Out of all of cinema’s most everlasting and iconic films throughout the last century, very few motion pictures have managed to create the magic and wonder that The Wizard of Oz has done for some many generations of film-lovers. So, when news broke that Sam Raimi, the director of the first Spider-Man trilogy, was set to direct a prequel to that fantastic film starring James Franco as Oz himself, it must have made many film-goers nervous as to how the film would eventually turn out.
Luckily, Raimi and Franco both do a solid job in Oz the Great and Powerful that it now seems that no such concerns were necessary. It is a good film that manages to satisfy both those viewers nostalgic about Victor Fleming’s classic and those looking for an entertaining special-effects carnival to wet their appetite before the summer blockbusters start their invasion.
Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful stars the aforementioned James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Zach Braff. It tells the story of Oz, a minor magician, who suddenly finds himself in a land full of wonder and surprise that makes him choose whether to be a good person or a great one. Oz the Great and Powerful is an action-adventure fantasy that runs for just over two hours.
The first aspect of the film that I would like to comment on is the acting. Starting with James Franco, he does a very solid job as the lead character Oz. As the man who has always done magic shows in secondary circus and carnival shows, Franco captures his character’s struggle for greatness perfectly. Oz is a man who is not satisfied with half measures or imitating the success of others. Rather, he is a man who is looking to be remembered forever. Franco continues with Oz the Great and Powerful to carry films on his shoulder and largely manages to distract the viewer from the film’s flaws. Simply put, he is one of the best things about this film.
There is also Mila Kunis who plays the kind and honest Theodora. Those who have read my review of 2012’s Ted would know that I am growing to appreciate Kunis’s acting talents and her work in Oz the Great and Powerful is yet another role of hers that I quite enjoy. Her character Theodora is a beautiful woman who falls in love but gets her heart broken pretty badly. It is that pain that transforms her into a totally evil creature who brings terror to all those around her. Overall, Kunis does a very good job with the role and is a stellar addition to this motion picture.
Playing the role of Evanora, Rachel Weisz is the third acting talent that the film enjoys having. Evanora is Theodora’s sister who manages to deceive all those around her as she unveils a diabolical plan to gain power over the wondrous land of Oz. I feel that Weisz is under-utilized in this film as the script could, and should, have given her a more wholesome role that a talented actress such as her deserves. Nevertheless, Weisz does the best she could with the limited role she is given. It is just a missed opportunity that the film’s creators should have paid more attention to, in my opinion.
Lastly, there is Michelle Williams who plays the beautiful and glittering Good Witch of the North, Glinda. Unlike Weisz, I think Williams is given a role that makes her shine. She is radiant and energetic in Oz the Great and Powerful. Her scenes with Franco’s Oz are especially memorable and both create believable and lovely chemistry onscreen. Williams completes a foursome of gifted actors who successfully manage to elevate what is a mediocre script in Oz the Great and Powerful.
Turning to the directing, Sam Raimi provides Oz the Great and Powerful with a lot of the stunning special-effects and dynamic visuals that he provided before in his Spider-Man films. In fact, at some moments, the use of the effects seems excessive and is only done to show it off without serving the plot or driving the story-line forward. This has always been my gripe with filmmakers who use special effects as the main element of their films rather than a strong story. I cannot say that Raimi has created a bad film but he could have made this a great motion picture had he given more attention to the unique story in his hands. In the end, Raimi creates an entertaining film that unfortunately falls short of greatness.
Making a prequel to such a beloved film classic is a challenge that Raimi does a decent job of overcoming. To be clear, he has not created a perfect film. What he has made, however, is a film that features four actors giving off noteworthy performances and awe-inspiring CGI effects that try to cover an average script. It is a shame that the writing is not as good as the other elements in Oz the Great and Powerful as I really feel this is a film that could have been much better than what it ends up being. If you are looking for a fun and enjoyable film to prepare yourself for the onslaught of summer films or a film that will remind you of the world of The Wizard of Oz then you will surely enjoy Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful.
MATM Rating: *** out of ****
- James Franco (as Oz)
- Mila Kunis (as Theodora)
2 hours and 10 minutes
Action / Adventure / Fantasy