Josh Wilding Reviews: OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL 3D
Oz: The Great and Powerful looks set to find huge box office success in North America this weekend, but is Sam Raimi's The Wizard of Oz prequel actually worth checking out? Hit the jump to read my spoiler-free verdict!
Oz: The Great and Powerful marks Sam Raimi's return to big budget blockbusters after the disappointing Spider-Man 3 in 2007 and his brilliant return to the horror genre with 2009's Drag Me to Hell. All I can say is that it's REALLY good to have him back! In the hands of someone like Tim Burton, this would have been a far weirder take on this prequel to The Wizard of Oz (similar to the dreadful Alice in Wonderland), but Raimi instead makes this a fun and family friendly adventure with his distinctive style and unique visual flair. The director makes particularly good use of the 3D effects, and unlike most other 3D movies these days, it enhances the overall experience, thereby making Oz: The Great and Powerful an essential release to see in the often controversial format.
James Franco is fantastic as Oz, taking an initially selfish and unlikeable man and developing him into the hero we all know and expect to see. Like most of the actors in this film, he overdoes it in places and you could easily pick out more than a few examples of overacting, but Franco is clearly having fun and that sort of performance is essential to a movie with such a light and whimsical tone. Mila Kunis is good, although a rather "wicked" development with Theodora feels neither earned or 100% convincing. It's actually somewhere around this point that Oz: The Great and Powerful goes from being a 5* movie to a 4* one. The film suddenly feels far too long and becomes bogged down in some nonsensical story decisions (some of which are due solely to the fact that it needs to link up with the classic 1939 film). When the munchkins start singing and we're introduced to the townspeople of Oz, you'll definitely find yourself checking your watch. Thankfully, it more than makes up for these shortcomings with one hell of finale that takes an unexpected and clever turn.
Going back to the performances, it's actually Zach Braff who steals the show as flying monkey Finley. After a fantastic but all too brief appearance in Oz: The Great and Powerful's superb black and white opening sequence - which Raimi shoots beautifully - it's a credit to his talents that he makes the animated character such an incredible presence. He's hilarious, and it's a great shame that he's missing from so much of the third act! Another actor who bring a lot of life into a fully CGI creation is Joey King's China Girl; she is absolutely superb. Michelle Williams doesn't have the most interesting of roles with Glinda, but she is so incredibly stunning and so brilliant an actress, that it ultimately doesn't matter all that much! The same can't be said for Rachel Weisz's Evanora though. If it wasn't for the fact that her character is so essential to The Wizard of Oz, the movie probably would have benefited from her being cut altogether.
Visually, Oz: The Great and Powerful is a real stunner. Eagle eyed viewers will certainly notice the odd bit of CGI which actually looks like CGI, but it's worth remembering that this prequel is aimed at an audience who aren't going to be on the lookout for such things! Tonally, the film does tend to get a bit messy at times (you may want to think twice before bringing your really young kids to this), especially as Raimi clearly can't resist paying the odd homage to his horror roots. There's something for everyone here though, and adults will definitely enjoy what's on offer. The ending of the film leaves the door wide open for a sequel, but for now, make sure you decide to book a ticket to THIS trip to the wonderful world of Oz!
It's not perfect, but Oz: The Great and Powerful is a visually stunning family film which thankfully takes full advantage of the often underutilised 3D format. Go see it!
2013 Reviews So Far...
• The Last Stand (3/5)
• Bullet To The Head (1/5)
• Wreck-It Ralph (4/5)
• A Good Day To Die Hard (2/5)
• Warm Bodies (4/5)
• Mama (3/5)
• Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D (3/5)
"Oz The Great and Powerful" imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum’s beloved character, the Wizard of Oz. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot—fame and fortune are his for the taking—that is until 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.
James Franco as Oscar Diggs/Oz
Mila Kunis as Theodora
Michelle Williams as Glinda the Good Witch
Rachel Weisz as Evanora
Zach Braff as Frank and Finley
Joey King as China Girl
Abigail Spencer as Mrs. Hamilton
Ted Raimi as Skeptic/Tinker
Tony Cox as Knuck
Tim Holmes as The Strong Man
RELEASE DATE: March 8th, 2013.
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