Oz the Great and Powerful Review
Oz may be great and powerful, but his movie is mediocre and predictable.
It always annoys me when a movie comes out with a title that is so rife with pun possibilities and then absolutely refuses to bury the needle in either really good or really sucktastic. Movie title puns are worthless when the film is content to hover in the mediocre zone, and consequently makes my review that much harder to write.
As members of the movie going audience you and I should be grievously insulted by the lack of respect the studio is showing us in the development of the story for this film. They seem to think we are all knuckle dragging missing links who are easily entertained by pretty scenery and bright colors. Now while that may be true in my case I am insulted for you, my beloved and intelligent nerd reader. I think what we are seeing here is is another example of art being sold out in every way in favor of money. You see my lovelies more and more studios are unearthing vast piles of previously unclaimed cash in the form of foreign market ticket sales. The fact is movies that are pretty to look at but have stupid/simple stories are the ones that make the most money overseas and since a stupid script does not seem to inhibit sales domestically (opening weekend in the US this film cleared $80.3 million) why not write a story that would have a hard time competing against fan created Kirk/Spock slash porn?
In a perfect world this recipe would be self correcting as American audiences eventually figured out how dumb this stuff is and voted with their feet this plan and these films would eventually die on the vine, but thanks to all you knuckle dragging missing links feeding the Great Stupidity Beast with your wallets it seems to still be working.
Sigh. That was a little bitter even for me. I think I am just more burnt because I really wanted this film to be great. The trailers were awesome, the visuals I saw were amazing, and Sam Raime has done some great films in his day. Of course recently he did Spider-Man 3 featuring emo-Peter Parker, so maybe he has lost his touch. I guess I just need to wait until the home movie making technology catches up to the point that three art students and a nerd can create an amazing film in the nerd’s basement before the story bar gets raised up again. I’m just tired of movies with a $215 million budget (to any of my readers in Guinea your entire country’s GNP last year was $199,274,000) having a story that looks like it was written by three guys who failed out of clown collage (AKA USC).
Before I get into the story I’m also going to say this movie is a good example of failure via bad casting. I have nothing against James Franco. I thought he was great in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and really funny in Your Highness. Aside from the burning hatred of 10,000 suns I feel for all Hollywood pretty boys for their amazing lives I can’t really say much bad about him. However, I really think he was miscast as Oz in this film. He just doesn’t read as a powerful wizard or carnival con man. The only thing that struck me as real was his ability to hook up with every hot girl in the film, but even that felt out of character. He just feels too sincere for a charleton. I heard the original cast was for Robert Downey Jr., which in my opinion would have been much, much better.
The story. Oz the Great is a circus performer who uses cheap tricks to get every girl around him into bed (there’s the wholesome Disney we all look for in a family friendly film). While on the run from the Strong Man for hooking up with his wife he jumps into a hot air balloon and is caught up in a twister. He lands in the magical land of color (I mean Oz).
I have used the phrase deus ex machina in other reviews. Translated from Latin (I took three years of that in high school) it means “god from the machine” and when applied to stories it refers to the unexpected intervention of some higher power or events that had nothing to with the story so far to propel the plot. It is a lazy writers tool to get out of a corner and generally makes for a lame story as nothing ever gets resolved from the actions of the characters. To say that this movie had a lot of deus ex machine would be like saying that the people of the Soviet Union were somewhat influenced by the Communist Party (Hammer and Sickle image courtesy of the political t-shirt category). Oz is met by the witch Theadora (Mila Kunis-Ted, Friends with Benefits, Black Swan) who immediately tells him that there is a prophesy of a great wizard with the name of Oz will save the land from the wicked witch and become king.
This prophesy is known by pretty much everyone in the land and they all believe him to be the dude. On the way to the Emerald City he rescues a cute flying monkey from a cowardly lion (ugh. This film seriously labors under the burden of referencing everything possible from the original film) and gains a lifetime sidekick. He also manages to talk Theadora into a one night stand (Walt must be spinning in his grave). Once at the city he is told by the other witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz-the Brothers Bloom, the Mummy, the Bourne Legacy) that his quest is to kill the wicked witch Glinda (Michelle Williams-Shutter Island, My Week with Marilyn, Brokeback Mountain).
I hope you are all sitting for the shock I am about to lay on you (big spoiler alert in case you are brain damaged) but Glinda is actually the good witch and Evenora is the wicked one! After Glinda convinces Oz of this by the infallible logic of “Any woman as hot as I am who you have not already slept with must be right” he joins up with the good people of Oz in their fight against the wicked sisters. Theadora eats a bad apple and turns pretty gross looking. More DEM as it turns out that 1/3rd of the population of the land of Oz are skilled craftsmen who can make anything. Oz tries to chicken out but has a completely unexpected change of heart and they all work together to fool the witches that they are not completely defenseless.
The stars. The movie was very pretty, and some of the visuals fairly stunning. Two stars. The monkey and the little china girl were both really good side kicks. One star. None of the women were hard on the eyes, at least before they ate the apple. One star. The evil flying monkeys were kind of cool. One star. Total: five stars.
The black holes. The story was just dumb. Deus ex machina should only be used if you get into a corner. It should not be the main plot device propelling the story. Two black holes. James Franco was not a great choice for Oz IMO. One black hole. Believe it or not, a lot of the CGI look kind of crappy. Most of the big scenes looked like some artists dream job but when it came time for the CGI creatures to interact with the humans you could really see the difference. The whole thing reminded me strongly of Cool World. Also the 3D was extremely intrusive and at the same time unnecessary. Can we finally admit that it is a technology that no one cares about? One black hole. Total: four black holes.
One star total. Is it worth seeing? Sure, just like any number of more or less worthless Disney films are worth seeing. You won’t walk away with anything but at least it won’t diminish your life. Date movie? Yes, especially if she is a big Oz fan from childhood or is just easily entertained by giant colorful flowers. Bathroom break? There’s a scene towards the last 1/3rd where Oz has to tuck the china girl in bed that’s pretty unnecessary. Go for it.
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