REVIEW: Oz the Great and Powerful

8 Mar
image by Collider, Oz the Great and Powerful, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weiz, James Franco, Michelle Williams

Hey one character is in here twice. OOPS SPOILERS. (image by collider.com)

I was going to put something above this picture, but I thought that anyone reading this should appreciate the visuals. If I’m being honest, I came into this film for a few of the actors (I’m looking at youu, Rachel Weisz), but I came out incredibly appreciating the production design. This fill simply looks stunning.

I was able to get into the film due to the diligent effort of the LA time’s division for pop culture, being the Hero Complex. I was given free popcorn, soda, and a specified seat so I didn’t have to slap people out of the way in order to watch this.

And then Zach Braff stopped by after the film and talked  to the audience about what it was like playing the monkey you see above, and how amazing the sets were. The fact that almost everything was a set was completely mind blowing to me, and really honed in the fact that so many people are so creative on so many different aspects of the film.

Will this film beat the current Hollywood slump? After the huge let down that Jack the Giant Slayer was to the studios, Disney has been hoping that Oz the Great and Powerful would be the film that would begin the epic rise towards the summer blockbusters. But does it do its job?

Eh? 

James Franco, oz the great and powerful

James Franco as the titular Oz invites you in… (image by disneydreaming.com)

My Score: 6/10

Metacritic Score: 51%

See If: You’re a fan of the original novels and want to see where it could be expanded. You like any of the main cast. You’re willing to endure humor that may leave you rolling your eyes at times. Amazing visuals are enough to make the entire movie (*cough* Avatar *cough*)

Pros: James Franco plays an interesting Oz.  Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Glinda are fantastic. Zach Braff is fun as the comic relief and Joey King as the China Girl (like, literal china) was adorable. The visuals are stunning, to the point where I assumed it all had to be CGI, when it was mainly sets. The story has a great… starting point.

Cons: Mila Kunis attempts to complete eat all of the scenery in scenes later in the film. At times, it’s very obvious where the film is going, and you with a film like this, you wish it wouldn’t take the easy road.

See it?: If you’re okay with a mainly great cast, a simple story, and amazing visuals, then yes. By all means, yes. If you’re looking for a film that has a story as big as it’s visuals, I’d pass. It’s a gorgeous film, but there are other movies that tell much grander stories on a smaller scale.

Synopsis:

Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a carnival magician who works with sleight of hand impress those who come to the carnival. He dreams of more, which he complains about to his circus assistant, Frank (Zack Braff). He doesn’t want to be good – he wants to be great! A remembered man in history. However, when a woman he charmed in the past has an angry husband, he jumps on a conveniently flying balloon and disappears into a raging tornado. He yells that he’ll do good if he’s given the chance, and with that, he lands in Oz.

Upon arrival, he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), who leads him towards the Emerald City, which is currently being run by her sister, the old king’s advisor Evanora (Rachel Weisz). On the way, they stumble over a monkey, Finley (also Zack Braff). Finley then devotes his life to protect Oscar after Oscar protects him from a lion. That was awfully quick of him.

oz the great and powerful

Ugh, but he’s awkwardly so cute! (image: justjared)

It is also important to mention that Theodora is so innocent that even holding hands with man is new territory, which I felt like should have been emphasized because, if you forget, her reaction to his actions later will just become even more awkward. He also gives her a music box that he apparently has thousands because he gives them to all the ladies. She’s charmed because no one has ever given her something before. She asks if he loves her and if she would become his queen when he is the new king of Oz, and Oscar’s awkward facial expression is actually priceless.

Oz the Great and Powerful

But man, is Oz a beautiful place. (image: hdfreewallpapers)

Once they reach the city, Evanora informs Oscar that the only way he can be king and obtain all the gold  is to defeat the Wicked Witch by breaking her wand aka, it’s time for an adventure! He scampers off along with Finley, and along the way, they save a small china girl (like, a literal girl made of china), named… uh, the China Girl (Joey King).  They continue their adventures before stumbling onto the dark forest where they see the Wicked Witch. They managed to steal her wand but before they break it, she reveals herself to be Glinda to Good (Michelle Williams).  She informs Oscar that Evanora is actually the evil witch.

oz the great and powerful

Evanora, Glinda, Oscar, Theodora. …How was anyone confused at who was evil? (image: radiotimes.com)

Evanora, by the way, is watching all of this. Theodora suddenly stumbles upon Evanora watching this, wondering where Oscar had disappeared to. Theodora is understandably upset, but Evanora makes it worse by pulling out a music box just like Oscar’s many version and insinuates that they slept together the night before. Theodora sees Oscar with Glinda the Good, and her heart breaks all over again, and she cries tears that burn her. You know. Because tears are water (hint hint). When Evanora asks Theodora if she’d want the pain to go away, she tearfully agrees. However, the only way for the pain to go away is to suck all the goodness out of Theodora. What remains is so evil and cruel that even her demonic sister wonders what type of monster she unleased…

Characters:

As mentioned, many of the actors do fantastic jobs. Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams slip into their respective roles with ease. Weisz plays a beautifully manipulative villain (something I personally haven’t seen her do before), while Williams adds a spark to the potentially bland character of Glinda.

oz the great and powerful

Like I said. Literal China. (image: justjared)

Zack Braff as Finley, the comic relief monkey, and Joey King as the Girl Made of China have enough to their characters to entertain the children in the audience. To be fair, they are actually fun characters. The Girl Made of China has enough finess that to some, she may come off as annoying, but to others, she’ll be adorable. I found her to be adorable but there were times when I had to tune her out. Finley and Oscar actually had a great rapport that came across really well on screen. He talks a lot. Like, even so much that the movie will let him ramble as the music sweels over him.

