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Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful
Mar. 6, 2013by:
5 10

PLOT: A small-time con-man (James Franco) who ekes out a living conning audiences at a travelling carnival, is swept off to the magical land of Oz after making a hasty getaway in a hot air balloon. He quickly fools people into thinking heís the great magician thatís been prophesized to replace their dead king. Before assuming his throne, he must first contend with the dead kingís three daughters, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora (Mila Kunis), and Glinda (Michelle Williams).

REVIEW: Sam Raimiís WIZARD OF OZ prequel is big in just about every way a tent pole movie can be. Itís big-budget, with big effects, and big stars- but biggest of all is its ambition. MGMís THE WIZARD OF OZ has been an undisputed childhood classic for generations, but the saga doesnít end there. Author L. Frank Baum wrote seventeen OZ novels, and other than Disneyís 1985 flop RETURN TO OZ, and the stage play WICKED, itís a bit of a surprise that it took Hollywood this long to dive back into this immediately recognizable world.

Obviously this is meant to launch a new franchise, which is an area director Sam Raimi knows well, having launched the (classic) EVIL DEAD series, as well as the original SPIDER-MAN trilogy. How does Raimi fare with OZ? Well, I have to admit that overall, I found OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL to be underwhelming in a pretty big way. Anyone hoping Sam Raimi was going to put a little edge into the world of Oz is going to be sorely disappointed. This is strictly for the kiddies- despite the presence of James Franco and Mila Kunis, whose presence seems to promise a somewhat sexier movie.

Then again, the 1939 MGM film wasnít exactly sexy either, and itís been entertaining families for seventy-four years- so if it ainít broke... Fact is, kids may well love this, but being a thirty-one year old- without any kids, I have to look at it a certain way. The best family movies, such as the Pixar film, have universal appeal, and while OZ tries for the same thing, it doesnít really succeed. Raimi stages a couple of the goofier scenes, such as the Munchkin Land musical number (címon- you had to know thereíd be one) in a way thatís clearly winking at older audiences, but thatís one of the few concessions he makes. Otherwise, this is strictly PG territory.

Even still, I would have liked OZ had it delivered in a few key areas. Its biggest shortcoming, sadly- is the titular role, played by James Franco. Iím far from a Franco hater, and in the right role he can be amazing. But- the problem is that the role of Oz calls for a silver-tongued, ultra-charming con-man, and thatís just not Franco. They needed someone like Robert Downey Jr., or Johnny Depp, both of who are absolute masters at playing likable rogues. Franco is too naturalistic, and when he tries to go big and energetic, it feels forced. Franco is definitely trying- and no one can accuse him of phoning it in, but I found his character hard to care about.

The ladies fare a bit better. Michelle Williams is actually kind of great as Glinda the Good. She has the right ethereal look, and most importantly, she one of those rare actresses (like Amy Adams) that can truly radiate kindness. Maybe the film should have focused on her? Rachel Weisz, and the sexy- bad sister, chews the scenery, and gives off a nice, vampy vibe. As for Mila Kunis- to avoid heading into spoiler territory, all Iím going to say is that she starts off pretty well, but eventually feels really miscast.

One area that OZ definitely doesnít fail in is the visuals. In a nice touch, Raimi has the film open in pre-1953 Academy ratio- 1:33:1, and in black and white (why not sepia?) before, once Franco arrives in Oz, stretching to a magnificently colorful 2:35:1. The transition is really effective, but itís blunted by Raimiís decision to shoot the entire movie in 3D, rather than just the OZ sequences. If, in addition to the wide-screen, and color- the movie had suddenly shifted to 3D, the impact would have been amazing. Still, even as is, itís pretty impressive. The 3D is also pretty good, although if youíre cool on the format, it probably wonít change your opinion too much. I also liked Danny Eflmanís score, and itís nice to see him working with Sam Raimi again.

Pretty visuals aside, the main reason I didnít like OZ is the fact that I never, ever, felt myself emotionally invested in the story. I didnít care about Francoís character at all, and his evolution from con-man to hero feels under-cooked and predictable. The same goes for the Land of Oz itself, as other than Glinda, and the China Girl (a child made of china porcelain); you never really get to know or care about the people of Oz. Even Zach Braffís Tinker- the Flying Monkey, exists mostly for comic relief. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaireís script feels like little more than a roadmap to the big action set pieces- which, to be honest, arenít that memorable.

