Oz the Great and Powerful is the prequel leading up to the amazing pop culture film of our lifetime, The Wizard of Oz from 1939. It tells the story of how everything fell into place and how the Wizard, also called Oz, came to be in this wondrous land called Oz. The original is a masterpiece, it is one of the most viewed films of all time, probably only beaten by The Sound of Music. It is happy, and gay, with singing and dancing and basic principles that make you all gooey and happy on the inside.
This one I found a brilliant prequel and one that I will love and buy on Blu Ray to watch quite a few times…………………… ……BUT……………….. ………… it has many flaws to it.
Firstly, it is a visual masterpiece of the next league that has the Sam Raimi stamp all over it. The opening is small screen in black and white in a homage to the original after it got its colouring. And then when Oz gets to Oz the screen opens in blinding colour with a full screen cinemascope. I was literally transported to a land I missed, a modernised land of Oz. I literally bought this as an authentic prequel and not a studio funded cash in (although that is probably exactly what it is just like Alice in Wonderland). I have to rave about the colours again – I am mostly about the visuals and visually this film is Oscar worthy, it is a pantomime stage production of epic proportions shown on the big screen, it is just dazzling.
The sound is Danny Elfman so it’s Burtonesque and I heard hints of Edward Scissorhands in there but I think this is just Elfman, he reworks the same kind of sound for every film – that being said it always elicits joy in me. The cinematography (Peter Deming – Mullholand Drive, the Austin Powers movies) and art design (big team of people I couldn’t be assed listing but you were awesome ) are sensational and really do embrace the feelings of being on a huge set, but this is such a stage show it suits the film and I just loved what they both brought to the film.
The characters, I will start with the smaller characters as these were my favourites. Hands down best character and CGI of the film is the porcelain lady, she is flawless and has some qualities of a mini Fiona from Shrek mixed with the size of the Gingerbread Man. She is so delicate but so ballsy and she made the film for me. Also Zach Braff voicing Finley, the flying monkey in a bell hops costume. He had more emotion than the real actors and his facials looked more genuine. I bonded with these two characters without even thinking.
Now after buttering you all up there is the negatives. The biggest and worst of it all is James Franco – I love him, I want to marry him and have his babies, and smoke abundant weed with him BUT he is so poorly miscast in this film it is astounding. Robert Downey Jnr and Johnny Depp were both offered this role before Franco – either of them would have been better but Depp would have been too much typecasting and he would never do it, Burton wasn’t directing For me I have been having issues thinking who I would have cast. Fifteen years ago this would have been an easy choice, I would have gone with Kevin Kline or if I had to Robin Williams, even Jim Carey would have been awesome!! But Franco flatlines in his performance. I still love the movie and grew used to Franco but the nagging voice kept telling me – “why why why???”.
Then the ladies. Michelle Williams plays it very innocent, just like Glinda, I bought it – this is a kid’s film afterall so all the roles are meant to be very tongue in cheek and camp, so for this Williams filled the role brilliantly. Mila Kunis I love, she can do Tampax commericals and I would watch with excitement – she clearly had a lot of fun in her role as the film progressed Then there is Rachel Weisz, who I also love playing Evanora, but for me she flatlines as much as Franco. Her costume is amazing though
Now while the film is saccharine induced colourful and holds to the innocence of the original and does a fine job it does have some strong dark moments that will scare some children. They are not long and generally involve the newer CGI and much more evil flying monkeys. Just be warned if you take your kids – and you should – this film throws back to much more innocent films. Sure it has death and fighting and evil monkeys but so did the 1939 version, it just makes them look much more realistic due to the technology. And oh, the wicked witch could be a bit scary but I loved her
One other character that was lacking – I wanted more of the yellow brick road – in this it is just a thing to walk on, in the original it is a character and wondrous and an exciting path to travel on. It is mentioned in this like something to be trod on – hahaha total intended pun (I crack myself up sometimes).
The film also has some of the best 3D onscreen so far. The use of the outer screen when in the black and white boxed screen at the start was a mark of genius, this was also employed in Life of Pi. And the effects are made for 3D – if you are seeing this film, make sure it is in the biggest 3D screen you can find.
Casting headaches aside this film is superb. I want to see it again when it releases next Thursday 7th March in all cinemas. I give this one 8 out of 10 tough little porcelain dolls!