Prior to seeing Oz the Great and Powerful today, I was aware that my favorite reviewer, Dana Stevens of Slate, had given it a terrible review. Her devastating headline: “No brain, no heart, no courage.” After seeing such a scathing (and effective!) headline, I decided not to read the rest of her review. Consequently, and probably for the better, I went into Oz with low expectations. I found that there were a lot of admirable pieces to movie, as well as some flaws that for the most part I was willing to overlook. On the whole I would say that the movie was on the low-mid range of entertaining.
Getting more specific, what I liked the least was director Sam Raimi’s choice to have a rather dull witch-on-witch battle scene during the film’s climax where they shoot magic streams at each other, essentially canceling each other out. Please, please, please directors and writers, choose some new novel way to show a battle between magic users instead! How many damn times did I have to see Harry Potter and his enemies shoot reciprocal magic streams at others? Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings? I’m sure you readers know the kind of scene I am talking about.
Can’t magic be more exciting in some way? Please filmmakers, don’t make another fantasy movie with this lame type of climax.
The other serious flaw in Oz the Great and Powerful was the lack of character development for all of the witches. This is a great example of what I describe as a “five minute movie.” If they had chosen to have five more minutes of character development for these characters, the movie would have been much much stronger. Great actresses were put to waste here as one-dimensional characters. But I will say Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams all looked really hot (but not hotter than my wife of course!). But thinking of my dear wife, where was the human eye candy for women? Certainly James Franco can’t fall into that category. Here in Oz he appears quite dishoveled, yet does have a pretty humorous set of sleazeball lines.
As a final criticism, the Emerald City CGI looked like sh*t. That was the best you could do? Really? The one in the original film looked better.
So here are some things I liked without giving too much away:
1. It’s well done how the film pays tribute to the original Wizard of Oz film and its structure, and yet finds the ability to add some new elements that expand the universe.
2. I like how the Wizard was a pretty unlikable guy. I know it would have been marketing poison, but a more serious film wherein he stayed selfish the whole time would have been more interesting. But still, they made a choice to make him kind of the anti-Dorothy which in some ways worked well for our more jaded modern society.
3. There were many strong visuals, and I actually thought the black and white introduction to the film was its strongest part. I kept wondering how the reviews could be so middling in the first 15 minutes as it got off to a fantastic start. This part had excellent character development, pacing, and storytelling.
4. Other than the witch-on-witch battle part, I thought that the writing for the climax was a clever aspect to the “origin story” of how the wizard came to occupy the Emerald City.
Ultimately I think that this movie will make a lot of money and that there will be people who like it, but that it will also be shortly forgotten. A sequel would seem foolhardy for obvious reasons, but that’s never stopped anybody.