Oz the Great and Powerful is a fine piece of film making with Raimi and company doing a fine job at least tying it with The Wizard of Oz, although a side effect being, similar to the Star Wars prequels, you kind of delude the mystery of the Wizard by revealing it in a prequel. Even so, though, it’s an enjoyable and entertaining film that doesn’t quite hit its mark yet still passed the time nicely.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure
Disney | PG – 130 min. – $44.99 | June 11, 2013
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Writer(s): L. Frank Baum (works); Mitchell Kapner (screen story), Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire (screenplay)
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox
Theatrical Release Date: March 8, 2013
Features: Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 41.5 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Note: This review, and screen captures on the second page, contains spoilers about the plot, so be warned.
Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful is the latest project attempting to latch on to established property and placing a twist on a well known subject. Oz is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, at least in book form if not the movie as well, and on many fronts the film works but on one key element, it falls short of greatness.
The story opens in a full frame, black and white sequence where we meet magician/conman Oscar Diggs (JAMES FRANCO) who works for small change in a traveling circus, along with his assistant (ZACH BRAFF), and places the moves on his latest beauty stage hand, May (ABIGAIL SPENCER). After an unsuccessful, and frankly uncomfortable, performance where a girl in a wheelchair (JOEY KING) wants him to cure her and make her walk, Oscar returns to his trailer. His longtime sweetheart (MICHELLE WILLIAMS), and perhaps only woman he cares for, drops by with the news another man has proposed to her and has obviously come to find out if there’s a future between her and Oscar. Humiliated with his status as a low-rent magician, he tells her she should marry this other man.
Before the two can say their goodbyes, Oscar’s philandering ways get him in trouble as the assistant he was wooing was already spoken for by a heavy weight lifter who wants blood. Oscar manages to escape on a hot air balloon before getting swept up in a tornado and landing on the other side crashing into the Land of Oz where he meets the lovely Theodora (MILA KUNIS), a good witch in the land who helps guide Oscar believing he is the Great Wizard she and the others in the land have been waiting for to save them. As they journey along, coming across the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying beasts, Oscar rescues Finley the Monkey (voiced by Braff) from a ferocious lion and now Finley is debt to his savior.
Now the trio find their way to the castle where Oscar is greeted like a god but, as he confided in Finley who is committed to serving him, he knows he is a fraud and not this great Wizard the people want to need. However, greed gets the best of Oscar seeing the massive castle, the swarms of people who love him and the almost infinite amount of gold in their vault, so he keeps up the rouse. While Theodora is enamored, even in love, with Oscar, her sister Evanora (RACHEL WEISZ) – also a witch – isn’t so convinced. So Evanora manipulates Oscar to prove himself by killing the Wicked Witch of the West who resides in the dark forests.
So believing it shouldn’t be too difficult, Oscar and Finley take the journey encountering a rubble following an attack by the Wicked Witch’s minions and inside a teapot, a China Girl (voiced by JOEY KING) whose legs had been broken so using glue, manages to fix them. Now we get a conman, monkey and a China girl taking the trip where the eventually encounter who they thought was the Wicked Witch but instead it is Glinda (MICHELLE WILLIAMS again) yet ANOTHER witch! Through some exposition we find that Glinda’s father once ruled the land but was slained by the Wicked Witch. Being the ladies’ man he is, Oscar manages to woo Glinda as well much to the displeasure of Theodora who sees the events as they unfold through Theodora’s crystal ball.
With Glinda at his side, and she knows Oscar is a fraud but doesn’t want the people to know as it would crush their spirit, they gather together to take back the land using a mishmash of people with various skills.
Oz the Great Powerful is hardly the perfect and even with impressive visual effects doesn’t quite distinguish itself from the numerous other adaptations and re-imaginations that have come down the pike over the last 50 years, and yet it’s certainly watchable combined with good performances from James Franco and Mila Kunis. The supporting players do an adequate, if not forgettable job. Michelle Williams is perfectly cast as the sweet witch and good love interest for Oscar; Rachel Weisz is adequate as the conniving witch though there’s not a whole more to her character; and Zach Braff, or more to the point his voice, provides some heart as well as levity.
Directed by Sam Raimi – director of The Evil Dead and producer of the remake – does a sufficient job, as he had with the first two Spider-Man movies (and to be fair, might’ve worked out if not saddled with Venom) showcasing the wonderment of the land and its people and yet when the movie was over, I didn’t get much more than 2-hours of escapist entertainment. This also is not a movie that really stuck with me either: writing this review a day later, I can’t honestly state anything that really stood out. Sure, I remember the CGI was good and the performances were mostly solid, but otherwise it’s not really a memorable film.
I’d also be should mention the score by Danny Elfman whom I normally am not a fan of since most of his scores, outside of maybe Batman and Batman Returns, blend together. However, with Oz, he seems perfectly suited for the material and at least provides necessary a dash of whimsy.
All in all, Oz the Great and Powerful is an acceptable flick. The visual effects are, for the most part, top notch (the bubble part was a bit iffy) and the performances from Franco and Kunis are both great. It’s not a very memorable movie but a decent time waster that the entire family could watch.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside a Digital Copy download code. Otherwise, this is a barebones release.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Oz the Great and Powerful rides in presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a radiant 1080p high-definition transfer. The 3D presentation looks really good providing excellent depth especially during the Land of Oz portion where colors are still vibrant and come at you evenly. There are of course some what I’d call “in your face” shots but it’s not overused. 3D transfers aren’t always a given, compared with their 2D counterparts, but here, this one really works and from my reading, seems to be on par with what was shown in theaters.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The included 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is expansive through and through. In case you didn’t pay attention to the notice before the film began, the default setting is a Dolby Digital 2.0 so you’ll want to change it, via the Set Up menu, to the more appropriate 7.1 channel track. Back on topic, the lossless audio here is impressive showcasing many elements such as the roar of the monsters, the Wicked Witch of the West cackles and other bits which comes out of the rear channels. The center speaker is utilized for on-camera action or dialogue, either way the audio there is more than adequate.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful is a fine piece of filmmaking with Raimi and company doing a fine job at least tying it with The Wizard of Oz, although a side effect being, similar to the Star Wars prequels, you kind of delude the mystery of the Wizard by revealing it in a prequel. Even so, though, it’s an enjoyable and entertaining film that doesn’t quite hit its mark yet still passed the time nicely. The Blu-ray offered here has excellent audio and video transfers but being featureless, not of great value.