James Franco as Oscar was interesting for me. At times, he wore such a fabulous shit eating grin that I bought into him as this cowardly wizard who just wants to make a quick buck. However, I didn’t see where the “Great” aspect of his character came into play. He worked well in the second half, but it almost seemed like he was on autopilot for half the film. Much like his Oscar performance. Yeah. I went there.

I’m going to be a bit harsh on Mila Kunis as Theodora. I don’t entirely blame her – the writing here is at fault. Some? All her. If you don’t know, her character goes through some changes where she becomes an evil incarnation of a fairly famous villian… If you look at any promotional art, or even know the story, you can assume which character she’s going to become. But what bothered me was that she started off as so pure. Not the fact that she started as pure – that should have been an amazing jumping point for a betrayal. But she went from innocent to I’M GOING TO KILL EVERYTHING in the blink of an eye. Her heart hurts so much that’s she’s essentally willing to give up her humanity over a guy she met a day ago? Because he was the first man that was kind to her?

Essentially, we are told her characterization, but rarely shown. The only references to her past are made by her and Evanora, and even then, we aren’t allowed to learn of why she was so sheltered or what sort of trouble she got with her anger issues. If we were shown form of substance of how much someone giving her something really meant instead of her just informing us, it would be a lot more clear as to why she goes so crazy as a result.

oz the great and powerful

The two sisters. (image: yahoo.movies.com)

I think that was the most disappointing part of the film, and it expands on to why the film bothered me. It was a long film, but it barely said anything. This story wasn’t just the beginning of the character Oz; it was the creation of an iconic villain. But the movie’s pacing was so poor in getting us to understand her characterization that she just seemed to go bat shit insane instead of allowing us to see her true descent into darkness.

How her character was written was not at all Kunis’ fault. But how she played the evil side, with the loud screaming laughing and literally eating away at the scenery? That was all on Kunis. She wasn’t evil, more so as just ridiculous.

Story:

Unfortunately for this film, the comparisons between this and every other Wizard of Oz incarnation will always come into play, so I won’t even attempt to cover them all. I just felt that this story was very weak. They had an impressive world that they began to build upon, but then they quickly give up on that.

When Oscar first lands in Oz, he is attacked by River Fairies…and that’s the only bit of new creatures that we see throughout the film. Yes, there’s the China World called… ChinaTown.

Look, I’ve been side stepping this all post, but I’ll be frank. I didn’t like that. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on, and it bothered me the entire film. The fact that the little girl made of China’s name is China Girl will bother me, but it’s not the biggest issue with the film. I just was bothered by it. Moving on.

Anyway, there’s ChinaTown, and you see Finley the monkey and the flying baboons (haha because Disney couldn’t make them monkies) that the witch controls, but that’s it. Which would be okay, because there was already so much to the film, but why show us a creature like the River Fairies AND THEN NEVER BRING THEM UP AGAIN???

Oz the great and powerful

I’ll remember you, River Fairies. (image: santabanta.com)

The Wicked Witch of the West’s motivation for becoming evil wasn’t weak, but they simply didn’t flesh out her story enough for me to actually care about why she was evil.

I’ll admit, I really loved the climax. How Oscar becomes the floating head was very creative and I found myself cheering the heroes on with that idea. But the thing is, this film is long. You can feel the two hours, and it almost feels like there’s four acts to it: Meeting Oscar in the black and white world, Going to Oz,  Glinda and her band of villagers, and the climax. And you could feel the film clunking through. There was a solid half hour where I was like, “What happened to Finley?” because he just wasn’t necessary anymore.

That being said, it could have been easily longer. Well, it should have been tighter written to add in necessary things. As much as this was Oz’s tale, his presence influenced people around him, and we deserved to see why they reacted to that influence the way they did.  It truly felt like they were trying to cram too many stories into those two hours, and I was disappointed over what they choose to show.

Visuals

…Were fucking stunning.

No. Really. The places were so impressive (and I was even more blown away to find that they were almost all sets, and the color was so vibrant. Nothing wrong with visuals.

oz the great and powerful

Spoilers: this movie is pretty. (image: therebelchick.com/)

Overall

If you’re looking for a film that will entertain, and you don’t want to think too hard about the story… you may want to leave this one out. But if you’re looking for some great actors having a fun time, then go ahead.

Considering that they’re already planning a sequel, I’m extremely curious to see if this film will pull Hollywood out of its current slump. I’m betting that it will do better than Jack the Giant Slayer initially, but will quickly slump. But I’ve been wrong before.

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