The only thing “great and powerful” about the new Oz film is the trailer. The fast-paced and exciting preview will make anyone familiar with L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (or the 1939 movie) want to watch this movie – and who wouldn’t? Everyone loves this whimsical tale, including me. The story is cinematic gold – and one would expect Disney to put a little more effort into a movie they know everyone will want to see. The story is so popular that it has spurred the creation of Gregory Maguire’s popular quartet of novels: The Wicked Years and the Broadway musical Wicked. Based on my opinion of the original movie and the aforementioned books and musical, my hopes were sky high for the new movie Oz: The Great and Powerful.
Oz: The Great and Powerful begins in black and white – just like the original Oz movie. This was a cute throwback aimed at introducing Oz (James Franco) and presenting his back story as a sleazy carnival magician. However, this colorless intro was a little too long for my liking. We finally see Oz swept away in the predictable Kansas tornado after which he lands in the magical and colorful Land of Oz. I was expecting Avatar-quality cinematography during this part of the movie but was sorely disappointed – at least there were some interesting bell-flowers and butterflies. Perhaps this part – and the entire movie, come to think of it – would have been more visually stimulating and thus more enjoyable if I had seen it in 3D.
It’s time to introduce Theodora (Mila Kunis), who just so happens to be standing on the riverbank when Oz’s hot air balloon crash lands. I’ll give it to her – she’s absolutely stunning. But the incredibly large hat she wears and her bad acting ruined it for me. Bad acting seemed to be an epidemic in this movie, one from which James Franco suffered greatly. A huge plot device in this film is that every woman who meets Oz is captivated by him. This wouldn’t have been a problem if they had used an incredibly attractive actor … but James Franco? His character was very “eh” to me. He seemed stuck somewhere between “sleazy con artist” and “dashing womanizing magician” – but failed to accurately portray either.
Rachel Weisz (playing Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East) did a decent job – especially considering the role she had to work with.
One of my friends perfectly described the relationship between the film and the actors: it felt like the movie was moving forward and the actors were being dragged along with it, hardly able to keep up.
I want to take a moment now to discuss a blatant plot hole. First off, Evanora has supposedly tricked everyone – including her very naïve sister – into thinking she is a good witch and that the flying baboons everyone knows are evil (the baboons are actually pretty badass) belong to the witch Glenda. So why doesn’t anyone notice that Evanora keeps her flying primates corralled inside the Emerald City? Near the movie’s end, all of the baboons end up falling prey to the deadly poppy fields just outside the city gates. What I want to know is how the baboons are removed from the field. Or maybe they stay there forever, only to rot away before Dorothy comes along?
Back to Evanora’s sister, Theodora. I’m not even going to comment on the name Theodora…
Anyway, Theodora is supposed to be incredibly innocent – apparently she’s never been on a date, danced, or kissed a man … which I’m assuming is why she immediately falls in love with “the wizard” after he asks her to dance. But I simply do not believe that the amazingly sexy Theodora – and in those black pants! – has never been approached by a man. Another issue I have with Theodora is that her tears are so hot they burn her face – but if this happens every time she cries, why isn’t her face considerably scarred?
My next complaint involves color. Everyone knows the Wicked Witch of the West is associated with the color green. So why is Theodora – who ends up becoming the Wicked Witch of the West – dressed in red throughout the movie? She also has the power to conjure fireballs (red fireballs). Her steamy tears are another reference to heat/fire/the color red.
It is instead Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East – who ends up wearing those famous ruby slippers – wearing green throughout the movie. Her magic is in the form of green lightning.
If there would have been a role-reversal between the two sisters, I would understand the color scheme … but they both turn out to be evil.
I just realized that I forgot to mention the good witch Glenda (Michelle Williams). Perhaps the reason I forgot to mention her is because she simply doesn’t do anything memorable. She has blonde hair, is about as pretty a girl as is acceptable for Franco’s character, and is capable of only one facial expression.
The movie takes a surprising turn when Evanora (via a Snow White-esque apple) transforms Theodora into an exaggerated version of the Wicked Witch of the West. She now “flies” across short distances instead of walking, can fast travel in a fireball, and looks like an animated character. Oh, and let’s not forget that her characteristic broomstick emits a thick black smoke.
After dragging on for far too long, the movie culminates in a “war” between the peace-loving munchkin folk (led by Oz) and the wicked witch sisters. The “good side” wins, of course, in no small part due to some clever “smoke and mirror” tactics orchestrated by the “wizard” and his friends.
Oz banishes the Wicked Witch of the West from the Emerald City and Glenda all but destroys Evanora. I have to wonder, though – does Theodora return to Oz to kidnap Finley and from him create her race of evil flying monkeys that will go on to torment Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow?
If you find yourself tempted to follow the yellow brick road into your nearest movie theatre, do yourself a favor and see something other than Oz: The Great and Powerful.