Friday, March 15, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). Directed by Sam Raimi. Starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams

The movie starts in black and white and we meet Oz (James Franco), a magician with a flair for seducing women. He dreams of acquiring fame and money and is willing to sacrifice the love of his life Annie (Michelle Williams) to realize his ambitions.

But fate has different plans for Oz and he is forced to flee in a hot air balloon. He is magically transported to the Land of Oz.

Oz meets lovely Theodora (Mila Kunis) and is upto his old tricks again. She falls for him and believes him to be the wizard, who according to a prophecy, will save the Land of Oz from the Bad Witch.

James Franco and Mila Kunis in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
James Franco and Mila Kunis in Oz the Great and Powerful
Theodora's sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is less welcoming and informs Oz that he needs to kill the aforementioned witch before he can start enjoying a life of riches. Oz also picks up a talking monkey, Finley (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King).

We then meet the Good Witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams). Glinda is able to see through the character of Oz for the selfish coward that he actually is. Still, she introduces Oz as the savior to the people and privately asks Oz to keep up the show.

Evanora is revealed to be the Bad Witch and she manipulates Theodora into attacking Oz and Glinda. Theodora is transformed into an ugly witch, thanks to Evanora.

Rachel Weisz as Evanora in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Rachel Weisz as Evanora
The rest of the movie deals with how Oz lives up his prophecy and saves Glinda and her people from the combined onslaught of Evanora and Theodora.

I have enjoyed all of Sam Raimi's movies (Evil Dead trilogy, Spiderman trilogy and Drag me to Hell) I have seen so far. This movie proved to be the exception.

This is a typical summer blockbuster movie. While there is nothing wrong with that, it deprives the movie of the humor and wit that Sam Raimi is known for.

All his trademarks are there: the fast camera movements (in a couple of scenes), cameos by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi and the Evil Dead hand scene reference. But they seem more like obligatory nods to his fans.

Oz the Great and Powerful has some excellent CGI work

The movie boasts of some excellent CGI work, as can be expected from a big budget movie from a top notch director and the biggest movie studio. What the movie lacks is originality. There are some clever touches here and there, but I was reminded of Avatar, Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland more than once.

I also felt that the actors were kind of lost in the green screens they had to work with. The digital imagery takes precedence. This need not be the case. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an example of fantasy movie making where both the imaginary landscapes and the actors complement each other to present the ultimate immersive experience for the viewer. Peter Jackson's movies transported us to Middle Earth during the movies' running time. Unfortunately, this is not the case with this movie.

I have never been a big fan of James Franco's acting and this movie does not help his case. Just as it was in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he continues to be upstaged by the computer generated cast members. Andy Serkis stole the show as Ceasar, the chimp in that movie. Here, it is Zach Braff as Finley and Joey King as China Girl who make the best impression.

Joey King as China Girl and Zach Braff as Finley in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Joey King as China Girl and Zach Braff as Finley 
These 2 characters breathe more life into the movie than the rest of the cast combined and the visual effects team deserves full credit. Both Zach and Joey do some excellent voice work and are more appealing in their computerized representations than as flesh and blood characters.

Zach has some of the funniest lines in the movie and he delivers them to great comedic effect. His exchange with Oz about stereotypes was probably the best. Speaking of stereotypes, the movie also pokes fun at the general perception of witches being ugly and riding on broomsticks.

Click on the link below to buy your copy:

Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams are here to collect their pay checks. Tony Cox and Bruce Campbell fare much better in their much briefer roles.

I have enjoyed a lot of Disney movies in the past: The Lion King, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. I believe there are 2 types of Disney movies: one for mass consumption and the second one, I prefer to call Disney movies for kids. This one unfortunately falls in the second category.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) is a Disney family movie for kids
Yes, this is a Disney movie for kids
This is a predictable Disney family movie that delivers exactly what a Disney family movie always does.

Fans of Sam Raimi would probably do better by rewatching his earlier movies. Fans of fantasy genre have the Lord of the Rings trilogy and/or the Harry Potter series.

I would recommend this movie strictly to die hard fans of Disney movies.

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Image Source: Walt Disney Pictures

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  1. I was on the other end of spectrum for some reason, I enjoyed it a lot more than expected even though I do think that Franco is miscast.

    Visuals though are pretty amazing though.

    1. Thanks Daniel for stopping by.

      Agree with you about the miscasting of Franco and the beautiful visuals in the movie.


  2. I will wait for the DVD.
    I had a feeling the cgi was going to be the biggest thing about the movie.

    1. Thanks John for stopping by.

      By the way, did you like the latest episode of Elementary?


    2. Having read your review of OZ on the plane, I have not got to the latest elementary yet and will not read you're review till I come to my own conclusions. I look forward to both.

  3. Not particularly a Disney fan, except for The Avengers, which I absolutely loved, and a few others. But I am not sure if The Avengers would be considered a "Disney" movie since they bought it from Universal. Probably will rent Oz when it comes out on Blu-Ray just because I have nothing better to add to my Blockbuster queue. It seems Franco is more suited to a supporting role, like he was in the Spider-Man films, where he was great (except Spider-Man 3) and, as you stated, Rise of the Plant of the Apes.
    I also agree about what you said about The Lord of the Rings. No fantasy film creates such a believable fantasy world filled with great characters than Lord of the Rings. Great review B2B!



    1. Thanks James.

      Renting the movie sounds like a smart move!

      I agree about Franco. He does better in supporting roles.

      LOTR is one of my favorite trilogies, right along with TDK. I think LOTR will retain its title as the fantasy movie series for a long long time.


  4. I think most were hoping for the next James Dean out of Franco, but it has not happened.
    Not being a big fan of The James Dean is great after what? Three movies. Maybe that is not a bad thing. But Franco is not yet lead material.

    My favorite thing about the LOTR movies is all the extras on the DVD's.

    1. LOL about the LOTR comment. Good one.


  5. I've just been to see it and everything you said was spot on. Raimi is just better working with a small budget. I feel with this movie and his Spiderman movies he didn't really know what to do with all the money so just threw CGI on the screen. That said its better than the recently released 'The Croods'.

    Great review as always.

  6. Yeah, Franco did... Okay... But knowing the original choice for his role, I couldn't help but see how the movie was meant for another actor.

    Still, I liked it better than that recent Alice in Wonderland movie, that one was disappointing...