While it’s not the embarrassment to MGM’s cherished, bank-holiday classic that you might have feared, Oz The Great And Powerful is more flat and plodding than it is great or powerful.
-Stephen Carty, Flix Capacitor
The film has lots of computer-generated special effects but no magic.
-Philip French, The Guardian
So it’s been a while since we’ve had a review. You can blame that on the absolutely awful slate of movies that have come out in the first 2 months this year. Other than the latest Die Hard cash grab, Oz is the first notable film to hit theaters in 2013. It should start ramping back up to the spring/summer movie season pretty soon, though.
Now on to Oz: The Great and Powerful:
This is Sam Raimi’s return to big blockbuster filmmaking since the disaster that was Spider-Man 3. Hopefully this franchise has a better fate than that one, but judging on this entry I don’t have a lot of hope.
The very definition of a big budget Disney movie, Oz has a highly touted star cast, ubiquitous marketing and sky high expectations. Judging by it’s opening weekend take, it’s going to meet those expectations and more, but that does not make it a worthy successor to the original, or even a quality film.
Supposedly some kind of prequel to the 1939 classic (can you have a prequel to a dream?), Oz: The Great and Powerful attempts to explain the origin of the wizard himself: where he came from, how he got there, how he came to power, etc. Except it does this without any of the magic of the original.
This film has a lot of problems, many of which are rooted in it’s completely disjointed screenplay. It lacks any sort of momentum or pace until the third act. Dialogue is clunky and forced. Some events occur solely to advance the plot and make no sense in the context of what the character’s motivations are. I actually came away with more questions than answers about what was going on:
- Why would the citizens of Oz be amazed by Thomas Edison’s electricity when everything is already powered by magic?
- Is the kinetoscope really that impressive or scary when witches in bubbles and flying monkeys exist?
- What’s the deal with the Zach Braff monkey, is he related to the evil baboon ones?
- What’s with the apple turning witches green? Why do these witch sisters all hate each other?
- Why do a few random characters from Kansas show up as characters in Oz?
The last one is particularly nagging. This makes sense in the original film, as Oz was Dorothy’s dream. Oz: The Great and Powerful isn’t a dream though, right?
Despite all the issues mentioned above, this movie is visually pretty incredible and probably merits a watch on its imagery alone. There is some outstanding cgi work done here along with some great creature effects and designs. The porcelain doll character was particularly well done. Also, fantastic work on the world design of Oz. This film is full of beautifully designed landscapes, scenery and setpieces. Extermely varied and colorful, if Oz has one thing going for it, it’s never dull to look at.
Overall, this film is not very good. It doesn’t hold a candle to the magic and charm of the original and often feels like it was just churned out within the studio system to make the most money possible. However, it is a visual feast and has some well executed 3D effects. If you like to watch pretty moving pictures, check it out. If not, skip it and watch the original.