8.1 out of 10
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is one of those films that is both close to greatness and close to mediocrity. Fortunately, it falls much closer to greatness, but it could have gone either way. There are certain elements that are done really well and others that are a little bit lacking. You just get the impression that this movie was only a few steps away from being truly unbelievable, a perfect 10 out of 10. But, even though it didn’t quite get there “’Oz’” is still a very entertaining film with a lot going for it. It is hard to find great movies that release this early in the year, but “’Oz’” manages to break that rule.
Witches be crazy!
Any spoilers will be clearly marked so you can avoid reading them if you so choose.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” opens in Baltimore on March 8, 2012.
Anytime a film stars Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams it is most likely going to automatically rate a 7 out of 10 or better. That is a lot of…umm…star power. But the cast as a whole is really great. Those three lovely ladies all do a great job. James Franco was a solid pick for Oz, the wizard. The supporting cast fills out their roles well, all of them making great use of the short screen time they had. The cast was so good that my father would even like to see the China Girl nominated for an Academy Award (voiced by Joey King who was also the girl in the wheelchair and the girl in the prison in “The Dark Knight Rises”)
The visual effects are stunning. Director Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” trilogy) and his massive crew of special effects experts, visual effects experts, costume and make-up experts and staging and lighting experts make you feel like you really took a journey to Oz. And the best part of the effects is that they are virtually seamless. That is, nothing seems fake; it all feels real and fits perfectly in that world. In a world where nothing makes sense, the visual effects make perfect sense.
It is not very often that you find discussion of music or score in these reviews. But, when you get a guy like Danny Elfman to helm your music and tell him he gets to set the mood in the land of Oz, great things are likely to happen. Once again, the thing that really makes this score stand out is the fact that it doesn’t stand out at all. It is so perfect that you entirely forget to listen to the music. A great score can go virtually unnoticed and great composers are often overlooked for that very reason. Elfman is one of the best in Hollywood and he crushes another one here. Pay particular attention to the scene when Oz, the wizard, first arrives in the land of Oz.
The story in “’Oz’” is very entertaining. People who remember “The Wizard of Oz” will really enjoy seeing how the characters unfold and become the ones they remember from the previous film. You can also see other things from “’The Wizard’” if you pay close attention. A few more head nods to the older film would have been nice, but the story does well to tie all the characters in.
The 3D in “’Oz’” is one of the most annoying, simply because I cannot figure out whether I should suggest you see it in 3D or save your money. There are quite a few scenes that use 3D really well and it adds a lot of depth to a magical world. I saw it in 3D and loved it, but in my opinion, the feature should blow me away to justify the extra cost (I went with 3 family members and it cost the four of us almost $60, without IMAX). I’ll give you another opinion. My father said, “The 3D was so good it was like a feast for my eyes.” But, this is also a man who raised 5 children and has never seen “The Lion King.” So, take his opinion accordingly.
Since we are on the subject, do not pay for this in IMAX unless you are going to a true IMAX theater. These are usually the ones you find at places like the Maryland Science Center. Basically, it needs to be a theater that was built as an IMAX theater. Not one that had 24 theaters already and converted a few to IMAX. The slightly larger screen and slightly louder sound is definitely not enough to justify that cost. But, real IMAX is pretty awesome.
Many of the scenes just dragged on a bit too long. This caused the running time to hit about 130 minutes. The perfect example of this was the scene where Oz meets the China Girl. That scene could have easily been half as long and would have lost none of its effect on the film.
As great as the film is, “’Oz’” really does not have anything to make it stand out. We have all become used to the awesome special effects that filmmakers are capable of these days. We have even become used to 3D. “The Wizard of Oz” was groundbreaking and stood out like a lighthouse on the shore. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is just another solid, above average film. And, that is fine. Most movies would love to “just be above average.” But, most films are not a prequel to one of the greatest films ever made.
The Bottom Line
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is a very good film. It is definitely the best in 2013 so far. This is also a film I recommend you see in the theater. The visual effects are stunning and probably best appreciated on the big screen. The 3D is really, really good, but that cost depends entirely on whether or not you see the value. In my opinion, the cost is too much for the value. If they charge an extra $1 or $2 I may be onboard. Most theaters it’s more like $3-5. The cast of “’Oz’” all do a wonderful job with their roles. All the subtle things like special effects and music add a ton to the film and do so without distracting you. “’Oz’” is only a couple steps away from being unbelievable, and that by itself, is praise enough.