Friday, April 18, 2014

Oz: The Great & Powerful

Having wanted to see this one for quite some time, I was very happy to finally find the time to watch it last night.  I am a huge James Franco fan and it had some other fantastic actresses and voice actors as well.  The cinematography/CGI was beautifully done and I give the highest of honors to it.  The movie started out so beautifully and when OZ gets to Oz initially you feel like he may have made a wrong turn and ended up in Wonderland...  Unfortunately by the time he gets to the Emerald City things start to get weird.

Oz The Great and Powerful is about the Tale of Oz from the Wizard's point of view and is a prequel to he Wizard of Oz, and Return to Oz.  It was released in 2013 and directed by Sam Raimi.  The film is based on the Oz novels of L. Frank Baum and is supposed to be set at a time-frame 20 years previous to the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.  Oscar Diggs (otherwise known as Oz) is a struggling traveling magician who arrives in the Land of Oz in a similar fashion as Dorothy (by way of tornado) while riding in a hot air balloon.  Oscar finds himself recruited to restore order to Oz and in the middle of a three-way fight with powerful witches Theodora, Evanora & Glinda.

Despite mixed reviews it was considered a box office success with a general theatrical release date of March 8, 2013.  It grossed $493 million worldwide, $234 million in the US & Canada.  Oz is supposed to be dated in teh year 1905 (placing it 20 years before the original film The Wizard of Oz).

There are quite a few instances of paying homage to the original film in this one.  Such as the starting out of the film in Sepia and then fading into color once Oscar arrives in Oz.  Cameo appearances of characters in Kansas that are also characters in Oz.  Annie (when in Kansas) informs Oscar that she has been proposed to by a man name John Gale...  Possible relation to Dorothy Gale.  The rest you will have to view for yourself as they may present themselves as spoilers if you do not know the story.

There is quite an all-star cast in this movie as well to include

Oscar Diggs/Wizard of Oz: James Franco (Spider-Man franchise, 127 Hours, General Hospital)
Theodora: Mila Kunis (That 70s Show, Black Swan, Family Guy, Ted, Friends With Benefits)
Evanora: Rachel Weisz (Mummy franchise, Constantine, Constant Gardener, Agora)
Glina/Annie: Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn, Shutter Island, Dawson's Creek)
Frank/Finley: Zach Braff (Scrubs, The Last Kiss, Garden State, Chicken Little)
Also featuring Bill Cobbs, Joey King and Tony Cox)

The original Wizard of Oz was put out by MGM in 1939 as they had bought the rights to it first.  Walt Disney had always dreamed of working on an Oz film and later acquired rights to the remaining books of Oz, which lead him to start working on  The Rainbow Road to Oz with his Mousketeers.  Unfortunately he didn't like the way that it was going and didn't feel that it was worth of the Oz story and it wasn't until after his death that Return to Oz was released becoming a cult classic.

Initially Robert Downey, Jr was sought after as the role of Oz but once Sam Raimi was hired on and discovered the disinterest in the film by Downey they decided to look to Johnny Depp.  Depp declined due to his working on the Lone Ranger at the time and it wasn't until 5 months before filming began that James Franco was signed on for a 7 million dollar deal.  Franco & Raimi had previously worked together on the Spiderman franchise.  Art Director Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland) went with an art deco approach to the emerald city.  (This explains why the opening feels like Wonderland).  There were many artistic stipulation placed on this production to include the ruby slippers, the color of green of the original witches skin as well as the mole on her chin,  and they could not use a yellow brick swirl for Munchkinland.  This led to the green of the wicked witch being significantly darker, it has a special name but it could be a spoiler.

On March 7th, 2013, a sequel was confirmed.  Mila Kunis stated that all acting talent had already signed on for a sequel.  Sam Raimi was already made it known that a sequel would be directed by someone other than himself.  The sequel would reportedly NOT contain Dorothy and it was stated that 20 years between the prequel and the original allow for a lot to happen.

Overall I have to say that I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It was good, but not fantastic.  As I previously stated, it started out SO well with the lead up to Oz and then things started to get weird, there was a weird kind of love triangle interest int he beginning of meeting both witch sisters which was kind of left hanging in the air.  The movement of the witches was very irritating to me during battles, they were very jerky and much too fast and strange feeling.  Glinda didn't have the feel of being as good as you wanted her to be, I felt like she was more on par with the Wicked Glinda which was ok, but not expected.  Overall the story was really good when it flowed consistently, with the background of how the Wicked Witch came to be and with the Wizard of Oz.  However there were some seriously choppy parts that felt like things had been cut or taken out and then never smoothed over to make the movie flow as one.  I loved the use of the brain as opposed to magic and the belief in something to make something come to pass.  I also loved the costuming in the movies, some very awesome takes on witchy dresses and Oscar look svery dapper throughout in his suits.  It was a great backdrop as to how the Wizard became what we saw in the Wizard of Oz.  The scenes were very beautiful but the weird jerkiness and some of the witch battles that had some really tacky feeling CGI as well as choppy parts leave me with a 3.5 for this movie.  If you are a lover of Oz though it is definitely worth the watch...  but maybe not more than once.

If you would like to view the movie website you can go here: Oz The Great and Powerful

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