Home » Years » 2013 » Oz The Great and Powerful •••

Oz The Great and Powerful •••

MV5BMjMyMzQ1ODM1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE2MTQxOQ@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Fantasy/Adventure, Rated: PG
Running Time: 130 mins


(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
So Greg, what was your overall impression of Oz?

(Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA)
I thought Oz was a visually impressive movie with a weak story. It sets the stage for the classic Wizard of Oz story as we know it from the classic movie.

You’re right, it was visually stunning. The colors of Oz were dazzling and like all movies these days, the computer effects were extraordinary. The story itself wasn’t bad. But somehow all the good parts didn’t make an impressive whole.

I felt they took an overly long time setting the story up. Like the original, Oz The Great and Powerful starts out in black and white. But it seemed to take forever to get to the color portion. There is a lot they could have cut from that opening bit. Then, it took a long time (like half the film) before our Hero had a Main Goal to chase after. I was bored for the first half of the second act.

Yes, they copied the old formula.  A tornadic trip to Oz … segueing from black & white to color … the hero stumbling upon a group of unusual helpers … the hero being charged with the goal of killing a witch, etc. But the magic just wasn’t there.  A few dull scenes were painfully long.  And as you mentioned, the set-up at the beginning took an eternity to unfold.

This is a classic Hero’s Journey. The Ordinary World of Kansas gives way to the Special World of Oz.  Mila Kunis was great as the naive witch/sister spurned by the Wizard.  She is beautiful compared to the Wicked Witch. This emphasizes one of the problems with the Disney story-telling worlds. People who are beautiful are “good” and people who are ugly are “bad”. We see this transformation over and over again. Witness Beauty and the Beast.

Yes, the film contained most of the elements of the hero’s journey. At the end of the journey the hero was indeed transformed; he finds himself, and he finds love. I’m not sure that James Franco, playing the Wizard, was up to the challenge here.  The strongest actors were the three witches, particularly the two wicked witches played by Mila Kunas and Rachel Weisz.  The theme of all-is-not-as-it-seems pervades the film.  We see this theme most notably in the Wizard’s magic tricks, and in character introductions, e.g., the wicked witches appear good at first, and the good witch appears bad at first.  Greg, what’s your take on the Wizard and his goals here?

The Wizard didn’t seem to have much of a passion for anything. He seems content to wander around Oz learning the ins and outs of the world. He *is* interested in the treasure, but it isn’t clear that he’s keen to get back to Kansas – or anywhere for that matter. Also, there is a little china doll that really adds nothing to the story. In my mind, it looks like an opportunity for shameless merchandizing.

To me, the china girl was a necessary help to the hero but both she and the monkey, as sidekicks for the hero, were far more annoying than they were appealing. Unless of course small children are the intended audience here.  Oz came across as designed for 10-year-olds, which is unfortunate because I’m sure the filmmakers were hoping for broader appeal.

My main complaint was with the movie’s final resolution. It’s a familiar issue — I call it the Law of Convenient Powers, or LCP. We saw this problem in the Hobbit, too. The law states that, at the end of the movie, beings who previously had shown limited magical powers suddenly, out of nowhere, acquire extraordinary superpowers that get them out of the worst of jams.  How convenient that one of our heroes suddenly becomes so powerful at the end.  Where were those powers earlier when they were so desperately needed?

Right.  In the writing world we call this Deus ex Machina. Certain characters did sort of pull off stunts that we never saw in the earlier parts of the movie.

I know you didn’t think James Franco held his own in this film. But I preferred him over the producers’ first choice for Oz: Johnny Depp. Franco came off as ambitious with an edge, but still with a streak of goodness. Besides, Depp is over exposed in these sorts of roles. After playing the Mad Hatter and Willie Wonka, I have seen enough of him for a while. Let someone else take on the quirky roles for a change.

Maybe it wasn’t so much that Franco fell short, but that his character did. Let’s face it — The Wizard of Oz had Dorothy, played spectacularly by 16-year-old Judy Garland. Dorothy was an innocent and quite vulnerable. Franco played a conniving never-do-well. He just wasn’t as likeable.  At the end of the movie, after we know he’s been a womanizer his entire life, are we really expected to believe he’ll be faithful to his new love interest?

You’re right. The Wizard in this film was not a good guy in the beginning. He was a trickster, charlatan, and womanizer. In the end he was transformed into something more respectable.

On another note, we saw the movie in Flat-2D. I wasn’t disappointed. But there were several scenes that were overtly 3D out-of-screen experiences. Flying Baboons jumping, Bubbles Popping. For my money, the extra special effects are not worth it. There was not much in this film that I felt needed to be seen in 3D.

There was a spectacular waterfall scene that would have been great to see in 3D. Other than that, 3D would have added nothing of appreciable value. This movie also suffered from the fact that we know the ending. The first time I saw Wizard of Oz, I had no idea what would happen. A movie in which we know the ending (e.g., Titanic) has to be truly superb to make up for the lack of suspense.

It’s true, this is the origin story of the Wizard of Oz and as such we pretty much know how it has to end. I was disappointed that there was no mention of ruby slippers. (Dorothy Gale was given no age in the books). Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but Annie – Oz’s girlfriend in the opening – was to be engaged to a man named “John Gale” – which was Dorothy’s last name (possibly her uncle).

Good catch, Greg!

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, despite it’s slow pace. The CGI ending made up for a host of sins. I recommend seeing it in theaters for the spectacle, but I don’t think it’s a fitting prequel to the Baum stories. I give it 3 Reels out of 5. My biggest fear is that it sets the stage for a Wizard of Oz remake from Disney in coming years. I think if this is any indication, such a remake would be a disappointment. The hero was lackluster but still evolved into a better man. I give him 2 Heroes out of 5.
Movie: reel-3  Hero: superman-2

This movie was a mixed bag.  It provided a visual feast for the eyes.  The hero story was quite respectable, as the Wizard followed the classic pattern of being sent to a strange and dangerous world; meeting up with sidekicks, albeit annoying ones; finding a love interest; and using his skills to cleverly overcome evil.  But Oz failed to enchant me and one hero’s superpowers at the end rang false.  I also give it 3 Reels out of 5, and I give the Wizard 3 Heroes out of 5.
Movie: reel-3 Hero: superman-3

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