Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 9:05 PM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.2/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10


We all remember our initial reactions when Dorothy and her friends discovered that the Wizard of Oz was nothing but a normal old man with no real magical powers. We all asked ourselves how did a normal human like Dorothy also end up in Oz, in addition to becoming the most "powerful" and honored figure in the land.

Set twenty years before the events of the 1939 classic Wizard of OzOz the Great and Powerful is indeed a prequel that explains how the Wizard of Oz came to be.

Starting with the year 1905 in Kansas, Oz the Great and Powerful follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), more known as Oz for his stage name, who wishes to become a great man, similar to Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini. After running into a tornado, Oscar suddenly finds himself in the land of Oz, where he meets the three witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). He soon realizes that he is caught in the middle of a prophecy that he will save the land of Oz from the Wicked Witch.

For all those who fear this to be a ripoff of Burton's Alice in Wonderland, your fears are partially met here, in a way. For all those Oz fans who are seeking another faithful entry to the world of Oz, you will have it too.

Oz the Great the Powerful starts off faithful to the original, beginning with black and white imagery and using only half of the screen. However, at times, certain visuals fly out over the black bars on the left and right to enhance the 3D effect. Though this amazing technique was used by Ang Lee in Life of Pi, Sam Raimi cleverly uses it again this time around. To my surprise, the black and white opening lasted longer than expected, doing a neat job in developing Franco's character. Soon enough, the land of Oz unfolds, the black bars diminish, and the color slowly seeps in.

The land of Oz looks fantastic, however bears too strong of a resemblance to Burton's Wonderland. Fortunately for Raimi's film, the iconic locations found in the original are emphasized more heavily here. These locations include the classic Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, and the sleep-inducing poppy fields. Without a doubt, there is plenty of eye-candy to behold in this magical land, however critics might find the world less "magical" compared to the original. Nevertheless, the production design and visual effects are definitely impressive, ranging from heavy combination of sets and blue screen to motion capture.

For all the die-hard Oz fans, you will all be satisfied in some way or another from this film, for it pays heavy respect to the original in many ways. Believe me, the flying baboons look amazing, even when they appear "toned down" by pure computer generated imagery.

The plot of Oz the Great and Powerful lacks true power at times. When Oz arrives to the magical land, the witches all tell of a prophecy that a wizard who bears the same name as the land will come and defeat the Wicked Witch. At this point, the "prophecy" plot line can feel very old and contrived, since we have seen this before in Narnia and even the Star Wars prequel trilogy. How did this prophecy come to be? What is the reasoning behind it? None of that is explained here. Then again, we all love to watch plot lines where the protagonist is the Chosen One. Based on storytelling though, Oz the Great and Powerful does work, and its narrative is consistent throughout. The tone, however, is another story.

The tone is probably Oz's greatest flaw: It is extremely inconsistent. The film constantly jumps back and forth between being serious and being funny. Its serious moments include the horrors of the Wicked Witch, yet immediately the next scene might showcase a character's humorous personality. As a result, the first two acts of the film are considerably jumpy emotion-wise, and sometimes even unexciting, similar to Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The screen may be loaded with a plethora of visuals, but not even that can save the true substance behind the story.

Because of the tone being erratic, the acting can also appear unsteady. This is where critics criticize the most. Franco tries his best at portraying a flawed man, a man who is selfish and egotistical. Though Oz as a character is pretty well-written, Franco's facial expressions leap across the arc. His eyes are wet in one scene. He makes a goofy smile in the next. Though I am unable to fully blame him, this noticeable flaw comes from the bumpy tone, and even the script.

All three witches are likable on screen, though their given dialogue could have had much more meaning. Without a doubt, the witches have less of personality compared to the wizard, and again this can disappoint critics. However, all three actresses have their own visual style, and the costuming is excellent. Oh, and there is a brilliant back-up story on how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be…… 

As mentioned before, the first two acts of the film is reasonably mediocre. At least it's not boring. Fortunately, Oz the Great and Powerful triumphs in its third act with fantastic writing and wit, pulling off the smartest and most satisfying conclusion on how our Oscar became the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Unquestionably, the climax is dazzling to the eyes and dazzling to the heart, and almost every Oz fan will unleash their inner fanboy here. Thanks to the script, the ending of Oz the Great and Powerful will surely amaze audiences of all generations.

In conclusion, Oz the Great and Powerful is the best Oz prequel you can get from the film industry today. There are many flaws that could have been polished, but believe me, it could have been a lot worse. A *lot* worse. Do yourself a favor and never think about comparing Oz the Great and Powerful to the original Wizard of Oz. As a film alone, Oz the Great and Powerful packs enough visual wonder and is surely a prequel that indeed works. Despite its tone being inconsistent and its first two acts being inadequate, the film pulls off a fine trick at the end. Somewhere over the rainbow, Oz the Great and Powerful found its way.

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