Cert: PG Runtime: 130 mins Director: Sam Raimi Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Joey King and Zach Braff
I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great one
So if you haven’t read the book, here is the movie. Ever wondered how the Wizard of Oz became the man he was? Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he’s hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well. Oz the Great & Powerful is a CGI heavy film that demands a creative eye behind the lens. After Sam Raimi’s work on big budget films like Spiderman, it seemed like an easy choice for Raimi to be the one behind Oz and for the most part, it works. The films shortcomings keep it from being really magical and memorable, like the original from 39, but Oz has enough whimsy to keep the kids entertained and the adults smiling.
The land of Oz is indeed magical, with vibrant colours around every corner, memorable spots like the poppy fields and the dark forest for us older viewers, but even in saying all that I can’t help but feel how fake it all is. This film suffers from the same troubles that plagued Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the visuals, although great for the story, add no sense of realism to the image. I hate overly used CGI in films to the point of noticing the awkward placement of actors in front of the green screen. Both Wonderland and Oz have this same feeling. While I’m getting the negatives out of the way, I must say that what everyone is saying about Mila Kunis is true, she was miscast in this role. I think she was chosen more for her beauty and star power than her acting abilities, which is sad cause it looks like she really is trying here. The story for her character here is a sad one and the second half I think suffers a bit because the threat from her is not really present.Seeing the Kunis character go in the direction she does didn’t really effect me as much as I wanted it to. Consider that the failure of the script more so than the actors. Not enough time is really given to her for her transformation to affect the viewer.The film opens in black & white and and the transformation to colour had a smile on my face. Despite the “fakeness” of some of the scenes, Raimi does a decent job of not letting the effects overpower the film.
Raimi steers the film in the right direction, but it is James Franco’s shoulders it has to rest on. He is the type of actor that comes off as not really caring. Unfortunately I don’t know if he has enough charisma and power to command a film like this. At times it looked like he was in the role, other times it felt like he couldn’t care. Maybe it’s his acting style, I can’t really put my finger on it. Where the acting does work, marvellously and in every scene is Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Two polar opposites that look like they actually enjoy the characters and the movie they are in. They elevate the material a bit to make the drama more tangible. Where as without them I think the film would have fallen more flat. The drama and character choices didn’t really bring me into the story. A special mention to Zach Braff, for me he steals the show hands down as Finley the flying monkey. He really did provide the comic relief this film needed. He isn’t just the clown of the show, he really does bring soul and passion to the film.The film didn’t feel like it took chances, or tried to have complex situations for the characters. It had mapped out beats, hit them and marched on. It was nice seeing some nice Raimi touches in the final product.Oz is a good film, with weaknesses that bring it down. Raimi and two witches try their best to elevate some bland material and in the end we are left with a film that is neither great, nor memorable….just satisfactory enough.