Film review: Oz The Great And PowerfulBy Kim Francis
March 13, 2013
Since Wicked came to the stage and made a grand success of itself telling the back story of the witches first seen in L. Frank Baum’s novel, people have cultivated a renewed interest in the Wizard of Oz saga, the 1939 screen version of which regularly tops polls of the greatest films of all time.
Oz The Great and Powerful takes elements of the story of Wicked and knits them together with the tale of how confidence trickster magician Oscar (Oz) Diggs becomes the wonderful resident wizard in the Emerald City.
We first meet Oz (played by a smarmy but likeable James Franco grinning his way through the film) in monochrome Kansas plying his trade as a rubbish illusionist.
Winding up in the land of Oz in a similar way to Dorothy later in the ongoing story, Oz finds himself the mistaken subject of a prophecy – the local population thinks he’s the wizard destined to save the land from the wicked witch (Mila Kunis) who lives there.
Knowing that there are riches up for grabs, he’s happy to go along with the notion but when he finds out he’s been tricked himself, his good side kicks in. Will he help find a way to save Oz?
The problem with the film is the spectacle of it. Directed by Sam Raimi, helmsman of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, Oz looks amazing – but it’s at the expense of everything else, namely story, script and storytelling techniques.
Worse, it feels smug. It’s totally and utterly in love with itself, shown in the actors’ deliveries and Raimi’s self-aggrandising directorial flourishes.
And, aside from a handful of amusing lines from the CGI monkey (voiced by Zach Braff), its conceit is completely groundless.
Even though it has great special effects, today’s audiences expect this and, as such, it doesn’t especially impress.
Not like when The Wizard of Oz was released and audiences were bowled over by what they saw on screen, and certainly not like when cinema-goers first saw what Thomas Edison did during the early days of cinema, to whom Raimi pays homage in this film.
What it feels like is a big-budget pantomime with lazy jokes and lame he’s-behind-you set pieces.
Always aware of itself and constantly drawing attention to its own artifice, you’re never fully absorbed. Its irreverence is also disrespectful to the classic original, and that angers.
Oz The Great and Powerful is so long and boring that you’d do well to switch off to the humdrum action and let yourself instead be swept up by Danny Elfman’s continuous music score – you’ll find a lot more to appreciate aurally than visually.