Oz The Great and Powerful
Dir: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams
Oz, there’s no film like the original
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 3/20/2013
The Wizard of Oz is a film that endures on the summits of film history, an iconic work of filmmaking magic that garners fond memories for film fans of all ages. Trying to follow or, in the case of Oz The Great and Powerful, precede the celebrated original is a challenging charge guided by the accomplished Sam Raimi. And, while Raimi succeeds at creating an awe-inducing land of visual enchantment with flashes of gleeful reminiscent charm, these good qualities are unfortunately impeded by uneven moments that squander early promising potential.
The film begins in evocative black and white. Oscar (James Franco) is a travelling carnival magician, albeit charlatan, with an affection for the opposite sex. After pursuing the wrong woman Oscar, who goes by the stage name Oz, evades confrontation with the carnival strong man by means of hot air balloon which journeys directly into an approaching tornado. Oscar, after a spectacular fall, finds himself in the helping hands of a witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis); she tells Oscar that he is the source of a prophecy which foretells of a powerful wizard that will come and vanquish the wicked witch and become king of Oz. Suspicion of Oscar’s intent abounds in Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who resides in the Emerald City. Oscar, a coward of a man, is enticed by the riches being offered his way and proceeds to journey through the stunning Land of Oz in pursuit of the third sister, Glinda (Michelle Williams).
Oz The Great and Powerful is a visual delight. Many of the atmospheres are lavishly created and the combination of action within those designs is executed with striking regard. Though the 3-D doesn’t work cohesively throughout the film there are a few moments when the device puts the viewer in the middle of the film. Raimi is a great director and his trademark style is seen in traces throughout the film, however the glimpses are not enough to overshadow the misgivings in the narrative and, most especially, some key performances.
In the lead James Franco is unfortunately miscast. During the course of the film his performance seems disorganized and his wandering bravado, a consistent vocal vehicle, seems forced. The supporting cast is at times excellent in their portrayals. Michelle Williams emulates Billie Burke’s Glinda with matching glow and Rachel Weisz is the most consistent throughout in a welcome wicked role. Mila Kunis is also good, offering a naïve sensibility until a pivotal plot twist. However, Kunis can hardly be blamed considering her role could have been assisted by a subtle voice modification and some added character attributes. The narrative is the second issue with the film. Though influenced by L. Frank Baum’s novel, the film feels slightly rushed and characters aren’t given suitable time to truly find their place. The charming hints of nostalgia found within the film are what keep Oz The Great and Powerful afloat. Whether it’s the striking image of the Emerald City led by the yellow brick road or a munchkin assemble in full romp, the wistfulness and enchantment found in the 1939 film is enough to keep you intently watching.
Though Sam Raimi directs with fervent purpose, his effort is hampered by the looming shadow of the past classic. Though Oz The Great and Powerful is a spectacle that younger generations might find more relatable and interesting, for those that grew up watching the classic and reading the delightful derivations found in the novels, this film will feel ambitious yet unmemorable.
3.00 out 5.00