One of the biggest problems Oz : The Great and Powerful has, is that by title and storyline alone, it will be compared to one of the greatest movies ever made. But by the same comparison, there was this amazing wonderment, this truly odd sensation of ‘look at how far we’ve come’ that started seconds into the opening credits. At the IMAX, in 3D, this movie looked incredible, and visually, it never failed to deliver. Every opportunity was taken to delight the senses without overdoing the effect. There was just the right number of sweeping landscapes, floating glowies and duck-worthy projectiles, and a perfectly tolerable set of CGI companions. Director Sam Raimi did a very nice job of making this a well-balanced movie in that respect.
The problem here was story, and to be honest, it wasn’t a bad story. It was just too bland and mediocre to compete with its lavish production. Casting wise, the actors were like beautiful stick figures. I liked James Franco as Oscar ‘Oz’ Diggs, but his performance felt so tight to me, for what could have been a really fun persona. Everything he said and did seemed mechanical and scripted. He was missing that unbridled state this character so sorely begged for. Maybe I’m spoiled by the likes of Johnny Depp, but hey, there’s a reason that guy’s a fan favorite. Mila Kunis was like a bad joke version of the ‘overly attached girlfriend,’ although I have to say, towards the movie’s end, she made an excellent witch. I almost wish she had been this character from the start. It would have made the twenty minutes after Franco arrived in OZ less boring. Michelle Williams, as Glinda, was lovely and sweet, but she sounded like she’d downed a few dozen valiums before filming. By comparison, Billie Burk, the original Glinda, completely and memorably lit up the screen while speaking with the over-the-top flair of a manners instructor in finishing school, just proving delivery does make a difference.
I did like the campy transition from black and white to color, and the use of primary characters in both worlds, but unlike the original movie, we never pop back to that reality, and it’s not quite the same effect. The little stories, the girl in the wheel chair, the old flame who is getting married, those stories never go full loop, and so, in the end, it feels unfinished. Even my mother mentioned she felt it was missing something at the end, and I knew exactly what it was. Outside of him doing his wizardly job, we never really get resolution. He hands out gifts at the end in the same way he does in the original, but for some reason, its in part to bit actors we don’t care about, and the rest of them kind of get nothing.
I can say Oz : The Great and Powerful was an entertaining enough movie in spots to make it worth the admission, but only if you see it in 3D. Otherwise, both you and your kids will start dozing right about the time you reach the Emerald City, and it won’t be because you traipsed over a field of poppies.