Oz the Great and Powerful

20 Jul

Oz the Geat and Powerful

 

Director: Sam Raimi

Writers: Mitchell Kapner (screenplay), David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)

Stars: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Runtime: 130 minutes

 

Are witches the new vampires? Certainly something wicked this way comes. There is Glinda the good witch, Evanora the bad one and Theodora the confused one. There are also munchkins, tinkers, an Emerald City and a yellow brick road. Yes, we are back in the Land of Oz. Almost 75 years after Judy Garland donned those ruby slippers, we are back. This time Sam (The Evil Dead) Raimi is in charge and he has assembled a quartet of good-looking young actors to dust off the old magic.

The opening credits could be 75 years old and the early black & white scenes of a Kansas travelling circus are shot in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. That’s a nod to the original film and Raimi has stated that Victor Fleming’s great work is his favourite film of all time. Raimi fought hard to get the director’s role on this and then spent more than 3 years working on it. It is a true labour of love and you can see that as Oz is conjured up beautifully. Once the hot air balloon leaves Kansas and lands in Oz, via a huge tornado, the audience is transported in every sense to a magical place.

Inside the errant balloon is small-time circus magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco). He is a hustler that gets by with quick words and quicker hands. On crashing in Oz he is met by Theodora (Mila Kunis), a pretty and naïve young witch whom Oscar labels an easy mark. He lets her believe that he is the foretold great wizard returning to becalm a divided Oz and to sit on the throne. He follows her to the Emerald City, via the yellow brick road of course, and therein meets Evanora (Rachel Weisz) – sister #2, another witch and far more worldly wise than Theodora.

The third sibling and witch is Glinda (Michelle Williams). Oscar is sent out to break her wand and power, but that plan goes off the rails when her goodness starts to rub off on him. Glinda sees something special in the pretend wizard. She introduces him to her community of misfits and outcasts and soon Oscar is whipping them into a band of heroes. Together they head back to the Emerald City to banish Evanora and the newly green & mean Theodora.

Raimi gives this everything and makes a decent fist of it. I wondered if Tim Burton might do a better job, but there is far more life and soul in this than Burton’s Wonka movie. The colours of Oz and the huge canvas are dazzling. Raimi cleverly combines an old-fashioned sense with modern CGI effects. What lets him down is the unexciting storyline and some muted performances. Franco is fine as the wannabe wizard and Williams shines as the good witch, but Kunis and Weisz lack oomph. Kunis when fully wicked, IE green, is simply not a patch on Margaret Hamilton from 1939.

This Oz revival is not a complete success, but it is a good family film. The backdrops are stunning and Franco and Williams are a good double act. As such this is worth a slow Sunday afternoon’s viewing, but unfortunately Raimi’s obvious passion has not fully translated to the screen.

2 Responses to “Oz the Great and Powerful”

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