Most of us know the story of The Wizard of Oz. It's a classic movie where a girl whose life is so dull it can only be seen in black and white enters a magical, colorful, land known as Oz. Once there, she sets out on a journey to meet the famous Wizard of Oz who lives in the Emerald City. He is a wizard who can grant you one wish if you so choose. Those who have seen the movie know that the wishes are not granted in the way one might expect. This new movie, Oz the Great and Powerful explores just how this wizard came to be in the land of Oz.
Nothing that happens in Oz the Great and Powerful couldn't have been guessed from seeing The Wizard of Oz. The movie, like The Wizard of Oz, starts out in black and white. This time the effect doesn't really have any meaning behind it other than to remind one of the original classic. The effect of entering Oz and suddenly being engulfed in color is not as effective the second time around. It's an inevitability that one waits for and greets with a light nod that it has indeed taken place.
This time in Oz, the focus is on three witches of which we had previously only really got to know two of in The Wizard of Oz. We know from The Wizard of Oz that there are a certain number of bad witches and a certain number of good witches so it is not very surprising to find out which witch is which in this scenario. Predictability once again ruins any momentum this movie may have had.
Basically, there is a prophecy in the land of Oz that a man, also named Oz, will defeat the wicked witch and take over the Emerald City. We know he must do this as we have seen him living in the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. What we don't know is how this man, played by James Franco, can possibly defeat the wicked witch when he himself is not truly a wizard, but a carnival magician. Actually, we know exactly how to defeat the wicked witch from watching The Wizard of Oz and know that it in fact would be very easy for Oz, or anyone in the land of Oz, really, to defeat the witch if only they knew how.
So the story is never really all that exciting for we already know much of what is going to take place. That leaves the performances of the actors and the overall direction of the film to really sell the story and make us care about what is going on. The direction is typical Sam Raimi. Fans of his work will notice many similar shots to ones from his other films. He does add a little bit of a scare factor into the movie that otherwise would not be there. Really though, his direction is as predictable as the plot of the movie. It's nothing we haven't seen from him before and seen better. So, with bland direction we are then left only with performances to elevate the film from being a complete dud.
James Franco, as the lead, is quite charming and hilarious in his role. There is also a sexual chemistry he has with the actresses in this film that is not expected and totally welcome. He does a fine job as the titular character overall and helps make the movie much more bearable than it probably would be without his help. As for the witches, they vary in quality.
Rachel Weisz does a decent, but not extraordinary, job as Evanora. Mila Kunis fares worse as her sister Theodora. This may be my own personal problem, but at times I found it hard to separate her from her character Meg on the television show Family Guy. Particularly, in her moments of anger.
The one witch who really shines, however, is Glinda. We've seen her before in The Wizard of Oz played in a very cheesy and over the top way by Billie Burke. Here, played by Michelle Williams, she is the very embodiment of all that is good. I truly believed watching this that Glinda has never and could never do anything that wasn't in any way, shape, or form good. She is ever smiling, even when she is not so pleased. Michelle Williams never lets any ounce of anything that could ever be considered less than good into her performance. She is a true beauty to behold.
There are also a few computer generated friends who come along for the journey. One is a funny enough animal friend and the other is a literally little girl made out of china who handles the more dramatic side of things. The jokes get some good laughs here and there, but the dramatic side of things is a little too syrupy sweet for my tastes.
Overall, the performers offer a mixed bag ranging from wonderful to woeful that doesn't quite elevate the dull story at hand in Oz the Great and Powerful. The story, unlike The Wizard of Oz, leaves us with no message and the characters without anything truly learned. All this leaves a movie, that while at times entertains, to be a disappointment on the whole.