp, who also wound up leaving.  Eventually, James Franco was cast and finally with a lead for the role, Disney was able to produce the movie. 


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