I’m still trying to figure out how a master of horror, Sam Raimi, got paired up with Disney’s Wizard of Oz Prequel. Oz the Great and Powerful is a green screen filled, 3D geared trip back to the land of Oz. With a killer cast and a brilliant director, Oz should have been a better film than it was. A weak script and a lack of aggressive acting created a film that lacked the power and greatness Oz deserves.
Oz takes place well before Dorothy’s visit that we are all so familiar with. The film begins at a circus where we meet Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a somewhat smarmy, chauvinist who uses the same ploy over and over to get women. Forced to flee when the boyfriend of a woman he has tricked comes to attack him, Oz hops in a balloon and a whirlwind whisks him away to the land of Oz. Oz promptly meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a witch who tells him of a prophesy. If Oz can defeat the wicked witch he will be make king of Oz and be awarded unlimited riches. The prospect of riches sends Oz on a journey actors the land where he meets the a talking monkey named Finley (Zach Braff), a walking and talking china doll (Joey King), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). In the process Oz breaks Theodora’s heart, learns the truth about the land of Oz and ultimately saves it.
I have always been a fan of origin stories. I have always though it was fun to see how all the pieces fit together and in this vein Oz did not disappoint. Throughout the course of the film we meet witches, including Evanora (Rachel Weisz), see the Wicked Witch of the West come to be, understand why the wizard lives how he does in the Wizard of Oz and get to see early versions of all the witches and Munckinland. It was fun to see the Wizard’s origin story but there were a lot of flaws in the film. I liked the whimsical feel of it but ultimately I found it to be infantile. I know this is a story that is geared towards children but some parts of this film were over the top infantile.
The main problem I had with this film was an overall sense of timidness. Sam Raimi is an outstanding director, in fact he is the main reason I saw the film. There were very few scenes that I would call classic Sam Raimi scenes. The director’s signature flair and style was all but nonexistant in the film. Instead Raimi relied too much on green screen and 3D effects. With a cast as outstanding as this it shocks me that there were no outstanding performances. James Franco seemed preoccupied by other things, Rachel Weisz was just kind of there and Mila Kunis seemed scared of herself. The only people I’d really compliment were Zach Braff and Joey King who served as the wizard’s companions and the film’s comic relief. Other than that I found this film to be overwhelmingly average.
Maybe I had gotten my hopes up too high for this film or maybe I just expected too much from a film geared towards children. With such a star studded cast it was difficult not to get my hopes up. A lot of my issues with this film stems from my problem with films that are overly 3D driven. For most films I don’t like 3D so I saw Oz in 2D and it was obvious that much of the film relied on 3D effects. I have harped on this film a lot but do not take that to mean I hated it. This was a fun film, especially for children, but as fun as it was this was perfectly average, a C grade for me. The Wizard may be great and powerful but the film was just fun and mediocre.