Weekend Roundup: Oz The Great and Powerful review

It’s the last week of March already, but Spring is arriving VERY s-l-o-w-l-y here in Minnesota. By around the same time last year, we’re already in mid 60s, I think some people were wearing shorts on St. Patrick’s Day? This year, I’d be thrilled to see mid 40s by next weekend!

I did see a movie that made me feel quite Spring-y with the bright and colorful landscape filled with gorgeous colors and of course, a rainbow!

OzBanner

If you’re curious whether people who have not seen the original would enjoy this prequel, well I for one can tell you that YES, absolutely you could! In a way I feel that I actually have the advantage of knowing hardly anything of the story, apart from what the wicked witch look like and knowing some of the lyrics of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. You might be amused that the only time I heard this song being played in a movie is from John Woo’s action-packed Face/Off, ahah.

My friend asked me if I wanted to see a matinee showing and I went in with tepid expectations after reading the mediocre reviews. Well, I’m glad to report that I was NOT disappointed. Far from it, it really was a wonderful 2-hour escapist entertainment!

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First of all, the opening title sequence is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful and creative, definitely brings you right into the carnival world where Oscar works as a small time magician with dubious ethics. He soon gets into trouble, which leads him to a hot air balloon that transports him away from Kansas to the colorful Land of Oz. The movie turns from black and white to color and oh, what a feast for the eyes. I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of Oz. Sam Raimi truly turns the movie magic on with this one, I was practically ooh-aah-ing the gorgeous cinematography, special effects and spectacular landscape. Every creature is pretty amusing to look at, yes even the weird ones like the river fairies!

In this magical land is where Oscar meets the three witches: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are all skeptical that he’s the great wizard everyone’s been waiting for. Oscar himself didn’t really want to continue deceiving them at first, that is until Evanora shows him all the gold he’d have if he becomes King. The inner struggle of choosing good over evil is something we’ve all identified with, and Oscar soon realized how high the stakes are for the people of Oz, though we’re never sure of his true motive until the very end.

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I’ve told you about the visuals, now acting-wise, I still think Johnny Depp would’ve been much better in the role of Oscar Diggs instead of James Franco, but he ends up being all right here. I know his character is supposed to be this egotistical smug, but Franco plays it far to literally that he comes across annoying instead of amusing. He has this weird, awkward grin that made me cringe, it just took me out of the movie as I wanted to smack him! I also don’t buy him as this irresistible man who could get all these stunning women to fall in love with him. Fortunately he redeemed himself as the film progresses, in fact I think he was quite good in the touching scene with the China Doll.  His fun companies on his journey on the yellow brick road certainly helps, I love Finley the flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) and China Girl (voiced by Joey King) who both owed their lives to Oscar.

The real stars of the film for me are the spectacular visuals and the three female actresses. It’s inspired casting to get Kunis and Weisz as sisters as they have similar features. Both look ravishing in their costumes, especially Weisz in the sparkly, feathered black frock. One particular scenes of them together is crucial to the story and I think both actresses acquit themselves well, though I can’t speak for fans of the original on this one. In contrast, Williams projects delicate beauty as the good witch Glinda. She practically looks like a cross between Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora and Cinderella in her silky white dress and crystal tiara. People might say it’s a boring role as she’s good through and through, but Williams is so effortlessly sympathetic and she did her best with what she was given.

Oz_ThreeWitches

I find the story to be quite absorbing and even hilarious at times. I could see how the L. Frank Baum’s cretion has become a pop-culture phenomenon, not only with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but also the smash hit Broadway play Wicked. One of the primary keys to a great tale is memorable characters, and this movie is full of them. The wicked witch and how she became that way is certainly the main draw, but the supporting characters are entertaining as well. Finley delivers a lot of laughs, the scene of him mooing had me in stitches. Though I’ve never been into dolls, China Girl is so adorable and cute I wish I could take her home for myself!! The citizens of Oz are full of quirky bunch as well, though I had the same reaction as Oscar when the munchkins started to burst into song, ahah. Ah well, this is a Disney movie after all.

Danny Elfman‘s beautiful score definitely helps transport you into another world. I really think Raimi and co did a great job here, and perhaps the fact that I couldn’t compare it to the original gives the film an advantage. But I wonder if having seen the original would make me like this less, I don’t know if that’d be the case.

