Sunday, March 24, 2013

My review of Oz the Great and Powerful

Well, I finally got around to watching Oz the Great and Powerful. It was visually stunning, I'll grant that. But I can't really say I liked it.

The opening black & white sequence is supposed to introduce us to Oscar Diggs back home in Kansas, a con man and philanderer. We are also introduced to the actors who will be portraying CG characters later. Zach Braff is in there a lot, while Joey King only gets a brief moment. She could have used more development, as her one line as a human seemed kind of random to me.

I don't know if this makes James Franco a good actor or a bad actor, but I found it hard to dislike him. He struck me less as a conniving con artist than as a politician who believes everything he says, at least for the moment he says it.

Once he arrives in Oz, his adventures mirror Dorothy's fairly closely. The first person he meets is a good witch then he goes to the Emerald City but can only get what he wants once he kills a Wicked Witch. Even the Dark Forest scene is reminiscent of the forbidding domain of the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic movie.

Then we get to the first big plot twist. This Wicked Witch is revealed to be a hot blonde named Glinda. And partly because she's hot and partly because we in the audience all know who it is, she survives the encounter and the plot then becomes one of the fairly standard Hollywood plots: Unlikely hero must learn to face his destiny.

One of the big conceits of the film is that the Wizard's prestidigitation wins out over real magic. And looking at how the magic is presented, it's not that hard. Because most of the magic that the witches use in the film is either zapping something with some kind of energy and flying. Which means that the Wizard's illusions automatically win because they cannot be blasted or flown at.

A couple of characters and their abilities were presented inconsistently in the film. Just about everyone who has seen the movie noticed that Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West will sometimes fly with a prop (bubble or broom) and sometimes without, with no real reason given. But also we have a very touching scene with the Wizard helping the China Girl get ready for bed (implying that she does sleep) while a later scene has her walking around the Poppy Field with no effect at all.

Finley and the China Girl (who gets no name beyond that) were overall fun characters, but were not really part of the story. Finley seemed mostly there to provide Oscar Diggs with someone to explain things to. China Girl is there to be cute and fragile.

I was really disappointed with the Wicked Witch of the West once she finally appeared. They used a lot of prosthetics to change the shape of the actress' face and the end result only really worked from a couple of angles. While we do see her vulnerability to water, it's never explained. Is it a general witch thing, or just her? Because it's definitely not part of the Wicked Witch transformation.

It's a good mindless fun, but make sure you turn your brain off for the whole movie.

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