Oz The Great and Powerful Review
Oz The Great and Powerful finds scepticism ripe because Disney’s live-action output can be described as a bit of a failure lately. John Carter bombed, Prince of Persia bombed, Tron: Legacy sort of bombed. It seems a commonality for them all to bomb but when Raimi stepped up to the plate to develop a prequel to the 1939 classic film more than the novels by L. Frank Baum, everyone seemed to notice and go to it with a bit more respect. What seemed like a cash in has turned into a good film and that could be because of Raimi’s return to form after the annoying Spider-Man trilogy. Sam Raimi has lavishly created a luscious, wondrous fantasy land that you feel a part of.
If you saw the trailer that expanded from black-and-white to widescreen full cinematic colour then you should know that it wasn’t an advertising gimmick. The first stages of the film about Oscar (James Franco) is where we follow the womanising magician to the magical land of Oz. The problem for Oz The Great and Powerful is that he isn’t appreciated, playing small crowds in tented carnivals instead of being a blend of Harry Houdini and Thomas Edison. When fleeing from the strongman of the carnies in a hot air balloon he goes straight into a twister begging to survive it and as he lifts his head from the calm the colours blossom as does the width of the picture welcoming us to Oz.
Once you enter the fantasy land there’s one problem that’s apparent from her introduction. It’s a shame to say that Mila Kunis, who usually does so much with so little, seems bored at spilling the fantasy language of Oz, almost uncomfortable in the film. Although it may be referential to the older days of bad acting, it’s much more distracting than it should be. In the later part of the films, Mila really does pick it up but in the early days as an optimistic, naïve girl who falls in love with ease, it’s more uncomfortable than it should be. Especially when next to Franco in his most comfortable and charismatic role to date – with one smile he can lift the film up to a much more lovely place. It’s this whimsy and simplicity that stops it from slipping over the edge to over-the-top unwelcome seriousness.
Visuals form the film thanks to the effusive CGI that creates a real and vast landscape in a believable way with extra background horses. This saturated scenery helps embellish the story like the bright and colourful beauty it should be thematically. Evil never wins, selfishness is a sad way to live, good is better than great; these are all messages it preaches. Even after showing the philandering fool of Oscar’s early days it shows his arc to good proving that it isn’t too late to change your path – even the yellow brick road is wrong for some. Basic messages for Disney to preach in a predictable script with predictable arcs. No matter how stale it gets, the overload to the senses distract from the crusty lines and arcs and surround it with detailed frames – style over substance.
CGI is one of the main attractions of the newly formed land of Oz but it’s also a deterrent. Some of the CGI possibly needed more work or a technological advancement – usually when Franco is holding the china doll. They may distract for a brief few moments but the sets and refurbished Oz help beautifully recreate the magic of the 1939 classic with only half a musical number and that’s a good thing. It didn’t try and make a checklist of what the original had and a plan to recreate it; it made its own world which captured the magic and took a healthy gulp from the fountain of youth. Performances from all of the cast helps involve the audience to give some authenticity to the world. Not gripping in a thriller sense but in a tug to bring you back to your childhood imagination and its inherent ecstasy that’s nostalgic and gleeful. It’s hard to dislike something fantastical and harmless, it’s an enchanting world. Oz the Fun and Colourful.