Sunday 10 March 2013

Film Review: Oz - The Great and Powerful

We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz in this enchanting Disney adventure by Sam Raimi, director of the Spiderman trilogy. 

Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a womanising and manipulative magician whose travelling circus act fails to win over audiences when they discover his on-stage antics are simply an illusion. After fleeing from a fight with a disgruntled partner of an ex-lover in his hot-air balloon, Oscar finds himself whisked away to a far off land through a ferocious twister.

He wakes up to find himself surrounded by sprites, munchkins and monkeys that can fly. This is Oz, home to a terrific trifecta of witches; the naive Theodora (Mila Kunis), the vampish Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and the wholesome Glinda (Michelle Williams).

In paying homage to the 1939 original, director Sam Raimi is treading on thin ice. Few films are as cherished and unblemished as The Wizard of Oz; ruining such a classic would be sacrilege as well as career suicide for all of those involved. Fortunately, Oz - The Great and Powerful is not a disaster at all, albeit not an wholly successful venture.

First off, James Franco is a little sketchy in the lead role; he starts off all swagger and charm as the womanising circus magician who finds himself proclaimed king and saviour of a kingdom. He's a charming but unlikeable character; it's hard to side with him as he sweeps Mila Kunis' Theodora off her feet only to leave her behind without a backward glance.

He's also a little shaky in the film's final third when Oz (as his friends know him by) is thrust to foreground of a battle to retake Emerald City from the Wicked Witches. Franco's highpoint are his scenes with Finley (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King) which were both touching and funny.

The film's main strong point is its three leading ladies, Kunis, Weisz and Williams. Each have their moments to shine and neither disappoints. Kunis is, as always, attractive and likeable (at least until the halfway point), Weisz relishes her chance to get all mad-witch-bitch on our asses and Williams is enchanting as the Good Witch.

Raimi sets his targets firmly on the look and feel of Tim Burton's massively successful Alice in Wonderland by drenching Oz in luscious visuals that pop from the screen; the Emerald City looks like a fairytale Gotham whilst the cacophony of vivid reds, jades and yellows that adorn flowers, trees and brick roads alike are a real visual treat. It can feel a little CG heavy at times however, sequences like the one in the image above where Oz and Glinda travel by bubble looking a little too fantastical.

On the whole, Oz - The Great and Powerful is a good, but not great, family fantasy adventure that will draw younger audiences to the land of Oz for the first time. It's light and fresh take on the tale will fit right in with family audiences. It may not captivate older audiences that grew up with the original and only the test of time will show its true worth

I give Oz - The Great and Powerful: 5/10

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