Oz the Great and Powerful may not be a phenomenal film, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. If you’re a fan of the original Wizard of Oz (and really, who isn’t?) then it’s worth seeing. It has currently raked in $97.6 million at the domestic box office, and is has barely eked out a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a 62%. The film deserves a bit of a higher rating in my book, but 62% is usually worth seeing. Oz is also director Sam Raimi’s return to big budget Hollywood films after the disgrace that was Spider-Man 3 (2007) and the fan service of Drag Me to Hell (2009).
The carnival sideshow atmosphere of the film fits perfectly with Raimi’s whacky style. He manages to work in a few of his signature techniques, such as the sudden close up and camera tilt, but overall his touch seems light throughout the film. Raimi is known for his use of prosthetics and doing everything for real rather than opting for CGI. Oz, however, walks that fine line of overusing CGI and green screen. It oddly works in the farcical land of Oz though.
That being said, I wish I had seen the movie in 3D rather than 2D. The sequence when Oz first arrives in…Oz is magical. The frame widens out to the modern aspect ratio rather than the old-timey small frame used for the introduction, and the film shifts into brilliant color. This part finds Oz floating down a river in the basket of his hot air balloon as dripping water plays music in the plants around him. Danny Elfman composed the score, which heavily relies on the carnival vibe provided by the organ. It’s actually rather haunting.
Oz features a rather stellar cast. James Franco stars as Oz opposite three amazing actresses in Mila Kunis (Theodora), Rachel Weisz (Evanora), and Michelle Williams (Glinda). Surprisingly, Franco is the weakest in the cast which is unfortunate since he gets the most screen time. His toothy stoner grin is no longer refreshing, and no longer shows the promise of a young actor. Zach Braff rounds out the cast as Franco’s assistant and “trained monkey”. The real scene stealer is Joey King, who voices the China Doll. Her delicate performance as a girl made of porcelain is heart-wrenching.
So overall, I would recommend seeing Oz the Great and Powerful. It’s a fun trip down nostalgia road to revisit the land of Oz again. There are plenty of references to the original throughout as well. Be on the lookout for a lion that’s particularly easy to scare near the outset of Oz’s adventure in Oz. And of course, there’s a cameo from Bruce Campbell and his chin. I doubt you’ll be able to miss him even though he’s under a decent amount of prosthetics. I’ll only say that he comes just before the climax of the film.
In case you haven’t figured out, I’m a firm believer that Sam Raimi can do no wrong, Spider-Man 3 notwithstanding. And this film only made me more excited for the remake of The Evil Dead, the original being Raimi’s first film, opening on April 5th. Raimi was only involved as a Producer on the remake, but it still looks amazing. According to longtime Raimi producer Rob Tapert in an interview with IFC at SXSW Festival, “Evil Dead 4/Army of Darkness 2” is currently in pre-production. Here’s hoping we don’t become deadites before we get to see something new from the Evil Dead franchise.