Friday, April 5, 2013

Oz The Great And Powerful [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

Oz The Great And Powerful has all the makings to become a very good movie. Two great leads in James Franco and Mila Kunis. Along side three great supporting roles played by Zach Braff, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. It uses source material from one of the greatest book and movie combinations of all time. Combine that with getting distributed by Disney and being directed by Sam Raimi, this movie should be a powerhouse. Right? Well let's just say that it didn't quite fill the britches of the all time classic. What it does do is deliver a great story and some good acting. Along with some interesting concepts and parallels drawn between itself and The Wizard of Oz as well.

Oz The Great And Powerful follows the story of small time magician Oscar Diggs (James Franco) who performs with a traveling circus. One day after a show, as a storm approaches, the circus strong man finds out that Oscar was flirting with his wife. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon only to be sucked into a devastating tornado and taken to the Land of Oz. Upon landing in a lake he stumbles upon Theodora (Mila Kunis). She believes that Oscar is the one able to kill the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. On their way to the Emerald City, Theodroa falls in love with Oscar because of his flirtatious ways. They also meet a flying monkey, Finley (Zach Braff), who pledges his life to Oscar after he saves him from an attacking lion.
When they reach Emerald City they meet Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora's sister, who is skeptical of Oscars powers. She informs Oscar that to defeat the Wicked Witch, he must destroy her wand. Oscar and Finley set off on a journey to the Dark Forest to find and destroy said wand. Along the way they meet and help China Girl (Joey King), who joins them after they save her from being attacked by the Wicked Witch. They reach the Dark Forest and find the witch they were told about. But before Oscar breaks the wand, the woman reveals herself as Glenda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams). This sets forth a series of magical events in which Oscar must truly step up and save the Land of Oz. Before it is taken over for good by the real Wicked Witch.

There is a lot of good in this movie, but I can see disagreements to all of these points I'm about to make. First off, I loved the filming and directing style. Sam Raimi is probably one of my favorite directors of all time. So if you can get him a good movie, he will translate it to the screen well. The opening part of the movie in 4:3 and black and white transitioning into the 2.35:1 widescreen and full color was great touch. An easy homage to the first movie and I could point them out all day, but lets just say continuity wasn't a huge problem in this prequel of sorts. The acting was very good as well. James Franco and Mila Kunis had a good on-screen chemistry throughout. The combo of Franco, Zach Braff and Joey King held up great too. There's a lot of pairing groups up in this movie and none of them didn't work. All the main actors involved do a great job and got me into their characters well. When a character is played well it's not something that's a pain to watch in my eyes. A lot of the time, especially in the majority of movies nowadays, it feels like people either overact or don't try at all. There isn't much of that going on in this. The story is great as well. Mitchell Kapner, who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay, did a fantastic job of making an engaging story with well written characters. From drama to romance and action to emotion, all the bases are covered in this one. So far this year it's definitely one of the better written films.

Finally we come to the magic and wonder of Oz. I love CGI when it's done well and this movie has it in spades. From the moment Oscar floats into Oz you get that same yellow brick road feeling when Dorothy gets there. Creatures and plants never before discovered and cities and people not thought to even exist, Oz is a cornucopia of people and places made in your imagination. There is one huge gripe for me with Oz The Great And Powerful is that the CGI can look really over used at times. Now I know I just praised the CGI, but it's a double edged sword. While at times it looked really innovative and good, there's countless times you can tell there's a green screen behind the actors. You see this at an annoyingly alarming rate. I would like to not notice every time an actor is in front of said green screen. But with Oz being a completely fictional place it's a feat I'll have to get use to if I ever go back to this in the future. The length of the movie is a tad long as well. It's over two hours and there's a lot of scenes that are long and draggy. Especially the first thirty minutes or so. It evens out a bit when Oscar finally does get to OZ, but "long" scenes are still littered throughout this visual spectacle. There's not a lot to get annoyed at about this movie, but it's the little things that piled up throughout that really brought down my liking of this.

This movie is easily one of those movies you'll either like or you'll hate. Oz The Great And Powerful has strengths all over with it's incredible cast, good action, great story and imaginative CGI. It's severely weighed down by overuse of said CGI and overdrawn scenes in a movie that's a bit too long. All in all I really enjoyed myself watching this movie. Franco did a great job in the lead role and when the CGI is good, it's great. If you liked The Wizard of Oz I think you'll be surprised by this one. If you somehow haven't seen that yet, you should probably go watch that as soon as possible.

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