So a playboy carnival magician, a winged-Capuchin, and a talking china doll ….
Sam Raimi visits the often ventured to land of OZ with his prequel Oz the Great and Powerful, a story of a young con-magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who is sucked in by an enormous twister, transporting him to a distant land where he meets three witches fighting each other to claim an empty throne in a city made of emerald.
It’s no surprise to me that people preferred Vincent Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz over this pricey bit of popcorn entertainment. Raimi’s Oz Great and Powerful contributes a lot of new things into the Oz mythology, but he forgets that Fleming’s superbly imaginative classic is nearly unmatchable. The script, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, doesn’t compare to the wonderful and hearty classic, though it pays great homage to Fleming’s film.
Oz Great and Powerful begins like an older Hollywood film, screening in faded, monochromatic shades within a boxy aspect ratio. After Oscar is teleported and comes to float over Oz, the film shifts to vibrant color, proving the film won’t be served in a lazy visual aesthetic. The colors are initially blinding — as with James Cameron’s Avatar — but grow beautiful over time.
In 3D, the film makes use of some great effects. Raimi’s playfulness with the camera is a beauty to witness here. I saw it in IMAX, and for the first time I felt that I got my money’s worth with the visual experience.
James Franco gives an unexpectedly jubilant performance, and Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams all play their roles as the various witches equally well. They represent the types of women we know in reality: a scorned lover consumed by sheer monstrosity, a greedy soul, and a pure, gentle heart.
Maybe we’re supposed to learn dating tips from the film — How to get a girl? Playboy 101? I found no substantive meaning underneath the film’s lukewarm plot except this.
Zach Braff and Joey King comprise Oscar’s unlikely sidekicks and contribute to the film’s barmy comedy. Both are good support, though not as great as the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy’s other pals.
Oz the Great and Powerful is an acceptable if middling effort. It isn’t the best trip to Oz, but it is nonetheless a fun one.