Cinepub


Review – Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) by Jamie

It seems as though I’m stuck in a world of watching adaptations of books I haven’t read at the moment. First of it was the surprisingly entertaining The Hunger Games, then Disney’s alright but somewhat lacklustre John Carter and now we’re back with another Disney attempt with Oz the Great and Powerful. It serves as a prequel of sorts to the 1939 original movie and takes elements from L. Frank Baum’s novels as well as bits from Gregory Maguire’s ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ as near as I can tell.

It basically tells the story of Oscar Diggs, stage name Oz, a magician/con-man with a travelling fair who is accidentally transported to the Land of Oz when he and his hot air balloon are caught in a tornado in Kansas. He finds out that there is a prophecy foretelling the arrival of a great and powerful wizard bearing the same name as the land itself. Oz decides to take advantage of this fortuitous coincidence when he discovers that the prophecy states that the Wizard will be named King and get mountains and mountains of treasure. He soon finds himself caught up in a war between three witches and has to decide whether he is going to try and get home or become the man he’d like to be and he has fooled others into believing he is.

My, it almost sounds like a fantasy version of John Carter when I write it out like that…

Anyway that’ll do for a synopsis since the film’s currently out at the cinema and that. The question is, is it worth you plonking your hard earned cash monies down on a cinema counter in order to go see it?

Well up front I’ll say I saw it in 2D because in a 3D film your eyes spend ten minutes adjusting to it and then you forget that it’s even in 3D in the first place so what’s the point in wasting that extra couple of quid? Still there were scenes that definitely seemed to be built for the medium so who knows, it might add something to it. Of course the film is also very, very colourful, something that tends to get lost in the 3D films I have seen so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

The film itself was surprisingly entertaining. I guess the surprise shouldn’t have been so great because it is Sam Raimi directing and, generally speaking, the man does good work. Franco is also generally entertaining as the titular Oz, in fact all of the actors are pretty good though for the first half of the film Mila Kunis seems bizarrely wooden like she’s trying to pull of naïve but isn’t quite getting it and comes of instead as someone who may have suffered a very, very slight brain injury. I mean, she’s still good but something seems a little off.

Still this film could have been a lot worse. Hollywood’s track record with prequels hasn’t exactly been great. The Hobbit left me wondering why the hell it couldn’t have just been one film, perhaps two at the most. Prometheus should have been a lot less stupid. And then there’s Star Wars. Oz manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that these other films fall in to and I think the reason possibly is that there really isn’t that much to the original Wizard of Oz film itself (I mean with regards to plot. Of course there‘s all kinds of deeper meanings that can be read into it). It’s a fairly straight forward story about a girl on a journey of discover through a weird and marvellous world. You get the sense that there is a back story, from the brief scene when the Good and Wicked Witches are in the scene together in Munchkin Land and of course with the Wizard himself, but none of it is really explored within the film itself. There’s a lot to explore there and you can do it without really stepping on the originals toes too much.

The film does have its problems. Perhaps most distracting was, whilst it was referencing the original film just fine, how it almost seemed as though it was trying to be every other movie. One character is deceived by someone they trust, becomes disfigured and turns to the dark side. At one point Oz says something like “I may not be the Wizard you were expecting but maybe I can be the Wizard you need.” Also he spends a lot of time acting opposite a digital monkey. I know that these may rather be more a problem with my film obsessed brain rather than the movie itself but it all just seemed a bit, well, obvious. I think the broader point that I’m trying to make here is that this film suffers from a similar problem to John Carter. It’s all very pretty, and I mean very, very pretty, but once more it never feels as though it’s anything we haven’t seen before. Oz get’s away with it a bit better though since it has a) a more likeable lead and b) it doesn’t seem to be taking itself to seriously like Carter did at points. It’s all just a bit of a fun romp through a weird fantasy land with a con-man.

Speaking of Oz’s character, there’s something about him that puts me in mind a little of a more family friendly version of Ash from the Evil Dead series. In fact, since this is a Raimi film, I wouldn’t be surprised if the character was thought of with how he might have a young Bruce Campbell, who of course gets a cameo, play it in mind.

Despite it’s flaws, like the makeup of the Wicked Witch of the West looking like a cross between the Mask and the Green Goblin, Oz the Great and Powerful is a pretty enjoyable return to Oz. Speaking of which, would it have killed you to have some references to that film in here Raimi? Maybe Tick-Tock or, God forbid, some Wheelers? Anyway, it’s certainly more enjoyable than John Carter or the film it has been most compared to, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Three out of five. Laterz. Oh, and if Zach Braff’s character Frank from the Baum Brothers Circus at the beginning of the film is shown in a sequel writing a book based on his friend’s adventures, I will probably go insane.

Oz

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