Oz: The Great and Powerful – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

ozOz: The Great and Powerful – 4/5 – Films of fantasy; as stated in a most recent review, these films can either expand the possibility of our imagination, or fall flat in translation.  At most, even when a movie is mediocre, you can still believe in the world created by the film’s characters, script and most of all, the director.  Visions come in many forms, and in this unique vision of ‘The Land of Oz,’ it is created in a very appealing but believable way.  Through the magic of CGI, basic script and ultimately, the eye of the director, Oz: The Great and Powerful is a delightful and beautiful film.  It is a film that will strike at the heart of all.

Premise: Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with a con-artist mentality, is hurled away by a tornado, from Kansas to the Land of Oz.  In his arrival, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot, believing fame and fortune has finally been blessed upon him.  All his dreams of glamor turns down a winding road when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who do not believe he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting.  Reluctantly, he is drawn into the problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, and must find out who is really good and who is really evil.  Putting his magical arts to use through illusion and ingenuity, Oscar learns that he is more than a con-artist, but a greater man he always dreams to be.

Through it all, the central figure of this movie is the ‘Wizard’ himself, Oz.  In the titular role, we have James Franco.  In this role, he gives a grandiose of a performance.  Through circumstance, we are given a general backdrop of his life in the beginning.  You find him to be a man full of goodness, but he relies heavily on tricks and cheating that, the complexion of a good man just is a dream with the ‘con artist’ he has created.  Once he gets whisked away to the Land of Oz, his own motives get questioned, and his ideals start to come forth from the blinds.  Through this, James provides someone with complexities, wits and also charm.  You see his arrogance in his ways, but also slight compassion when scenes come forth for it.  Through it all, you watch strong characterization, as you witness a moral dilemma through him, which causes the audience to believe and feel his pain.  Even though there is some bad in him, he is truly a good guy deep down.  This can come off cliché, but for this movie, it fits the bill.  When it comes to the three witches, they are played by Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.  They all provide different shades of emotions in the movie, as well as provide three different points of perspective in the Land of Oz.  They are not given the depth and ingenious feel like the Wizard Oz, but they provide thematic believability, and (in a good way) help moves the plot along in their stationary positions.  In a fantasy film, the shtick could be mundane, but through their great acting and simple dialogue, the three women provide unique takes on each of their witch characters.   You realize that they have an eye for the dramatic, as well as provide a fantastical feel, making you either love or hate them (will not spoil who is the wicked witch).  When it comes to the other characters, including the CGI created monkey, Finely, and the China Girl, they provide witty and unique takes throughout the movie.  Through their characters, they provide different aspects for the world, providing a more ‘character’ feel to the Land of OZ.  This is shown through their whimsical lines and interaction with the main character and the witches.

When it comes to the direction and story, it follows a very basic premise.  What we have is the basic theme of the ‘coming of age’ idea, with the twist of it dealing with theatrics of fantasy, adulthood and definition of real power.  In the start, you have the man (Oz) who wants to be a great man; he wants to provide the world great things, like the person he idolizes, Thomas Edison, did.  Whisked away into the imaginative realm, we watch as his journey takes a linear path.  He is prophesized to save the Land of Oz, and defeat the wicked witch.  That is pretty much the story, with no deeper elements or any kind or any real shocking ‘twist’.  The only twist we have in the film is finding out who is the ‘wicked witch’.  That transformation of who is the real ‘wicked witch’ comes off as the typical ‘fall from grace’ mantra, but it is done very dramatically.  This helps add elements that the falling is direr.  The one draw of this film is through its satirical aspects of the script.  Through the satire of the interaction, dialogue, and set pieces more than premise, you get a feeling that is heartfelt and dire, creating a vision of imagination that is just plain entertaining to watch.  This also helps flesh out the world itself, and provides a layer of believability, likability, as well as broader sense of pleasure for both the younger and older demographic.  The movie’s theatrics adds depth to the comical side, as well as draw you in with the dramatics when certain scenes come into play (destruction of China town, the evolution of the wicked witch, the epiphany of the Wizard).  Through this, you have an epic feel with the climax, causing the audience to feel closure, and agree that the journey into Oz was truly worth it. This is a great nod to the vision of the director, Sam Raimi.

The cinematography is a blessing in disguise.  The creation of the world is so vibrant, colorful and alive, that you just do not believe it was created with CGI.  Through the use of CGI though, we have a world that is wonderful and vast.  From the Emerald City, China town, the Dark Forest and all up and down the yellow brick road, you actually believe that the ‘Land of Oz’ is real.  Everything in the world envelops in a way of great allure, and adds to the real magic of the film.  With the creation of the world, we also have the creation of the characters, like the wicked witch, munchkins, the flying baboons and the soldiers.  With the depth we have in the characters, alongside the world itself, you have something that is depth defying, as well as breathtaking.  This makes all facades of the film enjoyable, showing that there is realness to the world and its inhabitants.  The score is another great addition to the film.  The music helps build up the drama, as well as add feeling to the comical and emotional sides of the film.  Through it, you have that ‘sweeping’ feeling most fantasy films have, adding to the great feeling you already get from all the other good in this film.

Overall, Oz: The Great and Powerful is a wonderful, enchanting film.  Through some basic narrative and charming characters, we get a real evolution into how everything started in the Land of Oz.   With additional draws from the wonderful cinematography, to the great score, you will want to live this journey over and over.  Recommend for any fans of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, as well as fans of great fantasy films.  This film is one not to miss in theaters.

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