Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movie Review: Disney's "Oz The Great And Powerful"

Image from Wikipedia

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. Written by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

There has been a lot of speculation about this film leading up to its release. Would James Franco be a good Oz after being third in line for the role (Robert Downey Jr was producer Joe Roth's first choice, Johnny Depp the second but Downey wasn't interested and Depp wasn't available due to his involvement with "The Lone Ranger")? Would the story allow it to stay true and lead in to the story we all know and love from the 1939 MGM film? Would it be too scary for children even with the PG rating? And all were legitimate concerns and now we have our answers.

Overall the casting was pretty good. I've haven't seen many films with James Franco except for the Spider-Man films. I'm not sure if he was the best person for the role as con-man magician Oscar Diggs, he seemed maybe a bit young for the part? Diggs is supposed to be an established magician with long-standing reputation for womanizing women and cheating people out of their money, a part that I think Robert Downey Jr would have been good for as it reminded me of "Iron Man's" Tony Stark (which may have been why Downey turned the role down as he went on to film Iron Man 3 instead).

The rest of the casting I think was pretty spot on. Michelle Williams works well as Glinda the Good, she has this angelic face and soft voice that fits with the ethereal being that is the nicest and purest hearted witch in Oz. The two sister witches, Theodora and Evanora, leave you wondering where exactly evil stems from. Two quote Glinda in the musical Wicked, "Are people born evil or do they have evil thrust upon them?" The trailers and movie posters can make it seem like the green-faced "Wicked Witch of the West" is her own character but I'm going to drop a little spoiler on you, she isn't. There are 3 witches in this film, not 4. As to the identity of ole greeny, I'll leave to you to see the film.

Two of my favorite characters are Finley (Zach Braff), the flying monkey who ends up owing Oz a life-debt, and the China Girl (Joey King). They are the only two of the main cast who are CG characters yet they have a strong presence in the film...and some of the funniest lines! There were several times I heard the audience in the theatre laughing, myself included.

Visually this film is stunning, the transition from black and white while Oscar is in Kansas to the technicolor that is the Land of Oz is breathtaking. Due to MGM having a stronghold on everything visually iconic of the 1939 film, Disney was forced to create their own interpretation of Oz while still making it seem familiar to fans of the first film. I think Disney succeeded. The colors are vibrant, the land is different yet it feels like you've been there before. In both Kansas and Oz there are plenty of nods to the original film, some of which you may miss if you aren't paying attention (so make sure you don't get distracted by your bag of popcorn!)

Overall I was quite pleased with "Oz The Great and Powerful". It's probably not a movie I'd go see over and over again in theatres (maybe if I was with someone who wanted to see it for the first time). It's rated PG and does contain a few scary elements (mostly involving some nasty baboons with wings) but there were several kids in the crowd when I went and they all seemed to enjoy it. If you are wanting to go to the movies and see something easy to watch but with humour and great visuals I say give "Oz" a try.


  1. I'm pretty sure it is awesome, visually speaking. But I've heard bad comments on the plot itself. It's nice to have one more opinion on it =]

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    1. The plot is pretty predictable I'll give it that. About the only real surprise is which sister becomes the Wicked Witch of the West (and even that isn't a BIG surprise). I think because it's supposed to be a prequel the story has to go a certain way so that it makes sense for the Wizard of Oz. I think it also makes it easier for the younger crowd to follow along.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I think that the problem most people might have with the movie is that there aren't as much references to the original Wizard of Oz movie as one might expect. Legally, they can’t, but they still throw some stuff in there every once and awhile and that was worth a fun watch. Good review Rachel.

    1. Yeah I knew about the legalities before seeing it, although I would imagine a bulk of the general audience isn't aware of all the "copyright" issues with MGM (if you can call them that). I find it funny in a way because the books are public domain. In theory ANYONE could make a movie based on the long as it doesn't look like MGM's movie...

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I was really excited to see the movie, but when we saw a 4D preview of it at DCA a few weekends ago, I changed my mind. I didn't think James Franco made a good Oz and his acting in the big that I saw left a lot to be desired for me. I think Robert Downey would've been perfect but I understand he had oher commitments and let's face it, I'd rather him do Iron Man 3 than skip it for this. I'll probably wait for it to come out on DVD and borrow it from someone. Thanks for the review. :D

    1. Franco just doesn't seem like a very good actor to me. It was either to downplayed or too over the top.

      I'm with you there, give me another Iron Man film with RDJ! I read in Entertainment Weekly that Sam Rami gave RDJ a houseplant as a token of goodwill when talking about casting him as Oz. Then a few weeks later Sam went to visit RDJ and the plant was dead. Sam took it as a sign that RDJ wasn't that into the roll (or it could have been that RDJ is just bad with plants!).

  4. Exactly! In the preview, we thought he was too over the top. :/

    That's too funny about the plant. Maybe RDJ just doesn't have a green thumb. ;)