Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]
Director: Sam Raimi
Screenplay: Mitchell Kapner & David Lindsay-Abaire
Genre: Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Running Time: 130 minutes

Oz the Great and Powerful begins with a wonderful black-and-white prologue. In 1905, a hack magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) performs a small-time circus act in between trying to shag the local women. He flirts with the wrong girl, however, and ends up running for his life. Diggs (also known by his stage name, Oz) escapes in a hot air balloon, only to get sucked into a nearby tornado. Somehow this tornado takes him to the Land of Oz, and it is here that the film pans out to full technicolor, bringing this magical new world to life.

Oscar, confused but grateful to no longer be in danger, wanders around his new surroundings before meeting the witch, Theodora (Mila Kunis). She believes that Oscar is actually the wizard that has been prophesied to return and overthrow the Wicked Witch, and she brings him to meet her sister, fellow witch Evanora (Rachel Weisz). They send him to the Dark Forest to destroy the Wicked Witch’s wand, but he discovers that this witch is not so wicked after all — she’s actually Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams). Now Oscar finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between the two sides, all while being forced to masquerade as the powerful Wizard of Oz.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

As a film, Oz the Great and Powerful is likely exactly as you might expect it to be. It works well as a kid’s film — Oscar meets some crowd-pleasing fantasy characters on his way, including a china doll and a flying monkey — though its 2+ hour running time might be a burden for some little ones. The Land of Oz is colorful and vibrant, and the Munchkin inhabitants of Emerald City are sure to be a hit (despite having a very small role). In this regard, the film succeeds.

However, it’s hard not to expect more in the hands of director Sam Raimi. The characters are hardly interesting. James Franco makes Oz come across as a total sleazeball, and it’s hard to buy in to the fact that he has any ‘good’ values underneath. Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz do well with their material, but Mila Kunis is completely out of her element as Theodora. Kunis isn’t given much to work with, but her performance is devoid of any real emotion.

Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

I also noticed some issues with the CGI — there were multiple occasions where the actors’ interactions with the artificial characters were completely off (i.e. Franco trying to shake the china girl’s hand but there being a noticable gap in between). For a film with a budget north of $200 million, these quirks are inexcusable.

And so goes Oz the Great and Powerful, a superficially pretty film without any real depth. Judging from my audience’s reaction, the kids seem to be digging it, so the film has that going for it. It’s just a shame that it isn’t as magical as it could have been.


32 thoughts on “Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful [2013]

  1. Garrett says:

    Not really planning on seeing this one. It sounds like I won’t be missing too much though. It just looks a little too much like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

  2. ckckred says:

    I was looking forward to this one but after reading mostly lukewarm reviews I decided to wait until it’s a rental. Looks I made the right choice. Nice review.

  3. Will says:

    Ugh, I hated this movie. Sam Raimi’s worst movie by far. Most people seem to agree with you, that’s it’s just OK, so maybe I’m just out of touch. I did like the big finale.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      Nah, I don’t think you’re out of touch at all. There are some really grating aspects of this film — it’s just a matter of how much you let them get to you. It’s disappointing to think this came from Sam Raimi, but then again, I should have expected as much since the marketing was pretty spot-on for what this ended up being.

  4. CMrok93 says:

    When Raimi seems to be having fun, everybody else does as well. I’ll admit, it wasn’t perfect but it sure as hell didn’t make me miserable and contemplate what to do next with my life. Good review bud.

  5. Fogs' Movie Reviews says:

    I enjoyed it. I was more on board with your “In this regard, the film succeeds.” paragraph, and less bothered by the things you brought up afterwards. Fun move. I didnt really expect much more than that!

  6. sati says:

    I gave the same score, though I had a bit more fun than you with the film – I haven’t really noticed any CGI mistakes but maybe I went partly blind due to the colors and 3D 🙂

  7. ruth says:

    Great review Eric, even though I enjoyed this more than you, I do recognize the flaws you pointed out, esp. about the characters. Agreed that Franco played Oz as a total sleazeball! That said, I must’ve been in a good mood when I saw this that I was very entertained. Visually I was mesmerized so perhaps I was so entranced that I didn’t notice the flaws.

  8. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Your review picks up most of the criticisms I have read around the web about this film. I’m doubtful I will give it a shot in the theater, but I will certainly wait for it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray. Sure, I will miss some of the effect of the big screen, but in a film that has been labeled as superficial and patchy, I can’t say I will find myself regretting it.

  9. Chuck says:

    I was dragged into seeing this and I disliked it even more than I expected. Thought the acting was terrible by almost everyone and some of the CG was just bad. Only scene I thought was interesting was the connection towards the end of Oz and his appearance in the original.

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