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Film Review: 'Oz The Great and Powerful'

Opened: 8 March 2013
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff.
Director: Sam Raimi
Producer: Joe Roth/Disney

Summer movie blockbuster season kicks off with this - Disney’s adaptation of one of L. Frank Baum's books which is set much before the 1939 loved classic MGM’s Wizard of Oz. It’s Disney’s second stab at the books – the earlier being the not so successful Return To Oz, which released way back in 1985 and fared poorly because its content was deemed too dark for children, especially when compared to the original 1939 version.

Mila Kunis and James Franco in Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful is set in 1905 and tells the story of  Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) a small-time circus magician and con artist in a traveling circus, and how a freak twister transports him in his hot air balloon to the mysterious and magical land of Oz. Here he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), who goes on to explain that he may be the legendary wizard, the focus of a prophecy which stated that a wizard would descend from the sky, free the land of Oz and go on to become its benevolent ruler. During their extremely brief encounter, she falls for him, but Oz who’s a womaniser at heart, isn’t too keen on her advances, and eventually sets his sights on Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams). Taking advantage of this situation, Theodora’s evil sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), manipulates the heartbroken, fragile witch turning her agains the object of her desire Oz. Together they wreak havoc on the innocent, peace loving residents of the land of Oz and it is left to Glinda and the womanizing con artist to try and save the day in an epic battle of wits, trickery and ultimately - courage.

Rachel Weisz in Oz The Great and Powerful

Sam Raimi, the director of some cult horror classics like the Evil Dead series, and the Spider-Man trilogy is an odd choice to direct Oz The Great and Powerful which is ultimately a children's film, but he’s more than up to the task and very nearly manages to pull it off, but not entirely. While it’s all neatly tied in with the books and the original 1939 classic, there are places where the film considerably drops in pace and begins to drag. Raimi however, makes up for any shortcomings in the spectacular mid air battles in the climax which keeps us begging for more.

This takes me nicely on to my next point. Unsurprisingly, both the special effects and 3D are nothing short of brilliant. It's pretty obvious that Disney have spared no expenses in this department, although, the sequences should have been properly placed throughout the film and not just left right till the climax, i.e. at the point at which most of the audience was beginning to get restless and itching for something substantial to happen.

James Franco and Michelle Williams in Oz The Great and Powerful

Where Oz The Great and Powerful does succeed is in its casting choices. Franco has a good mix of the smarminess and charm to pull of the title role and he ably succeeds in making his not so likeable character, well, likeable. Weiz does her best in a role which gives her very limited scope but she doesn’t quite pull off the menacing act as convincingly as say Charlize Theron did in last year’s Snow White and The Huntsman. Williams is perfectly cast as Glinda, she does well and looks like a dream. Zach Braff, too is good as the flying monkey Finnis. The masterstroke, however, comes in the form of casting Mila Kunis as the Wicked Witch of the West. On paper, its an unlikely choice to cast someone as stunning as Kunis in such an ugly, spiteful role, but Kunis scores. And how. It would be safe to say that she is the best thing in this film and I can’t wait to see more of her in the rumoured sequel.

Overall, Oz The Great and Powerful definitely has that wow factor, but it lacks the chutzpah and overall charm that till date makes the original Wizard of Oz the classic that it is. Smart casting choices, and some astounding effects mean that Oz The Great and Powerful is a promising start to the summer season, but it could have done with some tight editing. Admittedly, a part of me expected a wee bit more but overall this is still worth catching on the big screen and one of those films that makes proper use of the 3D format. I’m going with three stars - it's an entertaining film to say the least, even if a little inconsistent. 

View the trailer of Oz The Great and Powerful below.


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