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Final Thoughts: If you want to lose yourself in a fantastical world for two hours on Sunday afternoon, you could do a lot worse. I was massively entertained and the few corny scenes (those romantic scenes between Franco & Kunis came to mind) did not derail the film for me. I didn’t see the 3D version and whilst I thought the visuals was still splendid in that format, I’d think the 3D version would’ve been worth it for this one.


4 out of 5 reels

Thoughts on this one? Anyone else love it as much as I did?

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64 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Oz The Great and Powerful review

  1. Yep, yep, yep! 4 stars for me too! You make some great points. This movie was such a surprise. I had grown interested in it but I really didn’t expect to have so much fun. It’s a prime example of how you can make good quality entertainment that is suitable for the entire family!

    • Yay, glad you’re in my corner Keith. I was quite baffled this didn’t get a better review, I thought it was so entertaining. I read people didn’t think it had the same *magic* as the first movie, but I actually don’t know if I want to see the original, ahah, it just looks so corny! That’s true, it’s good that Disney can still make a live action film for the whole family!

      • Ya know, I like the original but I don’t love it as much as many do. It’s one of those that I’ve always appreciated but never highly praised. Keep that under your hat though. There are some people that would run me out of town if they heard me say it. :D

  2. So apparently Sam Raimi and Danny Elfman kissed and made up huh? I didn’t know Elfman scored this film since he and Raimi had a very public and ugly break up after they worked together on Spiderman 2. I’ll probably give the movie a rent, maybe by then I’ll have a 3-D projector. I saw The Wizard of Oz when I was very young and those damn monkeys gave me nightmares.

    • Oh I didn’t know Raimi’s & Elfman’s feud, but of course you’d know that stuff Ted :D That’s good that they did as Elfman did a good job with the score, he’s a great composer. I love his Batman score too, the ones Burton did. Ahah well the flying baboons are indeed pretty scary!

      • Yeah, he and Elfman didn’t agree on the score of Spidey 2, apparently Raimi kept telling Elfman to make the music sound similar to one of the Hellraisers films. Elfman even told Raimi to hire the composer of that film if he wants the music to sound like that. Well Raimi actually hired the guy who scored that Hellraisers film for Spidey 3, it’s kind of funny reading about this kind of bickering between a director and composer.

  3. Disney originally wanted Robert Downey Jr to play Oscar… and I wonder what this could have been. He would have fit the egoistical-and-slimy-but-very-likable part to a T! James Franco was just egoistical and slimy, and I had no reason to root for him – which took me out of the movie more than once. That being said, what gorgeous visuals!

    • Hi Russ, welcome to FC. Yeah I think they offered it to Depp first then RDJ who both turned it down. Too bad, either one would’ve been much better than Franco. You’re right, Franco’s just not likable at all, but thankfully there are other things that made up for him here.

    • Hey glad you like this too, Fernando. I think I’m just not a fan of Franco in general, though he’s all right as Harry in Raimi’s Spidey films. I do love the female cast here, down to the girl voicing China Doll!

        • Um no, too chicken to watch 127 Hours and not really interested in Pineapple Express. I’ll take your word for it that Franco was great in both, I mean he was nominated for Oscar in 127 Hours I think.

          • Haha, it is pretty intense but yes, it’s Franco’s finest performance (indeed he was nominated for an Oscar). Pineapple Express is very funny and James is great in it but I get why you wouldn’t want to watch it.

            • I think when I heard that someone passed out in the movie theater whilst watching it, I knew I won’t be able to handle 127 Hours. I couldn’t even watch the interview with the real guy the character’s based on. Yeah I know, I’m such a wimp!! :D

    • Yeah, the reviews were discouraging but I was still curious to see the visuals and I certainly was not disappointed on that front. Plus I was surprised how much I like the story too, it certainly has the ingredients of being so timeless. I hope you give it a go on the big screen Chris, it really looks marvelous!

  4. Great review! I also wasn’t expecting much from this but then found that I enjoyed it a lot. You gotta see the original. This movie gives it a lot of nods. I think Disney did a great job paying homage to the original while not overstepping its boundaries since the original is not a Disney movie and therefore they cannot say this is a direct prequel. They did enough to tip there hat to the original and did not do anything that could disconnect the two from each other.

