“I might not actually be a wizard...”
“Yes, but they don't know that.”
Ever since I was little I have loved The Wizard of Oz. One year in pre-school my mom and my grandma made me my very own Dorothy costume. One of my earliest memories is of my mom and grandma taking a pair of white Keds and adding red sparkles on them for my costume. I even had a stuffed dog in a lunch box that looked just like Dorothy’s. Not too long ago I read the book by L. Frank Baum and loved it. When I heard about that Disney was making the pre-queal Oz The Great and Powerful I had to see it. Unfortunately last year I was going through some stuff and I never got to see it in the theaters. Low and behold this past week while I was working (I work at a library) I found Oz The Great and Powerful on DVD and I borrowed it. I do not think I had too much expectations for this movie and in many ways I am thankful for that.
Oz (James Franco) is an illusionist in a traveling circus. He is not a very good man with a good heart. He tries to seduce women and gives them a story about a music box and how it was his grandmother’s and on and on. In one of his shows Oz levitates a woman and a girl in a wheelchair wants him to make her walk. Obviously his illusions are just that he is not a real magician. The crowd gets angry with him. He takes his anger and frustrations out on his assistant Frank (Zach Braff). When he returns to his train car a girl he loves named Annie (Michelle Williams) is there. Annie has come to tell him that a man named John Gale has asked her to marry him but she wants to know what he (Oz) thinks. Oz knows he cannot be a good faithful man to Annie so he tells her to marry John. Oz looks out his window to see a one of the women in the circus begging her boyfriend the strongman not to get upset over the music box he found. The strongman immediately goes after Oz. Fortunately for Oz he has a trapped door in his wagon and gets away before the strongman can crush him. Oz runs into a hot air balloon and manages to cut it free before the strongman can pull it close enough to reach Oz.
Thinking he is very lucky Oz turns around and realizes he is heading straight towards the middle of a tornado. The hot air balloon is thrown all around the tornado and slats from a fence come tearing into the basket. Oz yells out that he does not want to die and that if he lives he promises to be a good man and make something of his life. All the sudden everything around Oz seems to lose gravity and is suspended in the air. The balloon is brought to a bright and colorful world.
The balloon and Oz crash land into a shallow lake. On the shore waiting for him is a beautiful young woman named Theodora (Mila Kunis). She tells him he is in the land of Oz. When he says his name is Oz (at least that is his nickname his full name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs) Theodora exclaims it is a sign that he was meant to be the great wizard who would come and rule their land. She bring him to the Emerald City where she lives with her older sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Right away you can see that Evanora has a not very good plan up her sleeve. She tells Oz that another witch Glinda (Williams in a dual role) has killed her father so she could take over and destroy everything. She wants Oz to be the one to kill Glinda and then he can take over the throne. He has to go through the Dark Forest in order to get to Glinda.
Oz accepts Evanora’s wishes but only because he can become king and have a vast amount of riches. He takes along his new flying monkey friend Finley (Braff, also in a dual role). Along the way they come across a town made of china. The town with broken houses is bare and eerily silent. When they walk past one of the houses they find a small china girl hidden behind a table. She cannot move her legs have been broken. Oz, with the glue he has in his bag, puts her legs back together. He tells her to come with them. When they get back to the yellow brick road Oz tells the china girl she cannot come with them she has to go to the Emerald City. The girl cries and hugs Oz’s leg to let her come with them. Oz reluctantly agrees that she can come along.
When they reach the edge of the Dark Forest two crows cackle they are going to die. They come to a scary house and a cemetery. A clothed dark figure walks to the cemetery gates. In order to destroy Glinda they have to break her wand so she will not have any powers. They manage to grab the wand but before they can break it they are surprised by the cloaked figure. When the figure removes her cape away from her face she is a beautiful woman with a kind face. Oz cannot get over how much she looks like Annie. Glinda walks them to where her father is buried. She tells them she is not the one who killed her father. Evanora is responsible the killing and for everything bad that has happened.
In the Emerald City, Evanora sees what is happening between Glinda and Oz. She is upset and wants to make her sister upset as well. She knows that Theodora loves Oz so she makes it appear that Oz no longer loves her. Evanora tricks her sister into eating an apple that has a spell in it to turn her heart cold so she will not have to feel anything. Theodora writhes around the room in agony then falls to the floor. When she gets up she is not the girl she once was both physically and personality wise.
Glinda brings Oz, the china girl, and Finley to her home. The people of her home are all good and honest and hard working. Oz tells her he is not a wizard he is just a man. She tells him the people do not know that he is not a real wizard. They all have faith in him that he is the one to help them. All the sudden dark clouds appear and the kingdom’s protective wall has been broke. It could only be broken by two strong and evil witches. Something comes crashing down in a ball of flame. It is Theodora only now she is green and wears all black.
With the help of the good people Oz works with all of them to come up with a plan to attack the Emerald City to take it back.
There are many issues with this film. The main issue I had was with the casting. Seriously, James Franco as the Wizard of Oz? I like Franco I think he is a good actor but come on. He was so wrong for the part. Michelle Williams I am not a fan of. She is not the worst actress but there is no way she is one of the best (still cannot believe she was nominated for an Academy Award). Mila Kunis as the Wicked Witch… not even going to go there. Rachel Weisz and Zach Braff were the only good actors in this whole movie. I have seen Weisz in enough of a wide variety of films to be able to say she is a brilliant actress. She was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to see this movie in the first place. I was so excited to see her as a bad guy. Weisz was awesome. I did feel bad for her and Michelle Williams when Glinda and Evanora had to fight each other in the air. It was so bad I was laughing so hard I could not take them flying around seriously. Zach Braff pretty much played a bit more serious JD from Scrubs when he was voicing Finley. He was perfect as the wise cracking monkey.
The costumes for Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Mila Kunis were beautiful. Mila Kunis is a pretty girl and she looked stunning in the first few costumes she wore. There was one costume she wore that was a black and white dress with a red shawl or covering over it. The dress reminded me of a 1950s Dior dress it was gorgeous.
I was absolutely dying over the sets. The Emerald City was all 1930s Art Deco that was a great homage to The Wizard of Oz. The set of Glinda’s kingdom was in the Art Nouveau style. Art Nouveau draws its inspiration from nature and it is very soft and flowing it was perfect for Glinda’s kingdom. There are a pair of doors I was drooling over they were so beautiful, ha ha.
Oz the Great and Powerful felt like it was trying too hard. It was trying hard to be just as magical and colorful as The Wizard of Oz. The worst thing about this movie was the CGI. There was way too much of it and in a few scenes you can see the blue outline around the actors. One of the great aspects of watching The Wizard of Oz or any old film is the fact that all the whimsical or action scenes were all done by simple technology and a lot of creativity. I am not knocking the special effects/CGI people in the movie business today they are amazing and definitely artistic but it is not the same as people building sets and creating a total different kind of art. The story to Oz the Great and Powerful was not too bad. What brings the movie down is the CGI and the acting. Besides the CGI and acting I still recommend seeing Oz the Great and Powerful some time. I do warn you though do not in any way compare this with the original. I apologize if it sounds like I was comparing the two. They are completely different films.