Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” follows in the footsteps of Tim Burton’s 2009 movie, “Alice in Wonderland”. Both rely heavily on CGI visuals and characters, and even share the same teams for the visuals. Each film is an original story grafted onto a preexisting work, “Oz” being a prequel to the Frank L. Baum series and Burton’s “Alice” being a pseudo-sequel to the original.
The story of Oz is one that should be familiar to anyone who is a fan of the original film or has read the books. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a carnival magician and womanizing con artist who is swept away in his hot air balloon by a fierce tornado. He lands in the merry old Land of Oz where he is decreed the chosen one, destined to save the land from the evil witch.
James Franco is an excellent choice for Oz. He is able to personify the sleazy carnival magician. Despite being a womanizing con artist, he is actually rather likeable. Michelle Williams portrays Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. She gives what is probably the blandest performance in the film. Her character is not very memorable and nearly all of her scenes are stolen by Franco’s charismatic Oz. Zach Braff is passable as the affable comic relief animal sidekick character. Apart from Franco, Rachel Weisz delivers the most energetic performance as the scheming Evanora. She is clichéd, but one of the more memorable performances in the film.
The final member of the main cast is Mila Kunis as Theodora, the future Wicked Witch of the West. She was the greatest disservice in the film. Her character was poorly written and had the worst dialogue throughout the movie. She also underwent a disappointing character arc, detailing her transition from lovesick supporter of Oscar to the cruel and evil witch with whom audiences are familiar. She is the first person Oscar meets when he comes to Oz and falls in love with him almost immediately. Oz’s growth from womanizing conman to heroic savior was generic, but well-executed. Theodora’s character arc was insulting. What started out as a possibly complex arc detailing her struggle with her own corruption was cast aside for a disappointing resolution.
The visuals and costumes for the film were superb. The period piece costumes for the Kansas sections looked great. The costumes in Oz are excellently designed as well, save for one. Mila Kunis’ witch costume was the worst of the film. It basically looked like the filmmakers went to Party City and picked up the first generic slutty witch costume they saw. The prosthetics for her face also looked bulky and unnatural.
The 3D for this film was actually quite good. It is a mix of the old style 3D where objects leap from the screen and the newer style where they provide depth in the picture. The CG was also excellently done. The set pieces were gorgeous and the CGI characters Franco interacted with felt natural and realistic.
“Oz” may not be as great and powerful as the filmmakers hoped it would be, but it is not too great of a disappointment. Franco’s acting alone makes it an enjoyable watch. The visuals are also engrossing and entertaining. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars. It is not great, but it is not awful.