    • Hi Darryl, welcome to FC! Ahah I knew someone would encourage me to see the original. Trust me, my hubby and I almost did a week before I saw this but once we saw the trailer, we changed our mind, ahah. I dunno, maybe one day I’ll get around to seeing it. Ah yeah, I heard that they have to be careful not to overstep the boundaries as you said, for fear of being sued as the original wasn’t owned by Disney. Which studio did that one, do you know?

      • It was warner bros. The original books are public domain so officially Oz the Great and Powerful is an adaptation to the original stories by not a prequel. They also couldn’t acknowledge or include certain parts of the story that the WB added on their own like the ruby slippers, the mole the wicked witch’s chin, and had to even use a different shade of green for the wicked witch. But the obvious tributes to the original warner bros. film is starting the movie in black and white, having Oz’s hot air balloon travel “over the rainbow,” and the munchkins just about to start a musical note until Oz cuts them off.I’m sure there’s more I can’t think of right now =P

        • Ah I see. Wow, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have noticed that as I haven’t seen the first film but you’re right, the original wicked witch’s green shade is much brighter. I love the B&W start and going into color, that’s a great homage that really adds to the beauty of the film I think. Ahah, well I for one am glad the munchkins did NOT get to sing an extended musical piece, I don’t think I’ll miss that scene :D

  5. It’s not the classic you’d expect from the original, but it’s an okay watch for a little bit. See it on the big-screen and be happy. That’s all I have to say. Good review Ruth.

    • “It’s not the classic you’d expect from the original” Well y’see that’s just it, I think I’m glad I didn’t have anything to compare it to, so I just went in, sit down and prepare to be entertained. This movie certainly did the *trick* (pun intended) ;)

  6. It’s stunning to me that you havent seen the original 8O , but I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I did too. The visuals definitely WERE spectacular, weren’t they? And I found the story quite enjoyable too.

    FYI, yeah, the 3D really was worth the upcharge on this one, I thought it was very vvery well done! :D

    • He..he.. yeah I know I like to stun people that way Fogs ;) Y’know, since my hubby hasn’t seen it, maybe I might go see this in 3D, but we’ll see. I think right now Life of Pi was the best 3D I’ve seen of late. You’ve seen both right, which one you think is better?

  7. Was there a Bruce Campbell cameo? He said there would be, but you know Bruce… you can’t always tell if he’s kidding or not :-D

    • I knew you’d ask that. Yes I think so, he plays the gatekeeper, but I didn’t even realize it was him until I went to IMDb after. I think most of his scenes were cut, he said that on Twitter.

  8. Lovely review, I’m glad you liked this one! I gave the movie lower score, because when I can I try to be objective (because my objectivity goes down the shitter whenever I review something with Armitage, Pace, Elba or Fass in it) and I thought the script was very weak at times, but I did have fun during the film. It’s astonishing to me how much hate is Kunis getting for her performance, I thought she did well.

    The opening credits were awesome indeed, it’s fun how when Mila’s name appeared there were these puppets of couple dancing together and their shadow was that of the wicked witch :)

    I think Franco’s grin was his attempt at making the audience laugh, but it failed miserably for me. I bought his part as the guy who seduces the women, he would seduced me if he didn’t talk and grin :) He is good looking but he has douchy personality so that would be a deal breaker for me :P

    • Hi Sati! Ahahaha, I LOVE how you said your objectivity goes out the window when those gorgeous boys are involved. I totally get it, girl. Man, those are beautiful men, aren’t they?

      I hear ya about the script, it’s not stellar but I was pretty entertained overall, I think the visual and characters were engaging enough. I didn’t know about Kunis’ performance getting panned, I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I think she did well, too.

      As for Franco, well his attempt at being charming or humorous falls flat as he’s neither! I think his more serious demeanor (like in the Spidey movies as Harry) is more attractive and I did find him quite hot there, but here, esp. with THAT hairdo, not a chance!!

      P.S. Did you get my tweet about my pitch w/ Richard in it? I’d be so thrilled if you wouldn’t mind reading it and let me know what you think, esp. about his character. Thanks dahling!!

      • They are too beautiful. I spent so much time staring at gifs of Armitage this week…but that was time well spent :)

        There are people saying Kunis’s work here is one of the worst performance of the last few years, I’m just baffled. I think she did as well as she could with that script and make up.

        Yeah, he wasn’t hot here. He was too goofy in that movie, but I did like his character when he was caring after China Doll.

