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MikePA's Movie Reviews (137)

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Oz the Great and Powerful 
Review: Oz the Great and Powerful
3/4 stars

Being that The Wizard of Oz is one of my all-time favorite movies, I was a bit skeptical about Oz the Great and Powerful when I first heard about it. I was happy to see Sam Raimi (Spider-Man and Evil Dead trilogy) on board to direct the film, but I was curious to see if he'll manage to sustain the magic and the wonder throughout like The Wizard of Oz beautifully did instead of going all dark and edgy like most movies nowadays. The trailers had me hopeful. Besides looking really exciting, it looked like it executed what the land of Oz truly is - a beautiful and magical paradise with some lurking darkness. I'm happy to say that Sam Raimi does a terrific job of reinventing the land of Oz, filling it with many wonderful sights and creatures and cities that all look outstanding.

The film opens remarkably in Kansas. It gives you an introduction to James Franco's character, Oscar, a magician who wishes to be not a good man, but a great one. However, he's a pretty selfish snot, using women as his own personal play toy and bosses around his kind-hearted assistant. He's not the nicest kid on the block. After running from a huge, hulking man who resembles a pro-wrestler, he escapes on a hot-air balloon. Little does he know a tornado is coming his way. The balloon swishes and whirls and loops through this massive wind storm and eventually takes him to the world of Oz. This entire sequence is presented in black-and-white, and I must say it looks fantastic. Not only is it a fantastic opening to the story, but it's a visual treat for those who rarely watch black-and-white films. This is obviously one of the many loving nods to The Wizard of Oz, which also begins in black-and-white until Dorothy enters the land of Oz.

Oscar enters Oz in a lovely transition to color and an effective use of 3D. This leads to a wonderful sequence in which Oscar rides in the hot-air balloon around parts of Oz, introducing both him and the audience to some of the many wonders of Oz. He is soon greeted by the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) who believes him to the awaited Wizard of Oz that the prophecy tells. Once Oz is taken to the Emerald City, he is greeted by Theodora's sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and found the money and the fame he always wished to possess. But in order to achieve this fame and become the king of Oz, he must defeat the Wicked Witch. In a journey to find and destroy the Wicked Witch, he is joined by Finley (Zack Braff) and China Girl (Joey King), and they face many twists and turns along their way that leads to, of course, an epic finale.

Let me get the point across: I liked the film with reservations. I thought it was a great visual feast. There's a lot of terrific eye candy and wonderful visual effects, some fun characters, a great use of 3D, and an engaging enough story. While it has many good things to offer, it's still a bit overlong, lacking in character development, and ultimately pretty predictable. But that won't really take away from your overall enjoyment of the film. I enjoyed myself, and I found it to be a worthy, if not great and powerful, prequel to the classic.

The three witches - played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams - aren't given much depth or development to make us actually care about them or the circumstances some of them face. Also, I felt that Oscar was underdeveloped. He was introduced to us in the black-and-white segment of the film, but it really only showed the asshole side of him rather then giving us some backstory. Yeah, yeah, stuff happen and he meets people that inspire him to change his ways towards the end, but I didn't care. Here's my other problem: James Franco could be a boring actor. He didn't slog through it, but he didn't put enough energy into it, which could have made for a more enjoyable character. Of the three witches, I liked William's acting the most, but they all did a decent job.

There's a lot of Sam Raimi elements to be found here. There are times when he startles you, times where he makes you laugh, and times where you're forced to think "this is a Raimi film" just based on the style and camera work. Like all of his films, it's very in-your-face.

The visuals are gorgeous, the colors are bright and high in vibrancy, and the 3D adds enough dimension to make it worth the extra money. Some of the best CGI here are the two supporting characters, Finley and China Girl. I read that a lot of people were annoyed by Finley, calling him Jar Jar Binks. I certainly wouldn't take it THAT far. I actually loved Finley. He was funny, cute, and delivered most of the film's cleverness and charm. China Girl is adorable. While at first she didn't seem necessarily important, in the end she is what gives the film much of its heart.

Of course there's a big epic action thing at the end, which dazzles with colors and thrills. That seems mandatory in most of these fairy tale-reimagining films - to fill the final half our with a big battle. Whatever, at least it's entertaining.Oz the Great and Powerful is a wonderful film for families to enjoy and provide many throwbacks to The Wizard of Oz for the big fans. It's visually spectacular and consistently entertaining, but be aware of its imperfections.

3/4


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Comment On Review

Chris Kavan

Chris Kavan- wrote on 03/11/13 at 11:45 AM CT

 

After watching the regular version - I have to admit I think the 3D probably works out remarkably well for this film. I don't know if it would have swayed my opinion any more, but it's a film worthy of 3D. I agree with the cast have a lack of energy - one of the main reasons I couldn't rate it any higher than I did. Loved the look of the film, though.

 
 
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