Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
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
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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?
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