In the end, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL just feels bland- but then again, I doubt the legions of kids that will no doubt flock to this will care much. Iím sure theyíll like it, but even then, I bet theyíd prefer the 1939 original- which, more than anything had heart- which is something that I feel canít be said for this big-budget reboot. Itíll still make hundreds of millions though.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:33PM on 03/09/2013
I've seen so many mixed reviews from the few sites I actually give any credibility towards that I have come to my own conclusion.... I'll have to watch it for myself! I'm not an Oz fanatic but I dig sequels. The concept of finding out how the story I am already familiar with began in the first place always intrigued me. Good or bad, I want to know how that man got behind the curtain!
I've seen so many mixed reviews from the few sites I actually give any credibility towards that I have come to my own conclusion.... I'll have to watch it for myself! I'm not an Oz fanatic but I dig sequels. The concept of finding out how the story I am already familiar with began in the first place always intrigued me. Good or bad, I want to know how that man got behind the curtain!
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12:33PM on 03/09/2013
*I meant prequels, not sequels lol
*I meant prequels, not sequels lol
-4
8:42AM on 03/08/2013

I walked out

The movie sucked. Flat out. The direction seemed to be all over the place. Mila Kunis wasn't even trying, she sucked. Rachel Weisz wasn't trying either but she is actually talented so she was ok. I blame raimi. Luckily I left as the singing started. What a let down. I'm glad he isn't directing warcraft
The movie sucked. Flat out. The direction seemed to be all over the place. Mila Kunis wasn't even trying, she sucked. Rachel Weisz wasn't trying either but she is actually talented so she was ok. I blame raimi. Luckily I left as the singing started. What a let down. I'm glad he isn't directing warcraft
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4:49AM on 03/09/2013
The 'singing' lasted all of 30 seconds, as it was stopped by Franco's character.
The 'singing' lasted all of 30 seconds, as it was stopped by Franco's character.
+0
2:34PM on 03/07/2013
Unexplainable double post.
Unexplainable double post.
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-2
2:26PM on 03/07/2013

Damn

Most of the reviews I've read today (EW, Rolling Stone. New York Times) agree with you that the movie totally sucks. It's a shame. I was looking forward to it.
Most of the reviews I've read today (EW, Rolling Stone. New York Times) agree with you that the movie totally sucks. It's a shame. I was looking forward to it.
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+4
2:25PM on 03/07/2013
I don't agree with this review either. I saw it monday and would give it an 8/10. The story ties in nicely with the 1930's movie, and Kunis does a great job with her role (surprisingly so). I felt that Michelle Williams was completely miscast and one of the worst things about this movie, followed closely behind by Franco (the only part of the review I agree with). I'm not a Wizard of Oz fan, but I couldn't help but dig this story AND the nicely done 3D which added to the story (normally I hate
I don't agree with this review either. I saw it monday and would give it an 8/10. The story ties in nicely with the 1930's movie, and Kunis does a great job with her role (surprisingly so). I felt that Michelle Williams was completely miscast and one of the worst things about this movie, followed closely behind by Franco (the only part of the review I agree with). I'm not a Wizard of Oz fan, but I couldn't help but dig this story AND the nicely done 3D which added to the story (normally I hate 3D) by showing Oz in a different dimension. It was a fun movie, and probably one of the better movies I've seen in a while.
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5:44PM on 03/06/2013
I don't agree with this review at all. I saw a screening of OZ last night and thought it was pretty good. I'd give it a solid 7 out of 10, it's exactly what it's supposed to be, a fun and entertaining fantasy movie.
I don't agree with this review at all. I saw a screening of OZ last night and thought it was pretty good. I'd give it a solid 7 out of 10, it's exactly what it's supposed to be, a fun and entertaining fantasy movie.
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5:04PM on 03/06/2013

Oy Vey...

I was afraid of this. The trailers just haven't grabbed me on this movie and I hope that this isn't all there is.

We'll see.
I was afraid of this. The trailers just haven't grabbed me on this movie and I hope that this isn't all there is.

We'll see.
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+13
1:52PM on 03/06/2013

meh, still seeing it

looks like a really fun popcorn ride to me. I'll definitely be checking this one out in IMAX 3D, hope it's good!
looks like a really fun popcorn ride to me. I'll definitely be checking this one out in IMAX 3D, hope it's good!
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-2
12:01PM on 03/06/2013
Hmmm, honestly don't know what to think. This seems to be generally doing well with critics, but I guess that could change come release. But I also trust the reviews here than any other site, so I am inclined to go with the review here. I was seriously hoping that this wouldn't be another Alice in Wonderland, especially with Raimi at the charge, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. That's too bad, because there are so many great actors here and Raimi is such an awesome director.
Hmmm, honestly don't know what to think. This seems to be generally doing well with critics, but I guess that could change come release. But I also trust the reviews here than any other site, so I am inclined to go with the review here. I was seriously hoping that this wouldn't be another Alice in Wonderland, especially with Raimi at the charge, but I guess it wasn't meant to be. That's too bad, because there are so many great actors here and Raimi is such an awesome director.
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+11
11:10AM on 03/06/2013

