Oz the Great and Powerful: Nothing is What It Seems (2013)

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Adventure, Family, Fantasy
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ozgreatandpowerful-thirdposter-fullOscar Diggs, known as Oz, is a magician and a swindler traveling with a circus. With his faithful assistant Frank and the help of any pretty lady he can get, he tries to use slight of hand and misdirection to amaze as best he can. When a tornado hits the circus, Oscar gets swept away and finds himself in a far off land. Eventually meeting up with a witch named Theodora, Oscar learns that he has traveled to the land that bears his name, Oz. Traveling to the Emerald City, he is put on a path by Theodora’s sister, Evanora, to find and kill a witch named Glinda to take his spot as the King of Oz. Along the way, he gains the company of a winged monkey named Finley and a china doll as he comes across Glinda and learns that not is all that it seems in the land of Oz.

Starring: James Franco (Oscar Diggs/Oz), Mila Kunis (Theodora), Rachel Weisz (Evanora), Michelle Williams (Annie/Glinda), Zach Braff (Frank/Finley), Bill Cobbs (Master Tinker), Joey King (Girl in Wheelchair/China Girl), Tony Cox (Knuck), Stephen R. Hart (Winkie General), Abigail Spencer (May), Bruce Campbell (Winkie Gate Keeper), Tim Holmes (Strongman), Toni Wynne (Strongman’s wife)

Expanding the story of the land of Oz meant casting a group of actors able to capture all of the mystery and magic of the story. James Franco may not have been the best choice to play Oz, as he came off a little too comical at times, but he also had his moments when he fit the grandiose role. Mila Kunis seemed to misdirect well prior to her transformation and then seemed to lose the authenticity of the Wicked Witch of the West. Rachel Weisz seemed to be the most authentic, at least until her final scene in the film, while Michelle Williams appeared more one-tracked in her portrayal of Glinda. Braff and King both voiced characters that could have been breaking points of the film but were more in tune with the tone of the film than its lead actors. The performances appeared to be too animated and lacked fluidity.

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While it is unclear what Sam Raimi’s vision was for the direction of this film, it was clear that it just did not seem to fit with the original Wizard of Oz film. In this prequel to the original story, Oz has just crashed into a new land and is confused as he gets pulled in multiple directions and tricked by a pair of witches who are not what they seem. Glinda is the good witch that she appears to be in the original film, but Theodora was also not originally the witch full of hatred until discouraged by the charms of Oz. The quest to kill the “bad witch” turns into the quest to lead the people of Oz to take back the Emerald City and chase Theodora and Evanora out of their kingdom. Oz is portrayed to be a swindler and a greedy man, seducing and tossing aside women at will. Glinda seems to break through that dismissive behavior, but not before he goes through an internal struggle to find what type of wizard he could truly be.

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This film has its share of successes and failures…redeeming moments and points where viewers may just shake their head. When the film succeeds is with its small inclusions of elements from the original film. The lion attack leads to Oz scaring it off, referencing the Cowardly Lion. The army created to take on the wicked witches were a bunch of scarecrows. The missing elements were references to the Tin Man and the rumored clip at the end with the house falling on Evanora. Besides the over the top acting, many elements of the film felt forced or off. Theodora’s transformation into the green-skinned witch left Kunis looking awkwardly dissimilar to the original played by Margaret Hamilton. The focus on the colorful and mythical world seemed to introduce a number of elements that complicated the land of Oz well behind how the original was portrayed. All of the elements were either played up to a grandiose level or unnecessarily added while adding nothing to the story (the fairies by the water and snapdragon plants, for example). The living trees appeared to be missing and the flying monkeys were super-CGI’ed baboons instead. In the end, this film is a perfect example where trying to do too much can hurt the end product from losing a sense of authenticity.

While there are quite a number of flaws with this attempt to return to the land of Oz, the story is an interesting one that brings to light the evolution of Theodora into the Wicked Witch of the West and how Oz became ensconced into this fantasy world.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

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