Sam Raimi is often associated with having a strong visual style of directing as evidenced by films like The Evil Dead trilogy, the Spider-Man trilogy, and others. They have made their marks in the cinematic and pop culture world and now Oz The Great & Powerful will do the same. Though it may look like something that came out of the pages of the Alice in Wonderland script – and cutting room floor too -, Oz The Great And Powerful is a magical 3D ride that is fun to watch and will have you laughing until the every end. Hit the jump for the full review.
Though it has come to a point where studios are just rebooting, retooling, remaking, adapting, sequeling, and even prequeling, Oz The Great & Powerful is one of the few films that you won’t even care which category it fits into. Yes it’s a prequel, and yes it looks a lot like Alice In Wonderland – you have producer Joe Roth to thank for that one – but the film is a splendid surprise. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s script may not be perfect, but it is lot closer to L. Frank Baum’s novels than the Wizard of Oz is.
James Franco plays Oscar Diggs, a traveling circus magician with dubious ethics. When his act finally catches up with him, he is forced to flee on a hot air balloon, which inadvertently gets sucked into a tornado and transports him into the land of Oz. There he meets the three witches of Oz: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), all of whom are not convinced that he is of the prophecy that foretells a great man coming from the sky who will defeat the Wicked Witch.
Through Raimi’s wonderful direction, Oz The Great & Powerful is the kind of film that you can watch over and over again, in 3D, and not feel any sort of guilt. The film is viscerally visual on every level. There was a lot of attention to detail by the VFX team to create the world of Oz and try to make it as believable as possible. With the 3D effects added on, the film felt even more real, almost as if you were right there with Oscar. Yes the 3D is that good. Rarely does a 3D film not give you a headache, but here Raimi was able to find the balance of depth and light and use it effectively. There are plenty of points where Raimi, who has never used the technology before, has fun with the 3D and makes sure the audience will have fun with it as well.
Franco plays a very charming but also very questionable Oscar Diggs. His heart is in the right place, but all too often he is consumed by the dreams of not being like his father. Franco really sells that part well, having us believe that Oscar has these dreams and that he can change to become the great man he’s always dreamt of becoming. Oscar has a magnetic personality despite his questionable ethics. He’s able to woo women and swindle the naïve. But just watching his character growth throughout the film keeps the audience interested in the film, which runs at nearly 130 minutes.
Kunis however is the weakest link in the film. Of the three actresses, she does not posses the acolytes her three co-stars do, which are Academy Award nominations. Although those noms may just be trophies they recognize that they are the best of the best, and while Kunis is good, she isn’t the best, not yet at least. It’s not that she isn’t a capable actress, but it’s just that she does too much to make an iconic character her own without disrespecting it, but she doesn’t quite honor it. If anything, she is just more of an eye candy thing.
One other weak aspect of this film is love interest, which occurred towards the end and really had no place. We see this person grow from a self-centered, egotistical, womanizer to a humble and caring leader. At no point did there seem to be a love interest generating i we are just hit with silly and very hysterical jokes, but when we see that the romantic interest portion of the film come in, it almost feels forced.
Weisz and Williams are also fun to watch on screen. Each one of them is a witch, and both are convinced that Oscar is not who he says he is, but try to get him to defeat the Wicked Witch. Weisz has this way of being drawn into and liking the character. Her personality may be just as questionable as Oscar’s, but anyone would be damned not to be in awe of the way she looks. Williams is a bit opposite of that. Her character isn’t at all concerned with ruling a kingdom as much as her sister. It may come off as a bit cliché, but her mother-like qualities can be fun to watch as well as she does have concern for her people but she also has sly ways of drawing out the best in all of us.
Oz The Great And Powerful is surprisingly fun to watch, especially in 3D. There may be some flaws in it, but those flaws are so few and far in between and are overshadowed by the sharp visuals, character chemistry, and it’s ability to release your inner child by using silly humor.