Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – Film Review
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz
by Dan Berlinka
The jealously guarded copyright to the eternal original Wizard of Oz prevents any direct re-use of elements from Judy Garland’s trip to the Emerald City. But nonetheless Sam Raimi’s quasi-prequel Oz The Great and Powerful pays homage to the 1939 classic by echoing the shift from a black and white (academy ratio) opening to a gloriously saturated Technicolor vision of a land ‘over the rainbow’. Though this new Oz is in widescreen and has probably the most fun use of projectile hurling 3D I’ve seen in ages.
However, despite the hat tip to its ancestor, there’s enough going on here for this new adventure to stand as a film in its own right… But unfortunately one that is neither as great or as powerful as its title claims. James Franco’s huckster is a potentially interesting and surprising lead, insofar as (for much of the movie) he’s more conman than hero.
“Pure spectacle is entrancing”
But there seems to have been a loss of nerve, because his selfish and cowardly qualities are buried under a succession of treacly scenes filled with speeches about belief and having faith. While Franco’s unusually limited performance reduces any moral ambiguity to little more than a cocky grin.
None of the characters have really clear goals (beyond a generic battle between good and evil). This leaves the narrative muddied and nowhere nearly as involving as it should be. And at over two hours long, the story feels slack. With the unnecessarily generous running time dissipating the few moments of danger and tension.
Kids will most likely still enjoy it. The pure spectacle is entrancing if you’re in the right mood. Indeed, the opening titles are beautiful in themselves. But much like Dorothy discovered all those years before, seeing the man behind the curtain ends up being a bit of a disappointment.