First, I would like to apologize to Sam Raimi and the entire state of Kansas (holla) for what I’m about to say about Oz the Great and Powerful. This prequel isn’t an awful movie: there are some truly amazing visuals going on here. But in all honesty, I don’t know if I would call this a movie all. It’s just one big set up after set up after set up with no real story arc or point at all.
It doesn’t start off that bad. I enjoyed the first 20 minutes or so, which is shot all in black and white. It was simple and charming and actually interesting. By the time James Franco, who seems checked out and dead-eyed in this movie as Oz, makes it to Oz (can it be called Oz if he just arrived in Oz?), everything seems so rushed and inauthentic that I just didn’t care anymore.
Oz immediately meets Theodora the witch (played by Mila Kunis) and spend one minute around a campfire together before, apparently, they fall madly in love with each other, or at least her with him. The whole movie hinges on this romance and the (SPOILER ALERT) fallout from this romance, but never bought. Maybe I would have if Franco had the effervescent personality that Oz supposedly has.
Now about those visuals. Yes, some of the landscapes of Oz look amazing in 3D. But Raimi seems so set on using CGI for every landscape possible that, after a while, everything seems insincere and fake. This becomes clear during an absurd chase sequence that involves flying baboons, cliffs that are straight out of a Dr. Seuss story and magical bubbles. Some of Raimi‘s trademark dark humor and horror elements briefly make an appearance, but he seems so obsessed with 3D CGI visuals here that it gets lost, leaving no real layers or complexity at all. The movie left me longing for the still amazing sets of the 1939 original.
The one person who seems 100 percent committed here is Michelle Williams, playing the angelic Glinda. She really is wonderful and you can’t help but smile when she’s on screen.
In an age when there’s Wicked: The Novel, Wicked: The Musical, Wicked: The Movie (in development), The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and Dorothy of Oz, the biggest question I had when leaving this movie was “why?”
I’m all for a fun fantasy adventure set in the land of Oz, but not when it’s handled like this. I think I’m going to go watch Drag Me to Hell now.