Oz: The Great and Powerful Review

Posted 4 years ago by myetvmedia

Oz: The Great and Powerful, Disney’s modern day prequel to the original 1939 film is anything but great and powerful. Where oh where has the signature Disney magic gone? The yellow brick road to the great Emerald city has not been followed by this new effort. The universally beloved classic starring Judy Garland with her little dog Toto and the beloved characters who become her companions; Scarecrow, The Cowardly Lion and The Tin Man had a special magic that defies time and contemporary translation. What Oz: The Great and Powerful demonstrates with all it’s computer generated wizardry is that we need a great story with great characters which cannot be faked or copied.

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

Oz: The Great and Powerful plays off L. Frank Baum’s inspired 1990 ‘Oz’ stories and characters, but unabashedly, and slyly in some cases, borrow from the original film. Creating a new story based on an iconic franchise leaves Disney wide open for criticism. It is pretty tough to tamper with the magic of the Munchkins, the famous ruby slippers, Toto, Glinda – the Good Witch of the North, the wicked witch and those memorable songs. Who hasn’t got a favourite rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow or Judy Garland’s timeless original in their consciousness, inspiring and encouraging us on our own quests?

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

Disney’s 1985 “Return to Oz” was unique because of the elaborate set designs. While fantastical they still had an air of realism to them. They drew you into the complex and wondrous world of Oz with a feeling that this land could be a real land. In Oz: The Great and Powerful, newer technologies allowed Disney animators to recreate a super saturated Oz with computer animated graphics, indulgent and without adding much to the story. Unfortunately like too much chocolate this overdose of computer wizardry took away the ability for the viewer to digest the world of Oz and all its subtle connections to our world. It felt disjointed and overdone, the magic and metaphor gone.

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

The beauty of the story originates from the melding of fantasy and reality between Dorothy’s dream world, the Emerald City and Kansas. The munchkins and Glinda encourage Dorothy to  “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, the metaphoric bridge that connects these worlds. The yellow brick road immortalized the quest for independence and coming of age of a young woman and the salvation of her companions who in turn find intelligence, courage and love within their very own grasp. As the film unfolds these fantastic characters, a tin man, a lion and a straw man become as real as you and I. The great and powerful Oz turns out to be as human (and it turns out as fearful) as we are. Dorothy’s world is filled with the familiar. In the original film, we all recognize and connect as much with Kansas as we do with Oz. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

Oz: The Great and Powerful directed by Sam Raimi had great promise with an all-star cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Zach Braff. So why did it feel so flat? Oz: The Great and Powerfulis presented as a very real place, no delusions that the journey to Oz is ‘just a dream’. This film suspends the metaphor to favour the indulgence of cinematic explanation.  Leave it to modern day Disney to really beat us over the head with morality and righteous life lessons. The producers of the original 1939 film gave audiences some credit for being sophisticated in discerning the story within the story.

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

This modern day OZ is dull and the themes dumbed down despite the VFX; gone is all the magic that made Dorothy’s journey to Oz and each character’s quest something special. With the lack of iconic imagery such as Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, the beautiful musical moments, Oz: The Great and Powerful is a disappointment. The writing and subsequently the acting lacked emotional depth and maturity. Mila Kunis’ broken-hearted Theodora falls flat on her green tinted face. Michelle Williams’ Glinda the Good was an obvious attempt at conjuring up the Judy Garland of ’39, it ended up feeling one dimensional; and Rachel Weisz didn’t have the real fire that should go hand in hand with a lust for power . The saving grace for the entire film was James Franco whose con artist, Oscar “Oz” Diggs felt genuine — his con-artist hokeyness provided some warm-hearted moments which were effective but fleeting.

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

Oz’s journey is almost completely the inverse of Dorothy’s with contrived parallels along the way. He journeys from the Emerald City; she journeys to it. They both quest down the Yellow Brick Road in search of a Witch’s talisman and meet friendly sidekicks along the way who aid in their quest. The Wicked Witch arrives in a cloud of fire and threatens all in both stories, reducing the Wicked Witch to a one trick pony.

Photo courtesy of Disney Pictures

While inspired by the original and its many subsequent interpretations, this Oz is less than inspiring. Almost 75 years after being introduced to the story and its characters on film, the original magic remains unsurpassed. If Disney’s disappointing effort does nothing more than introduce a new audience to the 1939 ‘Wizard of Oz’, that is a good thing.

- myETVmedia editorial team & Lauren Schell

  

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