Monday, 11 March 2013

FILM: Oz the Great and Powerful (6/10)

Why did I watch it?
This film appeared at number six in my top ten most anticipated films of 2013, largely due to intrigue in the plot and it's relationship to the original.

What's it all about?
A prequel of sorts to the 1939 classic, Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful is set in 1905, and tells the story behind the arrival of carnival magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) in Oz and serves as an origin story, shedding light on the relationships between the wizard and the three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams).

Should you watch it?
At heart Oz is a moral story of good and bad (the witches),  and good and great (Oz), though the journey of the characters  from one to the other are not always as complete (Oz) or credible as they could be (the wicked witch).

Starting with Oz himself, a 'magician' in Kansas, nothing wrong with that, he knows he is a fraud, but he is also an arrogant, womanising, unscrupulous shyster. By the end of the film, I'm not sure how many of those traits he has learnt the error of, despite upsetting most of Oz, before saving the day with a combination of earthly illusions and charm. James Franco's casting raised eyebrows, however I think he brought a degree of humility to the role that made Oz vaguely likeable. I am certain I could not have coped with Robert Downey Jr's (the producers first choice) style of arrogance in the role.

A flying monkey in a bellboy's outfit? Don't ask, it's Oz
Franco is supported by an accomplished cast of witches in Kunis, Weisz and Williams, and its Williams who wins hands down with her measured and gentle performance. Kunis is smouldering as always while Weisz seems to be trying too hard. Without giving anything away, I was disappointed in the transformation of one of the witches to the famous Wicked Witch of the West. The gravitas of the role seemed too much for the actress in question. Zach Braff adds value as Oz's beleaguered assistant in Kansas and the voice of a comedy sidekick flying monkey in Oz. The same can be said for Joey King, voicing China Girl with a sincerity that belies her years.

Director Sam Raimi delivers a vibrant, colourful landscape, similar to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, that looks sublime at times but sometimes the CGI was overpowering. The green screen certainly earned its pay-check. Raimi adds some neat references to the film's source, most notably the 4:3 sepia tone introduction in Kansas, which looks great in addition to the old fashioned style of shots.

Visually the film is impressive, if you can cope with the heavy CGI
Overall, considering my expectations I was slightly disappointed but there is just enough magic here, in Raimi's visuals and elements of the plot, to suggest the return to Oz was worthwhile. 


  1. Fine review Mark. Just like the original, there are some elements that kids may be scared by (the flying monkeys are terrifying, even for a 19-year old like myself), but it's still a perfect family movie.

    1. Thanks Dan. 'Perfect' might be going too far in my opinion, but it's colourful and great to look at if you can handle the CGI and it has doses of fun suitable for family viewing.

  2. Nice review Marc, I think you were a little bit more forgiving than we were in our review.

    1. I think that's putting it mildy! Didn't one of you guys give it no stars?! I think you have to keep in mind the likely target audience, it is a PG after all.