The PlotOz The Great and Powerful is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. The story begins with the Wizard (James Franco) a carnival magician, being sucked into a tornado. He is in a hot air balloon for reasons that take fifteen minutes to develop and which you absolutely don’t care about. Naturally, he crashes in the Land of Oz. Once there, he runs into Theodora (Mila Kunis), a naive girl with hidden witch powers. She immediately thinks that Franco is the wizard of a local prophecy: one who will come and free them from an evil witch. Theodora believes the evil witch is Glinda (Michelle Williams) because that is what her not-very-nice sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) tells her.
Bad ChoicesI said in the intro that Oz The Great and Powerful was doomed by its choices. What choices you ask? Well, let’s discuss.
● Misfired Opening: The film opens in black and white. It involves a carnival in Kansas and it has all the actors you will see in Oz playing real people here. There’s even a girl who looks like Dorothy. This is all meant to remind you of The Wizard of Oz. Even the aspect ratio changes once we hit color footage. Unfortunately, rather than being clever, this is a huge mistake because this opening is so oddly similar to The Wizard of Oz that it immediately blurs the question of whether they are doing a prequel or a remake of The Wizard of Oz. Yet, it is also so different that it feels like a truly sloppy remake. So as you find yourself watching this, you feel confused and you feel underwhelmed by their attempt to “retell” The Wizard of Oz, even though they aren’t actually retelling that story. It was a bad choice.
And that choice was made all the worse by the length of this portion of the film. The opening is just longer than 15 minutes and the problem here is that none of this is all that interesting and none of it will matter in the rest of the film. In fact, you know that nothing you are watching will be the slightest bit relevant, so it’s hard to care about the first 15 minutes of the film. So basically, the film gets off on a very wrong foot and leaves you struggling to care about the story before it even begins.
Michelle Williams is adequate as Glinda the Good Witch, although she’s not daffy enough to ever grow into the Glinda from The Wizard of Oz without first suffering senility or some sort of stroke.
The real problem, however, is
This has been my problem with director Sam Raimi’s post Army of Darkness career: he gives you exactly what you expect and never challenges you or gives you anything more. Essentially, he is a technician, not a creative type, and his films lack those “wow” moments, and that’s on full display here again.
The result of the above is this: you have a film that loses you in its first 15 minutes. The next hour and fifteen minutes are visually stunning, but emotionally empty and struggle to win you back. The characters go through the motions and you really just don’t care. There are tonal problems and the writing doesn’t impress. There are no memorable moments and nothing you will take with you once the credits roll. You will find yourself looking at your watch a lot.
So is this worth seeing? Well, if you’re at all a fan of the Wizard of Oz remakes and homages out there, then I would say yes. Visually, the film is stunning. The last twenty minutes are truly fun to watch. The first part is dull, but you can get past that. I would recommend, however, adjusting your expectations to seeing the film as essentially a quasi-melodrama aimed at kids. So if that’s cool for you, then see it.