Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz
The director of The Evil Dead takes us way back on a journey before Dorothy and her pup Toto ever thought about setting foot on that yellow brick road. This is in fact the story of the title character of Dorothy’s film, The Wizard of Oz, depicting how the great wizard found himself becoming the ruler of this land, only being seen through a cloud of smoke. Could it be his sheer power that prevents people from looking into his eyes? Could it be bashfulness that puts him off seeing people face to face? Or could it be that it is his answer phone message because he’s out of town? I can assure you it isn’t any of these (although it would be great if it was the answer phone one) and instead it’s a pitiful and poor reason that suggests Oz isn’t in fact great and powerful after all.
The film opens in much the same style as The Wizard of Oz – black and white, 4:3 format – and we see Oscar the carnival magician, stage name Oz, as he charms his way into women’s hearts and cons audiences with his poor magic tricks. It isn’t until a young disabled girl asks him to make her walk that his fake powers become public knowledge. With his reputation destroyed, Oz heads back to his trailer to find the girl (Michelle Williams in one of her two roles) from whom he left and is now getting married. It is to her he confides that he wishes to be a great man and not merely a good one. As luck would have it then, Oz finds himself transported to another world via a large tornado, where he is greeted by Theodora, the good witch, who instantly believes he is the saviour to all their lands problems. Oz accepts the quest of hunting down the wicked witch who’s destroying the land of Oz, with his accompanying monkey, Finley, and a China doll in tow.
Sam Raimi has created a highly colourful world, filled with fantasy creatures, talking monkeys and gorgeous witches but this is basically all the film has going for it. A couple of solid scenes and a couple of decent performances aside, Oz the Great and Powerful really does sink rather than swim. It fails to capture its audience and has very little heart to draw you into the story. The writing lacks depth, giving the actors cheesy, Disney-derived dialogue to spout out. Furthermore, they fail to give the hero any traits to make us like him. James Franco appeared out of place and uninterested in the role he was playing.
As per usual Rachel Weisz rocks the boat as a devilish villain who has a lot of fun with her role. Michelle Williams looks stunning, wearing a gorgeous costume throughout and bringing an angel-esque presence to the character and, surprisingly, Mila Kunis also brings a notable performance.
Raimi’s direction was nothing out of the ordinary and even though the world he created looked stunning it didn’t ever feel authentic. Too much visual manipulation was used and it failed to capture the characters within the world. Overuse of CGI is something that rival story Alice in Wonderland had the same issue with but, despite Oz perhaps being the better film, Alice in Wonderland at least made you feel part of the world. You can’t help but notice the obvious reliance on the 3D gimmick by having items continuously fly towards the screen. If it doesn’t aid the story then it really isn’t necessary.
The story of Oz deserves more than what has been given to us here and, considering a sequel has already been given the green light, it’s clear that this film is just another Hollywood money-maker.