PG Cooper: Oz: The Great and Powerful Review

Posted: March 13, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews



Oz: The Great and Powerful marks another in Hollywood’s trend of reimagining fairy tales as action adventure films. It’s an odd trend, but one that makes sense when you consider that Hollywood doesn’t need to pay for the rights and the action-adventure can help bring in the teen audience. I really haven’t cared about most of these films, but Oz caught my attention, mostly as a fan of the original film from 1939 but also because Sam Raimi would be directing. Even with these factors, I was content to wait for DVD but found myself having to see the film in theaters anyway.

The film opens in 1906, with Oz (James Franco) working as a magician for a travelling circus. One day he is sucked into a Tornado and finds himself in the magical land of Oz. He quickly meets Theodroa the Good Witch (Mila Kunis) who believes Oz to be the prophesized wizard who will save the land of Oz from the Wicked Witch. Oz knows he is not the wizard, but agrees to play along for the fortune and glory that comes with being the wizard. Oz sets off to defeat the Wicked Witch and is accompanied by a flying monkey/loyal servant (Zack Braff) and a little girl made of china (Joey King).

Carrying the film is James Franco with his performance as Oz. He does an admirable job, but at the end of the day the man is miscast in the role. Oz is essentially supposed to be a con man who gets by with his slick and charismatic personality. Franco, despite being a talented actor, just doesn’t have these qualities. Robert Downey Jr. was originally cast in the role and it’s the type of character he would have excelled at playing. That isn’t to say Franco is bad, but he isn’t the write guy for the character. Speaking of miscasting, I also have issues with the actress playing the Wicked Witch who eventually becomes the antagonist of The Wizard of Oz. Now this next part will dip into spoiler territory so the uninitiated may want to skip to the next paragraph. So in the film, there are actually two Wicked Witches: Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and eventually Theodora. At the film’s end, it is presumed that Evanora is the Wicked Witch of the East who gets crushed by a house at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, and that Theodora is the Wicked Witch of the West who will terrorize Dorothy. While Mila Kunis is a decent villain and she gives the performance her all, she isn’t the right person to play the character. It’s a shame too because I think Rachel Weisz would have been perfect as the Wicked Witch of the West. Weisz is a phenomenal actress who nails her role villainous role here, I just wish she had been cast in Kunis’ role. I realize that no performance would live up to what was originally done in 1939 by Margaret Hamilton, but I do think Raimi could have cast the role better. And again, Kunis isn’t bad, just miscast.

Those issues aside, the rest of the cast is pretty good. Michelle Williams is great as Glinda the Good Witch and perfectly echoes Billy Burke’s work in the original film. I’ve heard some critics complain that Williams’ is too wholesome, but that’s exactly what the character is supposed to be like. Joey King and Zack Braff both do a good job as character’s who tag along in the journey. These characters could have been all kinds of annoying but the performers do a good job of making them likable. If I have one more cast complaint it’s with the Bruce Campbell cameo which was underwhelming.

Oz: The Great and Powerful is of course a big effects film, but the effects are something of a mixed bag. The china girl and the flying monkey are both rendered pretty well for example and there’s some good use of make-up too. My problem is with the actual world of Oz. Though very colourful and carefully designed, the fact is the CGI backgrounds are very sterile and obviously fake. I was never able to be sucked into the world of Oz because I knew I was looking at people put up against a green screen half the time. How bizarre it is that the original film, now 74 years old, has a more immersive world than its modern day counterpart. Granted, one can tell that the original film is all done with sets, miniatures, and matte paintings, but at least they really built those things. Everything was real, in a manner of speaking. The same cannot be said for Oz: The Great and Powerful.

What ultimately saves Oz is a lot of heart and a good climax. I genuinely believe the people working on the film cared about the project and had a lot of fun making it. There’s a sincerity to the project that I admired and it did help me get in to the adventure. I also really liked the climax. Instead of a head on battle, Oz and his allies use clever tactics and tricks to fight the Witches. This was for more entertaining, true to the character, and true to the original film than an all-out battle would have been. It’s these elements which keep Oz: The Great and Powerful entertaining, but even with them this film is ultimately very forgettable. I only saw it two days ago and I already can feel it slipping. Overall the film makes for a decent watch but it’s not something one should rush out and see.


  1. I was supposed to see this last week. I’ll have to make a concerted effort to see it this week. Great review mate!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review PG. Not a special movie, but nice for the family if you have some down-time to kill.

  3. Chris says:

    Two hours of my life I’ll never get back!

  4. Yeah, sorry you didnt latch on to it. I found it very entertaining.

  5. ckckred says:

    That’s disappointing to hear. I was looking forward to this one since I like Raimi’s work. Nice review.

  6. ianthecool says:

    I like what you said about the fake looking backgrounds, since that is what turns me off of seeing this movie.

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