It may not be all that powerful of a film, but it sure is great! Oz: The Great and Powerful was much better than I expected it to be. I walked in fearing another Alice in Wonderland, and I got something far far superior to that dreadful film.
James Franco is surprisingly great (no pun intended. He is nowhere near as flat and smirky as you would expect) in the role of Oscar the wizard, Zach Braff brings some humor to the film as Oscar’s lovable flying monkey sidekick (another fantastic performance), Joey King is superb, adorable and sad as China Doll (one of the best characters in the film), and Michelle Williams makes for a perfect Glinda (not to mention she’s also the hottest witch you’ll probably ever lay eyes on). Mila Kunis as Theodora/The Wicked Witch of the West is just ok…..she sure is easy on the eyes (especially when she lets her hair down in one scene; talk about classic beauty…my heart just about dropped into my stomach). Kunis does a great job in the role of the naive and innocent Theodora, and I certainly felt for her plight when she makes her transformation, but she just isn’t believable as the Wicked Witch of the West….just isn’t menacing or evil enough. She resembles more of a kid throwing a tantrum than anything else. Rachel Weisz is also pretty and fine as Evanora, The Wicked Witch of the East; she does a fine job in the role but isn’t as memorable as others.
Oz pays homage to the original classic, and it is indeed set in the Oz we all grew up with, but the film expands that world and shows us new and beautiful areas we have never seen before (without ever coming across as over-indulgent). It’s the same old Oz, just slightly larger (be sure to keep an eye out for a cameo by what may be the Cowardly lion, poppies, red sand, flying monkeys….and boy are they terrifying here. I’m so happy they were able to make them scary again, the Emerald city, the Yellow Brick Road, a certain recognizable magic trick, and many many more!).
The 3-D also enhances the film here, giving us a better window into the world of Oz. Oz is certainly one of the best prequels I’ve seen in a while; this film fits seamlessly into the world of Oz. The team that worked on the film clearly had a passion and love for the original classic, and they wanted to pay reverence to that world while making the best film they could, and they succeeded brilliantly. The story makes sense and paves the way to the original quite nicely.
Oz is a classic summer fantasy tentpole, just like they used to make them. It bears more in common with it’s classic predecessor than you would think (both are indeed built from the same mold). You’ll laugh, you’ll gawk, you may jump, you could even shed a few tears. Finally, after all these years we get to return to Oz…..may there be many more return trips. Tim Burton, eat your heart out.
~ Daniel “Smalls” Huffman