“The Wizard of Oz” is not quite a popular tale in my country—not as popular as, say, Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, or Pinocchio. “Oz the Great and Powerful”, handled by Sam Raimi as the director and driven by James Franco as the leading role, of course is not a promising choice. But I tried to turn off my so-called “movie-critic mode” in my mind and enjoy this fairytale—in 3D—as what it is. Still, besides of the vivid color of scenery of the Land of Oz and the three actresses in the supporting roles—Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz—I don’t find anything significantly amusing from it.
So, here it is. Oscar Diggs (played poorly by James Franco), or better known as Oz, is a circus magician in Kansas. In one bad day after his unsuccessful show, he tried to run away from the circus but then hurled into a hurricane, which then “transferred” him to a vibrant Land of Oz. He met Theodora (played by Mila Kunis), a witch, who convinced him that he was the great wizard the people of Oz had been expecting to combat an evil witch—as supposedly told by the king’s prophecy. As he was introduced to Evanora (played by Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s sister, he started his journey to the Dark Wood where he then met Glinda (played by Michelle Williams), a witch who’s just similar to his girlfriend in Kansas.
Let us just be fool. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a fairytale movie that went far too “fairytale”. It’s like there’s no need to describe much about the details: so just let yourself be fool to stop questioning many things about it. Obviously pushed. The first 15 minutes of the movie is served in black-and-white; some said that it is a tribute to “The Wizard of Oz”, but I’d rather to see it as a good separator between Kansas and Land of Oz. In that moment, I feel a kind of excitement that this movie would go—at least—a bit entertaining and clear. Still, it is entertaining, but it is not that clear.
I think there’s a problem with the screenplay, because the conflicts sometimes came too sudden without, at least, a simple introduction. The scene when Oz thrown into the Land of Oz was supposed to be a grand opening, but there’s no specific opening at all. No conflict. Oz landed on a river, was welcomed by Theodora, get informed about the situation, and that’s it. What Oz did at that time was nod, nod, and nod. Plain, just plain. I mean, if I were Oz, I would feel so strange with the Land of Oz instead of being too amazed by it—and pleased due to me being the destined wizard who should slayed off the evil witch. Finally, the rest of the journey of Oz in the Land of Oz was just flat. Despite of the fancy colors of the land and the unique description of the inhabitant, there’s nothing that remarkably told me that there would be a great adventure in the Land of Oz.
And why oh why they chose James Franco as Oz? Well when I first knew that Franco would run as the leading role, I was thinking Raimi would do a "special treatment" for him: either there would be a modification to the character or there would be a surprise from his acting skill. But then I was disappointed. Franco tried so hard to be comical, a bit arrogant, and funny, that he went ruining his own character. His jokes were bitter; even his monkey Finley was way more funnier than him. This is just a bad decision. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams did nicely with their own character, although I think Kunis was a little bit unable to fit perfectly with her character in some parts. If I have to choose which one did the best performance in "Oz the Great and Powerful", I will choose Michelle Williams for sure. Her character was not special but she did enough. After all, I didn't expect outstanding performances whatsoever, but at least they could fit in how their characters were supposed to be, instead of giving away the abilities they have with no regard to the story itself.
As I said before, it’s lucky that Finley the monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) helped many situations where clicheness went cliche, by giving out innocent but lovely jokes (that actually embarrassed himself) with his talky tongue. I think this is one of the very few side characters I like in movies where this kind of character was supposed to be both talkative and annoying. The China girl (voiced by Joey King) is the one that I supposed being this talkative-and-annoying character, and she is not lovely at all, at least for me. But thanks to the CGI department for making such a detailed 3D character like them.
I appreciated "Oz the Great and Powerful" more because of the very colorful scenery of Land of Oz and some laughs from Finley the monkey. The 3D experience was a little bit tiring, but worth the vividness of the visual. The story? Entertaining, just after I learned to accept all the shallow characterization and deep ridiculousness all around that went being so cliche. Kids would love it.
▲ Finley the monkey, vivid and vibrant color of Land of Oz
▼ James Franco, no details of Land of Oz, clicheness all around
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2013 RATING Rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language RUNTIME 130 min GENRE Adventure, Family, Fantasy CAST James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff WRITER L. Frank Baum (novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"); Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay) DIRECTOR Sam Raimi MORE INFO