MOVIE REVIEW: Oz The Great And Powerful

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Film: Oz The Great And Powerful
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis

Oz The Great And Powerful offers plenty of reasons to shell out a few extra bucks for 3D and features a number of memorable performances, but ultimately falls apart due to a thin script and a runtime twenty minutes too long.

Taking as many cues from the original as it can without ever feeling so familiar it’s boring, Oz The Great And Powerful starts off duller than any Disney release in recent memory. The film opens in black and white (a nod to the original) and allows viewers a chance to meet Oz (James Franco) in his natural element. His days are spent as a hack magician in a traveling circus, and on this particular day his luck seems to have run out. The simple-minded girl he talked into helping his set is too simple-minded to be of much use, his only friend keeps reminding him of his moral shortcomings, and the perceived love of his life has returned to inform him that another has asked for her hand in marriage. This lover offers Oz the chance to say something, but he instead informs her the man asking for her hand is good and will treat her well. You see, Oz is a man out for himself, and even more than that he is out to achieve what he refers to as great things. He doesn’t know what those great things are, but he knows it does not involve the perceived simple life most “good men” lead. He attempts to explain this to the girl so obviously hoping he’ll tell her to stay, but is soon interrupted and forced to flee in a hot air balloon. Oz doesn’t notice the tornado swirling in a nearby field, which eventually catches up to him, soon our protagonist is thrown into the midst of a cyclone beautifully realized by the film’s special effects team. He pleas for salvation to an unnamed deity, offering promises of good deeds in exchange for continued existence, and soon finds himself in a far away land that certainly looks a lot different than the fields of Kansas.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Oz The Great And Powerful you’ve likely noticed the sequence where the world turns from black and white to color. It’s a reveal that works best on the silver screen, and after drawn out introduction it’s a welcome change that goes a long way towards pulling the viewer further into the story. Oz is visually astounding, but it’s appreciated even more than it normally would be after you have spent more time than anyone should in black and white middle-of-nowhere Kansas carnival. Our hero soon meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), and after what feels like forever our actual story is able to get underway.

Without going too in depth, the plot of Oz The Great And Powerful is a fairly simple one. An evil witch has killed the former wizard, and the people of Oz were told through a prophecy that a another great wizard would come to save them. Oz, being the aforementioned egotistical type with hopes of achieving great things, see this as an opportunity to rule an all too trusting kingdom and informs everyone he meets that he is indeed the great wizard of Oz. All is well for about thirty minutes or so until then the true wickedness of the evil witch is revealed, at which point Oz must decide whether or not he truly is the great man everyone now believes him to be. It’s a tale of doing what is right, even if you have to lie a little along the way, and it translates as wonderfully now as it did when Dorothy faced similar troubles all those years ago. Unfortunately, this story is also one that could be told in roughly 3/4 of the time it requires of the viewer. Many minutes are lost to enjoyable, but ultimately needly establishing shots full of exteriors bursting with the full spectrum of colors. It’s as if they spent so much on designing this world of make believe that they felt the need to justify it by showing the attention to details. It’s appreciated, but again a complete waste of time (not to mention detrimental to the film’s goal of captivating young minds with already micro-sized attention spans).

Sam Raimi is a hero to some, a beloved filmmaker to others, and the man who completely screwed up Spider-Man 3 to a select segment of nerd culture still enraged by Hollywood’s past wrongs. The news of his role as director for Disney’s most anticipated prequel divided many, but in the end it is his unique style that saves Oz The Great And Powerful from fully succumbing to the mediocrity of its script. Drizzled with eye-popping visuals, including at least three sequences designed solely to maximize the 3D experience, the look and feel of Oz is beyond anything you’ve likely seen on the silver screen before. That said, the quality of the CGI tends to vary based on its use. When characters both real and make believe interact all is fine, but any sequence showcasing a lush exterior backdrop falls flat when blended with the stage lighting shone on the actor’s faces. This isn’t a problem that Oz is alone in suffering from, but the intense use of CGI throughout the film makes it more and more noticeable as the film rolls on.

By the time the credits finally begin to roll (just over two hours in), Oz The Great And Powerful has completely worn out its welcome. Where the beginning of the film takes a good twenty minutes to really get going, the end suffers from flatlining with fifteen minutes or so to spare. Sitting in my sneak screening I could hear kids and adults begin shuffling in their seats while the film’s final sequence was only beginning, and by the final moments you would have thought the soundtrack was replaced with the sound of shuffling feet and coats being zipped. We all know what comes next, and that gives you little reason to ever fear for the majority of the characters, which eventually develops into an apathetic sentiment towards the entire journey. It’s beautiful, but completely unnecessary, and you won’t be missing much if choose to wait and enjoy this adventure from the comfort of your own home.

C-

Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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