The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Oz the Great & Powerful | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Oz the Great & Powerful

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, Joey King

A carnival trickster finds himself transported to a strange land ruled by a wicked witch.

In 1880 Kansas, Oz (Franco) performs magic tricks for a travelling circus but dreams of achieving greatness. When he escapes from an angry strongman, whose wife he has been romancing, in a hot-air balloon, he is caught in a violent storm. A tornado deposits him in a strange colorful land where he encounters the good witch Theodora. She informs him of a prophecy which predicts the arrival of a wizard who will free the land from the tyranny of the wicked witch Evanora (Weisz). Seduced by the stock-pile of gold on offer, Oz accepts the challenge of killing the witch. On his journey, he meets, and grows to care for, the inhabitants of Oz.
With its magical land full of witches and strange creatures, it was only a matter of time before Frank L. Baum's world of Oz would be tapped to fill the fantasy void left behind by 'Harry Potter'. The 1939 'Wizard of Oz' is considered too sacred for a straight remake so instead we get a prequel which takes the shape of an origin story for the titular character. Whenever we get a remake or prequel now, we always hear the same tired lines about how it's a completely separate entity from the original. Raimi's film is unabashedly influenced by Victor Fleming's masterpiece and, while this is commendable, it's also the movie's main downfall.
Raimi sets himself the unenviable task of balancing respect for a universally loved piece of classic cinema with the needs of a smart-ass, post-'Shrek' modern audience. When he gets the former right, it just serves to highlight the cynicism of of the latter. Like Fleming's film, Raimi's begins with a black-and-white prologue in Kansas, switching to color upon arrival in Oz. One of the first ever technicolor movies, this switch provoked a sense of wonder in the original film. The opposite is true here, with the nostalgic charm of the monochrome opening giving way to a cheap looking computer generated Oz. Far from feeling any sense of wonder, we sigh as we're reminded of the soul-less age of children's entertainment we now live in. 
With the 1939 classic's song numbers replaced by endless bland dialogue, 'Oz' resembles the dull plot bits of a classic musical. The story itself is difficult to engage with as you never feel the heroes are in any kind of peril. Goodness is better than greatness, the film strives to teach us. Unfortunately, modern audiences seem happy to settle for okay-ness.