When Oz is transported to a magical land and mistaken for a great wizard, he doesn’t correct that assumption. Can he pull of the greatest con of his life and save the Land of Oz?
Oz (James Franco) is a bit of a lost cause – he chases women like cats chase mice, and treats people with little respect. While he enjoys magic, even that is losing it’s allure. After a disastrous day where everything that can go wrong does (including his true love becoming engaged to someone else), things get decidedly worse. A tornado rips through countryside, and Oz is taken into the clouds.
When Oz comes to he is in The Land of Oz – a land of colour, beauty, wonder and magic. However, Oz is also threatened by a great darkness – the wicked witch is on the war path, and seeks only destruction and death. Oz is discovered by Theodora the Good (Mila Kunis) who promptly tells him he is the great wizard the people have been waiting for and a prophecy telling of the great wizard’s defeat of the wicked witch. Oz knows he isn’t this wizard (he’s barely a two coin magician), but he doesn’t correct Theodora. How hard could being a wizard be anyhow?
It turns out the answer to the above question is quite hard. Theodora isn’t exactly the good witch she appears to be, and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is not the protector of the kingdom that she sells herself as. With the help of Glinda (Michelle Williams) Oz learns that he can help the people of the land, and for the first time in his life he genuinely wants to do something selfless. He may not be the powerful wizard that Oz needs, but if he can make them believe that he is, it might just be enough to defeat the evil, and reclaim Oz for it’s people.
While Oz: The Great and Powerful pays homage to the work which it is derived from, it is a wholly different adventure. This is Oz, the wizard’s story, and James Franco does a great job at carrying this film. His charm and cocky attitude [which I usually find annoying] works well in this film, as he is forced to politely lie and muddle his way through the adventure. I really enjoyed the fact the the film contained many nods to The Wizard of Oz, without it feeling forced or taking away from the story at hand – these are sweet moments for those with a fondness for the childhood classic.
The film starts off in black & white as we are introduced to Oz’s life as a magician in a travelling carnival. Colour only enters the world when Oz is transported to the magical land; and when he gets there, it certainly does pop. The visuals here are for the most part stunning – magical creatures, lush tropical plants and fantastical cities fill the world. Apart from there being a touch too much green-screening at times, there are only positives here. I was particularly impressed with some of the photography in the film – we were at times offered quite unique perspectives on events such as seeing the world from the eyes of the terrifying snapping plants, and tumbling through the sky while the tornado roared ferociously.
Michelle Williams is perfectly cast as the angelic good witch Glinda – her kind eyes and soft voice instantly charm our hero, and the two work well together. I loved the fragile china girl (voiced by Joey King) – she had a lot of heart and spunk, and often bought Oz back down to earth when he began to get carried away or forget his mission. Unfortunately one performance almost ruins parts of the film, and that is the performance of Mila Kunis. For sure, her character is poorly written and given the cheesiest and worst dialogue, but she does nothing to elevate her character above it. She has zero on-screen presence, and every line she utters falls flat.
Thankfully the magic of Oz is strong in this film, and overcomes Kunis’s performance and the at times groan-inducing dialogue. I enjoyed returning to Oz – it was an enchanting and entertaining adventure.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer(s): Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zac Braff, Mila Kunis
Runtime: 130 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: March 7 2013; USA: March 8 2013