I’ve been busy for six months (and a little lazy), hence why I have not written anything on this blog, but now I am back. It has been an interesting six months, I went to Berlin where I got lost three times, went to the most dodgy nightclub I’ve ever been too and threw up on a night out, and of course continued drinking which must have came off as very attractive to the girl I fancied. I’ll humiliated myself after drinking for Dutch Courage, only problem is I drank too much and became a Dutch dickhead and then had a little cry after the humiliation (this of course was further humiliation). Anyway whilst I was making an utter cock of myself by being completely inept (I also insulted her taste in films by mentioning how I despise romantic comedies), a drunk and frankly boarder line paraniod psychotic, I was writing up my dissertation on Film Propaganda during the Second World War. It turned out to be not quite as good as I expected it to be (so I won’t put it up on here), but 2:1 overall is perfectly acceptable. Anyway, the story doesn’t end there…but it will for now because I want it to. Anyway on to the review, please note that I may be a little rusty. Six months is a looooooong time.
As to be expected Warner Bro’s set certain restrictions on Disney’s production of Oz the Great and Powerful, these restrictions include the ruby slippers, Theodora’s chin mole and the shade of green used for both the Emerald City and Theodora’s skin. However, the locations are recognizable enough and allusions are made that will bring back fine memories of growing up with the 1939 classic.
Set in Kansas 1905, Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the 1939 musical and it tells the origins story of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz known as Oscar Diggs (James Franco). Diggs is the magician of a travailing circus, a serial womaniser (or as much of a serial womaniser you can be in a PG), Oscar finds himself in the magical world of Oz (not New Zealand), via a hot air balloon (with the assistance of a tornado), after pissing off and escaping from a really big weightlifter. In Oz he is revered as the wizard to complete the prophecy and free Oz from the clutches of an evil witch.
Much like how the 1939 film opened up in black and white and then burst into glorious Technicolor once Dorothy reached the land of Oz (still a staggering moment of genius set design and wonderful colour), Sam Raimi’s 2013 prequel also bursts into colour once Oscar Diggs drops into the Land of Oz. A fitting tribute to the classic film perhaps but one that could have the impact of leaving the audience lustful for the classic itself (like how the recent Texas Chainsaw film reminded me how good the original was by showing clips from the original film), but thankfully this lust is not all that as Oz the Great and Powerful is a welcome distraction.
Oz the Great and Powerful starts off in a fitfully amusing fashion with Zach Braff (in a role not dissimilar to the one he played in the TV show Scrubs) providing much of the comedy in the film’s opening act. The comedy is of a slapstick element, buffoonish and pleasantly amusing. However, we are soon spun into the central story as a result of the convergence of warm air and cool air. Oscar Diggs’ arrival into the Oz is one of the film’s more visually spectacular moments, and because of the considerable advancement of technology since 1939 Sam Raimi and his special effects team could do things that were impossible 74 years ago, yet the 1939 was the film whose tornado sequence had the more powerful effect, the cackling of the witch at Dorothy’s bedroom window remains a haunting image. The prequel’s tornado sequence, whilst being visually extravagant lacks that memorable touch.
This seems to be the major issue with Oz the Great and Powerful, visually stunning, but not much of any considerable note in the way of depth. Yet the visuals go a long way in making Oz the Great and Powerful a worthwhile way to spend two hours. The GCI rendered landscape is spectacular; it bears a great resemblance to the recent Tim Burton films, such as the Disney produced Alice in Wonderland. The spectacularness of the scenery is slightly hampered by the occasional fake look of the film (more noticeable when characters are observed, via long shots, dashing through the GCI landscape, oddly enough Mia Kunis seems to look faker during these scenes than anybody else). Again in 2013 you could do things that filmmakers in 1939 only dared to dream, but that doesn’t make the landscapes any more special than those in the 1939 film.
Whilst there isn’t any depth of any considerable note there is a small element of charm and heart in the production, one genuinely moving scene is when Oscar fixes the little China girl’s legs. Furthermore, there is enough love expressed in Raimi’s film for the 1939 classic, so that the memory of the classic has not been tarnished by the prequel. The gleam of the Emerald City, the yellow brick road and references to the 1939 film (including the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion) brought audience members back to their childhood in which they grew up with such a film (it has been ten years since I’ve seen it and I have a great desire to see it again because of this film).
The performances across the board are not great, Michelle Williams is fine, but Rachel Weisz lacked the menace to be truly evil. Mia Kunis’ line delivery is far from perfect and James Franco (in particular) is the weakest of the performers. Robert Downey Jr (who was first offered the lead role) would have had the showmanship, which Franco lacked, to make the role of Oscar really work. However, that said Oz the Great and Powerful is good fun not anywhere near the quality of the original (who ever expected it to be?) but it just about manages to contain enough laughs and enough jumps (for the kids) to be an enjoyable two hours