This is the second live action produced by the new management over at Disney since last years John Carter of Mars. Whereas as JCM had no real advertising or studio support to speak of, lending to poor box office results for a genuinely good movie, Oz the Great and Powerful had roughly a $100 advertising campaign which helped boost it to the number one spot domestically and internationally this past weekend, where it garnered a whopping $150 million. But I am not going to bore you with box office stats.
What I am going to talk about is the film Oz the Great and Powerful, which I watched with my family over the weekend.
Now, the film is aimed at family audiences, but much like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) this new Oz film has a rather dark edge to it. Sam Raimi didn't skimp on the fright scenes, which he is a master of, and they are executed with precision in this film to startling results. That said, it may not be well suited for younger audiences.
My daughter, who is only three, and who is perfectly fine watching every season of Doctor Who with her dad, and whose favorite Doctor Who characters are the monstrous Cybermen and the frightening Silence, no less, told me that OzGP was too scary for her tastes. (Yes, and three is a bit young for such movies, and I honestly thought it would be fine with a movie based on a children's classic. Not quite the case. So those with toddlers and young children may want to preview the film first.)
Now unlike your standard movie reviews I'm gonna launch my criticisms first. Mainly because, I don't have very many. There is a lot to praise aobut OzGP and very little to nit pick about.
My main criticism of this film is the near absolute lack of any real humor to speak of. That isn't to say it is entirely without humor. Just nearly so. The humor that is here doesn't translate well across the board. I watched the film in Japan, and the Japanese audience did not get any of the jokes. That's because a lot of the jokes involved do not translate well into other languages, which is why situational humor always goes over better in foreign markets, not to mention appeals more to younger audiences.
OzGP has surprisingly little in the way of physical or situational humor. In fact, there isn't any. It's mainly implied humor revolving around the character Oz, played by James Franco, and his constant womanizing. Even with cute characters like an adorable flying monkey and china doll girl, there is only one memorable comedic scene in the entire movie. One. You get to laugh once. That's it.
This lead my wife and daughter to feel the movie was wholly too serious, and for a family feature involving a remake based off a musical (in which it takes all of its visual cues) it seemed rather to the point. With a dash more humor the film would have been more accessible to foreign audiences and children, I think. So the seriousness of the film, seems to me, to have hindered rather than helped its overall appeal.
Which brings me to my next gripe. Throughout the film Oz continually reminds us that he's not a good man. All the other characters tell him that he clearly is, even if he doesn't see it. Now, it plays well into the overall story, but what bothered me was how many times it was brought up. It wasn't once. Or twice. Or three or four times. But constantly throughout the whole film. It felt as if, just when you were beginning to get into the character stories, they would pause everything ... just to remind you ... yet again ... that Oz wasn't all that great of a guy, but secretly, he really was.
It seemed to be talking down to the adult audience that this movie was clearly aimed at.
Those are two very damning criticisms in my eyes, but the real question is, does the film make up for them?
Without any hesitation I can honestly say, "Yes."
What OzGP fails at it makes up for in spades of fun.
This is probably the most amazing 3D film produced to date, and it is well worth the extra cost of the 3D ticket. If you don't like 3D films, don't worry, the 2D is a brilliantly rendered, beautifully executed, land of Oz.
The thing I watched for were the Kansas and Oz parallels, and there were many. Some of them obvious, and some subtle, but they all worked.
For me personally, the most important thing was whether or not the film would have the adventurous quality of the original, and whether or not meaningful friendships would be forged. In both cases, I am happy to report, the Raimi and his team of talented filmmakers succeeded.
From start to finish I felt the film kept a steady pace, even with Oz breaking into several speeches throughout, luckily the speeches were rather short.
The hero's journey always seemed to be the main focus of the plot. First in Oz's journey from Kanas to the wonderful world of Oz, and then the journey to find the wicked witch and destroy her wand, and then the journey to save the people of Oz, and finally the journey of the discovery of the self. All of these journeys tie together to make the Oz character well rounded. A far more believable character than the Alice in Wonderland remake in which Alice seemed like a drab and boring little one dimensional girl. I also like how this story explains how the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz is formed.
Danny Elfman's score to OzGP is his best to date, at least in my opinion. It has flourishes hinting at the original Wizard of Oz musical but remains entirely its own. The score is epic and rolling and, to its benefit, is easy on the ears (unlike some of Elfman's previous scores). It's the type of score where you could buy the album and enjoy listening to it.
Finally, the best of the film, were the witches. I have to say, I really liked every scene where there was a good witch or a bad witch. The actresses were engaging, and I have to say, Mila Kunis makes the sexiest witch I've ever seen. I also get the sense from her performance that she had a blast playing her character too.
Lacks in the humor department.
Too scary for young kids.
Best 3D film to date
Good story and fun characters
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.