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Oz The Great And Powerful - Review

Oz: The Great & Powerful

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

SAM Raimi’s Oz The Great & Powerful always had a lot to live up to given the affection with which Victor Fleming’s 1939 movie is held and the presence of a brilliant rival prequel in Wicked.

But its failure to provide a truly memorable return to The Yellow Brick Road has more to do with current attitudes to blockbuster filmmaking than it does any misplaced reverence for Frank L Baum’s source material.

For Oz is more about technical spectacle than lasting emotional resonance, as well as the all-consuming need to create franchise potential.

It’s a shame as the idea had potential given that it focuses on how down-on-his-luck circus conman Oz (played by Raimi regular James Franco) first arrives in his namesake land and is immediately hailed as the wizard who will help defeat its people of a wicked witch.

Playing along, Oz subsequently finds himself caught in the middle of three beautiful sisters – good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams), scheming witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and misunderstood witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) – one of whom will emerge as his biggest enemy.

To be fair, Raimi’s film does look good and has fun playing around with a lot of the classic Oz iconography, with cameos and nods to long-held favourites.

But the fact that it also works best when trading on the known also highlights the many shortcomings in Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire’s script.

The story here is very slight and seems more interested in setting things up for potential sequels than it does really examining the motivations and feelings of the characters at play – Raimi himself has admitted that much of Weisz’s story didn’t make the cut due to time constraints (likewise Franco), which begs the question of why it still clocks in at over two hours when so little really happens.

Hence, the inclusion of pointless and irritating characters such as Tony Cox’s attitude-spewing Knuck comes at the expense of Weisz, in particular, and to a lesser extent Kunis, who impresses for the most part but isn’t given the time to flesh out her character despite being handed the film’s most dramatic arc.

Again, it says much about the film’s priorities that two of the most memorable characters are effects-based – the Zachary Braff voiced flying monkey and the Joey King voiced orphaned china doll.

The film’s main man Franco, meanwhile, often looks uncomfortable as Oz and not always convincing in what he is attempting to pull off.

Put together, therefore, Oz The Great & Powerful exists very much in the shadow of previous Oz incarnations and disappoints far more than it impresses.
And while younger target audiences may well be dazzled enough to return for future sequels, that doesn’t mean to say the film is worthy of their support… more that, like the central character of Oz himself, it’s content merely to put on a show designed with profit in mind rather than really offering anything heartfelt to stand the test of time.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 130mins
UK Release Date: March 8, 2013