You remember the wicked witch of the west,
right? All green and stuff, warts on her nose,
ugly? Apparently it took some time for that witch to get
all ugly. Back in the day, before Dorothy dropped down
in Oz messing up the Wicked Witch of the East, the West Witch
was pretty hot. There's a reason this witch was so hot… think
source material… but we're not gonna spoil it for you, even
though it becomes real obvious real quick. So while some
will certainly complain about Sam Raimi's somewhat bloated and
overblown 'Oz : The Great and Powerful', wine about how it
pales in comparison to the 1939 classic, and we can't really
argue will those folks all that much on that, but the 2013
version of the Wicked Witch of the West? We can see from
one angle where things might've improved a little bit.
James Franco is Oscar, but he goes by Oz, and he's a
charlatan. In this black and white world representing
pre-war Kansas, Oz hangs out at carnivals, wows sparse crowds
with his parlor shenanigans, while tricking unsuspecting young
women into his boudoir. Oz, as we meet him, is not the
most honorable guy around.
Then while fleeing from certain death by the husband of one of
these women, Oz jumps into a hot air balloon, just as a
twister was coming, and somehow… someway… he survives and
lands in the magical place known as… Oz. Which happens
to be his name. What are the chances?
Unlike Kansas, this place is all
colorful and stuff, and when he exits his hot air balloon, he
sees the wonderful visage and overly large anime eyes of
Theodora (Kunis), one of the witches of Oz who has been
waiting for just this moment, where the prophecy foretold of a
great wizard who will rescue Oz from the
grips of the tyrannical and ultra-evil witch Glinda (Michelle
Williams). First things first though as Oz has to run
his Kansas love game on Theodora, which has Theodora thinking
this great wizard is the love of her life, then he has to
introduce Oz to her sister, the witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz)
and Evanora has her doubts about Oz and his ability to sit on
the throne of the land of Oz. But she's willing to give
him a chance if Oz and his pet flying monkey Finley (Voiced by
Zach Braff) can make their way through the evil forest and
slay the evil Glinda. On their journey Oz and Finley
find a fractured china doll going by the clever name of China
Girl (Joey King) who is sad because the barbarian flying
baboons have performed genocide on her entire race.
What's up with that?
By now we've all figured out that Evanora is the true evil
one, cemented when we meet Glinda and she's all white and pure
and whatnot, and so bad is Evanora she even tricks her sister
who only wants to do what's best for the kingdom of Oz.
The situation is a dire one. The sisters want to crush
Glinda and the outlying kingdoms of Oz, for no particular
reason that I can see other than they're just mean, and only
the Wizard who possesses no magic can stop them. Sure,
Glinda has magic so you would think she'd be of a little more
use, but no… it's up to the cowardly, duplicitous Oz to find
the hero within himself and stop the scourge of the Witch
Sisters. Which he's probably going to be able to do, but
it doesn't explain what happened to Oz by the time Dorothy
came to town, because he was a mess in that film.
Another movie I guess.
There's inherent danger attached to any film linking itself to
a beloved classic, and there aren't a lot classic films more
beloved than 'The Wizard of Oz'. The movie is seventy
years old and pretty much everybody on the planet Earth has
seen it. My dad and 'The Wizard of Oz' were made in the
same year. That's old. So with that knowledge one
can rest assured that there will be those who give this film
no quarter, no matter how good it might've turned out and no
matter how much money, a reported 200 mil, that Walt Disney
throws at it. We get that, we really do, but we here in
this corner of the Earth actually enjoyed the movie.
Visually, the movie is spectacular. From the very well
realized black and white scenes in Kansas to the vibrant
colors and creatures that occupy the Land of Oz, the movie is
something to see. The things they can do with computers
nowadays, I tell you. Plus the movie is a genuine
adventure. There are evil witches and killer baboons and
chase sequences, slight of hand, and even a munchkin dance
number. This is Sam Raimi directing this controlled
chaos so the man knows what he's doing and he knows how to
handle it. In addition the movie is also appropriately
reverential to the original… not completely as there are some
things which kind of don't add up… but it does give hints and
clues and nods to what is about to happen when Dorothy shows
up in the future, seventy years ago.
Now all of that being said, 'Oz: The Great and Powerful' is
busy, almost to distraction. As such, it does tend to
suppress story in favor of spectacle, and subtlety in
deference to the overblown. There aren't an awful lot of
quiet moments or reflection for the characters locked in inner
thought in this film. No room for that stuff, not when
there are pretty colors to show and fireworks to set
off. Is this a bad thing? It is if one is looking
for something along the lines of 'The Wizard of Oz', but it's
not if one realizes that is the year 2013 and young modern
audiences seem to prefer watching things blow up.
The biggest crime committed by this film, as I hear it, is
that it's not 'The Wizard of Oz', but then I don't think it
was supposed to be, and it couldn't be even if it wanted to
be. What 'Oz: the Great and Powerful' happens to be is
entertaining escapist fare, with a dash of genocide.
What's up with that?