We need to outgrow the spectacle of CGI

CGI has grown in leaps and bounds, but many directors wielding it seem stuck in a CGI-centric mindset. Using CGI to create "spectacle" in a generic sense has lost it's luster. Because any of the big effects houses can create semi-convincing epic sprawl, it's become unimpressive on its own. Instead, we need to see directors using CGI as a means to an end. Otherwise, these movies that look like fantasy illustrations come to life just come off as muted, and often times the story and dialog get
CGI has grown in leaps and bounds, but many directors wielding it seem stuck in a CGI-centric mindset. Using CGI to create "spectacle" in a generic sense has lost it's luster. Because any of the big effects houses can create semi-convincing epic sprawl, it's become unimpressive on its own. Instead, we need to see directors using CGI as a means to an end. Otherwise, these movies that look like fantasy illustrations come to life just come off as muted, and often times the story and dialog get suffocated by the need for everything to be "huge."
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9:59AM on 03/06/2013
Great review. I remember watching the first trailer and thinking how miscast Franco was. I love Franco as well but I can think of far better actors this role could have gone to. Downey would have owned it.
Great review. I remember watching the first trailer and thinking how miscast Franco was. I love Franco as well but I can think of far better actors this role could have gone to. Downey would have owned it.
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9:38AM on 03/06/2013
Casting Franco was the mistake of this film, he is just too spaced out to be believable. That being said I'll still slap down my $10 to see the film in the theater.
Casting Franco was the mistake of this film, he is just too spaced out to be believable. That being said I'll still slap down my $10 to see the film in the theater.
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9:09AM on 03/06/2013

Just like Burton's Alice in Wonderland

I expected nothing more than all flashy visuals and Mr. Oz going from place to place to give us a flashy guided tour of everything from the old movies instead of a decent plot. Alice was the same way.
I expected nothing more than all flashy visuals and Mr. Oz going from place to place to give us a flashy guided tour of everything from the old movies instead of a decent plot. Alice was the same way.
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8:37AM on 03/06/2013

I love the casts and director... but this was obviously not done well

The problems was the CG, same with Jack the Giant Slayer. Everything was too much of a cartoon and it takes away from the movie. This is Raimi's worst movie, but one of Bruce Campbell's best cameos. It was just uncalled for and fails for a lot of the same reasons as that horrible Alice movie.
The problems was the CG, same with Jack the Giant Slayer. Everything was too much of a cartoon and it takes away from the movie. This is Raimi's worst movie, but one of Bruce Campbell's best cameos. It was just uncalled for and fails for a lot of the same reasons as that horrible Alice movie.
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4:27AM on 03/06/2013
"Franco is too naturalistic" - I think you're being too kind with that comment.
"Franco is too naturalistic" - I think you're being too kind with that comment.
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3:08AM on 03/06/2013
Still excited to see this film despite the so so review. Even before seeing the film I can agree that Mila Kunis seems miscast for the role. She's hot, but I don't think that she's that great of an actress. She was great in Black Swan, but I'm failing to think of any other films that she was just as good in.

And funny that you mention Downey Jr. because before Franco was cast, Downey was originally cast in the role of the con man. Which I am glad he dropped out of because even though Downey
Still excited to see this film despite the so so review. Even before seeing the film I can agree that Mila Kunis seems miscast for the role. She's hot, but I don't think that she's that great of an actress. She was great in Black Swan, but I'm failing to think of any other films that she was just as good in.

And funny that you mention Downey Jr. because before Franco was cast, Downey was originally cast in the role of the con man. Which I am glad he dropped out of because even though Downey Jr is a great actor and would have made the role his, the film doesn't seem to fit his great qualities like something like Sherlock Holmes or the Iron Man films have.
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2:36AM on 03/06/2013
5/10 - much better than I initially though it would be.
5/10 - much better than I initially though it would be.
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2:10AM on 03/06/2013

Not a Franco-phile (see what I did there?)

He always seems distracted and any major Hollywood movie he's in just feels like funding for his pet projects. He comes off as aloof no matter what the role, so it doesn't surprise me that he doesn't fit in this movie.
He always seems distracted and any major Hollywood movie he's in just feels like funding for his pet projects. He comes off as aloof no matter what the role, so it doesn't surprise me that he doesn't fit in this movie.
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2:08AM on 03/06/2013
This is getting a lot of diverse reviews. Devin Faraci and Drew McWeeny loved it, amongst others, and Chris here did not. Thusly, and as per usual, and as all thoughtful people should always do... I'll make up my own opinion. I'm still looking forward to it.
This is getting a lot of diverse reviews. Devin Faraci and Drew McWeeny loved it, amongst others, and Chris here did not. Thusly, and as per usual, and as all thoughtful people should always do... I'll make up my own opinion. I'm still looking forward to it.
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2:08AM on 03/06/2013
I don't care what movie it is, Mila Kunis automatically brings sexiness to any movie she is in, perfect in every way.
I don't care what movie it is, Mila Kunis automatically brings sexiness to any movie she is in, perfect in every way.
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1:59AM on 03/06/2013
That's too bad, but my expectations were low anyway.
That's too bad, but my expectations were low anyway.
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