Around this time last year Walt Disney Pictures released “John Carter” and it went on to become one of the biggest bombs in the studio’s long history. That review was well deserved, too, because, despite being based on a book that was over 100 years old, the movie was terrible and the 3D effects were even worse. Now Disney is releasing “Oz the Great and Powerful” hoping to avoid the disaster they suffered one year ago.
They should be better off this time out. Projections have it tagged to make at least $80 million during opening weekend, but time will tell. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is also based on a book that is over 100 years old, but this one, obviously, has more name recognition, thanks to the classic, “The Wizard of Oz”.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” is a prequel to that movie, as it tells the tale of what happened when the wizard first got to Oz and it describes the adventures he had. Oscar (James Franco) or Oz, which is his stage name, is a magician in a traveling circus. However, he’s more of a con artist and womanizer than anything else. When he crosses the circus strong man, he tries to make a daring escape in a balloon, only to be swooped away in a tornado.
He finds himself in the land of Oz and quickly finds out that a prophecy foretold of his coming, as told to him by Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis). Seeing how the prophecy would make him ruler of the land and possessor of all the gold that comes with that title, he is quite happy to take the job. There is one catch; he must kill the Wicked Witch who killed the former ruler of the land.
Sam Raimi directed “Oz the Great and Powerful” and he has created a visually stunning motion picture. The Land of Oz never looked so beautiful. The 3D effects are even more spectacular. Would you expect anything less from the man who brought us the original Spider-Man trilogy? Not only do the shots of Oz in 3D make you feel like you are there, the director throws so many objects off the screen from snowflakes to spears, it will make you feel like you must duck out of the their way or one might actually hit you.
Unfortunately, this is where the praise ends for “Oz the Great and Powerful”. There is very little dynamic between the characters and, consequently, the audience does not have much of a connection with them. The action most likely took place in front of a green screen, yet the actors seem overwhelmed by their surroundings and end up turning in performances that are beneath them. James Franco and Michelle Williams (Glinda) have both been nominated for Oscars. Mila Kunis has been nominated for a Golden Globe in the past and is one of the hottest actresses around today. Finally, Rachel Weisz, who plays the witch Evanora, has won an Oscar, yet none of them delivers anything memorable outside of being over the top from time to time. The one performance that steals the movie is Zach Braff who plays Finley.
The special effects are great; however, not throughout the picture. Sometimes the things and creatures the wizard encounters look like animated cartoons. Think of the cartoon world Mary Poppins inhabits when she jumps into the chalk picture and you’ll get the idea. You would think Sam Raimi would never let something like that slip by, but maybe he did not have as much control as he usually enjoys on a movie.
The final climax in “Oz the Great and Powerful”, without giving away any spoilers, is good, but not great. It certainly sets up the coming events in “The Wizard of Oz” fairly well. The scenes leading up to the climax, which should be building up excitement for the movie audience, doesn’t deliver the way the filmmakers intended. The advanced screening that happened in West Palm Beach was not even sold out. Afterwards, many audience members said they really liked the movie, but it sounded more like they were trying to convince themselves of that fact.
“Oz the Great and Powerful” SHOULD be a big hit for Disney this weekend. It is rated PG, so the whole family can enjoy it. The flying baboons are a little scary, but most kids should be able to handle them. Plus, given how amazing the movie looks throughout, it may be enough to entertain the masses. Paying the extra admission to see it in 3D is worth it and recommended.