        I did, just read it and left a comment. LOVED it. The idea of Richard playing a cop was…exciting :P I can practically see his character confessing his love to Evelyn…Oh, God, I won’t get anything done now again :)

        • I’m glad I don’t visit Tumblr anymore (I used to around the time I was crushing on Gregory Peck). I know Richard is massively popular, I won’t be able to get anything done! :D

          Worst performance in the last few years?? WOW, that’s too harsh. I’d think there are worse offenders in that regard.

          Oh yeah, that scene with the China Doll was quite moving, I just love her, sooo adorable!

          THANKS SO MUCH for the comment on that post, I really appreciate you taking the time Sati.

          • There are new things on his tag every minute, in a way it’s comforting since there are some depths of insanity I haven’t reached yet other seemed to accomplish:P

            Yeah, definitely, plus her work was fun to watch. At no point I thought to myself ‘Wow, she is awful”.

            No problem, loved reading that!

            • Ahaha, I’d like to think there are crazier women out there… I’m just glad I didn’t have that much time to burn to post sooo many pictures daily.

              Thanks again for reading my pitch, now I keep picturing Danny in my head. I’d love to see him in a role like this where he looks like himself. I only have Black Sky to look forward to but he’s gonna have an American accent in that one.

  9. Hey, Ruth! Great review! Haven’t seen this yet, but I’m intrigued by the visuals and the actresses involved. Glad you enjoyed it.

  10. You liked it a bit more than I did. but I’m glad we def agree on James Franco being alright in the role. I dunno about Depp doing it…it really would’ve been too Alice in Wonderland-ish then. ha.

    Great review here. :)

    • I forgot what rating you gave this one, T. I think I might’ve been in the right mood as I really enjoyed it and was mesmerized by the visuals, hence the high rating. Ah I suppose you’re right about Alice in Wonderland thing, I hadn’t thought of that. So maybe Robert Downey Jr would’ve been better.

  11. I gave this one a 7.5/10, so basically the same score :) I totally agree with you about the flaws being noticeable, but that they didn’t derail the movie. Great review!

    • Glad we agree! Yeah, some movies are able to overcome its weakness in some ways, and this is one of them. I don’t even mind watching this one again.

  12. I have a friend who enjoyed this as well after reading bad reviews about it. I guess you kind of have a lower expectation after reading all that. But yes, this movie actually is pretty entertaining. I love the opening titles too. And I agree, Franco was annoying there! I wish I’d seen this on IMAX, but it was available a week after opening week.

    • I was a bit discouraged by the bad reviews but still curious enough to see it because of the visuals. Well, I’m glad I gave it a shot as it was entertaining!

  13. I haven’t seen the film yet and I don’t know if I will in the theater. I will probably lose a lot of the effect from the incredible visuals if I wait for the DVD/Blu-Ray release, but something tells me I’ll be alright.
    Three comments: First. Though I don’t doubt Williams’ ability to act, I’m growing very tired of these good girl/ plain roles she’s been taking. I’m waiting for her to take a darker, more complex role, maybe not to the level of Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) but something of the sort.
    Second. It’s funny you point loving the interaction between Franco and the monkey because I have now read two reviews that take the time to point out how annoying and unnerving their back and forth is.
    Third. I didn’t know we shared the “sin” of not having seen the original Wizard of Oz. It’s a rare find, especially in a film blogger…

    • I do think seeing it’s worth seeing on the big screen, Niels, but I’d think it’ll look marvelous on Bluray as well.

      In regards to your comments:

      #1 – I thought Williams’ role in Blue Valentine was quite dark? There’s some dark quality in her role as Marilyn as well. I guess I don’t know her filmography that well to judge.

      #2 – Well to each their own, I quite like Finley, I find him amusing. I like him more than Franco’s Oz at times, ahah.

      #3 – Oh you haven’t seen the original either? High five, Niels! I don’t know if I ever will to be honest.

  14. Great review here, Ruth. I also saw this last weekend. I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but it was enjoyable enough. Agreed on Franco — it was odd that he could make all those ladies swoon, but I had a harder time buying that he had any “good” underneath. He plays smug so well, but he went too far to the point of arrogance to come back, I think.

  15. Happy to read you enjoyed it, saw it this week and had a great time. Made me want to watch The Wizard of Oz again to see how they match up…and they did very well!

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