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Hi, Bryan Here….
A more fitting title for this would have been ‘Oz the Modest and Ineffective’. I have no doubt that this prequel will make tons of money the next two weekends at the box office, although it doesn’t deserve it. Even though you have an all-star cast, an amazing director, and top notch talent around the board, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have quality film in the can. On the contrary, it seems like every bit of life, joy, and entertainment was taken away early on, never to return. This prequel to the iconic and incredible 1939 film might be the top miscast film ever put on screen, and that’s only the beginning.
As a friend and colleague of mine pointed out, “how can you make a prequel to a movie that was somebody else’s dream who was non-existent at the time?” If we think about it, Dorothy Gale from Kansas was hit in the head and was in a light coma when the twister hit her farm. She then dreamed of Oz and its many creatures as we came to see that Oz himself was a very old man. Here we see Oz as a very young man who is trying to get his career started. This is all moot, but I don’t necessarily see the draw or importance, other than dollar signs, of making a prequel to ‘Wizard of Oz‘, considering all of these characters are a dream of a girl who doesn’t exist yet.
But, that is besides the point. Let’s just take a look at the film itself for what it is. What we have here is a Sam Raimi directed film with what seems like Tim Burton’s crew, with an A-List cast which unfortunately have no business playing these roles. And I’d imagine if one wanted to make a prequel, it would try and stand alone from its predecessor, however here, we are treated to many of the same scenes that we caught in Oz, even starting with a twister in Kansas.
James Franco plays Oscar or Oz for short as he is a magician in a traveling circus, hustling people out of their money while breaking the hearts and promises to every girl he meets. I would even go to say that Oz is an unlikable slime ball who treats even his only friend like dirt. After a magic show, a beautiful girl (Michelle Williams) confesses her love to Oz to which he replies that he would rather be something great than marry and love her. Suddenly, a giant twister, much like the one we saw in 1939, swallows Oz and his hot air balloon up and he awakes in a foreign land.
Oz soon meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) who believes Oz is the wizard from their prophecy and will save the people of Oz from the wicked witch. She persuades him to journey with her to the Emerald City and on the way meets a small adorable flying monkey voiced by Zach Braff, who back in Kansas was Oz’s assistant. They also come across China Girl (Joey King), who is an actual china doll where her village of china tea pots and cups were destroyed by the wicked witch, leaving her the sole survivor.
Once at the Emerald City, Theodora introduces Oz to her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who is also a witch and is not what she seems. Evanora and Theodora talk Oz up to set out and stop the wicked witch only to find out that who he thinks the wicked one is, is actually Glinda the Good Witch (Williams again). Glinda knows Evanora’s dark secret and realizing now that Oz knows this, devises a plan on her own sister which transforms the beautiful Theodora into the iconic green witch we have come to know for over 60 years now. Much like Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion; Oz, Williams, China Girl, and the flying monkey set out to try and stop the evil that is plaguing Oz.
Before I get serious for a minute, I want to state that I really enjoy all of these actors and own most or all of their films, which I love. However, every one of these actors in the film is horribly miscast to the point where it’s embarrassing to watch. Franco has no charm, wit, nor chemistry to anything in the film. You just don’t care for the guy and what he does or says. His performance is uninspired, lacking, and dull. And I don’t think anyone will buy that Kunis is the evil wicked witch of the west, no matter how much makeup you put on her. Instead of being scared of the witch, you just laugh at her while she cackles. Williams is decent here, but has no emotion and is completely stale. If only she was more lively and pleasant, it would have done wonders to the film. Weisz turns in an okay performance at best, but is too busy screaming or scheming the entire film to get a good read. While we see an actual live Braff for a split second on screen, his voice work is decent enough and gets the job done, but it’s nothing spectacular. In short, there are 50 better choices for these roles then what was cast.
Since the acting performances were less than thrilling, I would have hoped for some amazing visual effects. I was let down again. We are treated to a mix of CG effects and real effects. The CG ranges from fairly good to down right laughable. As a good chunk of the film is seeing the sights of Oz, a lot of the small animals and plants looked completely fake and animated. I’ve seen better effects on films with 1/20th the budget. As for Raimi’s direction, it’s as always great. He has a unique way with the camera, and those who enjoy his earlier work of the ‘Evil Dead‘ films, will smile a bit with some of the camera shots as well as a climactic moment with a witch.
There were only a couple of things I enjoyed about the film. One is that while we are in Kansas at the beginning of the film, we are treated watching the picture in black and white and in 4:3 aspect ratio. I loved this little homage, and as we are transported to Oz, we get the entire wide-screen picture in glorious color. Also, since this is a Sam Raimi, a lot of us will ask, “Is Bruce Campbell in it?” The answer is YES. Campbell even gets top billing with the rest of the cast in the opening credits, unfortunately his screen time is less than 30 seconds, but you’ll be able to spot him out. The only other thing I enjoyed was the new evil flying monkeys, which were actually a bit scary. I’d imagine some younger viewers might have nightmares from this.
I saw this travesty in 3D, which was plain awful. Nothing seemed to have depth and the backgrounds were very blurry. I hope they fix this with the blu-ray release. However, we do get a few cheap 3D thrills of objects flying at the screen, but overall nothing works in 3D here. I would have much rather watched this in 2D. ’Oz the Great and Powerful‘ is nothing more than a film company trying to make a quick buck. In return we get a half-assed attempt at something that could have been amazing. I’d skip this in the theater and wait to see it on your screen at home for free. If Dorothy were to witness this, she would have never returned to Oz