2013, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Rachel Weisz. Screenplay by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Sam Raimi.
Oz the Great and Powerful was better than I expected. I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I were a big fan of James Franco. The CG was beautiful but at times seemed to overshadow the actors. Or maybe James Franco has a problem working with green screen. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something felt the tiniest bit “off.” It might be as simple as a subconscious comparison to the universally beloved Judy Garland classic.
Well, maybe not “universally.” I understand that fans of the original L. Frank Baum books think it stinks. According to a high school friend of mine who was familiar with the books and had never seen the movie until she was seventeen, The Wizard of Oz was “a truly horrible movie that butchered a great story.” That was decades ago and she’s still a very weird person who doesn’t like movies all that much. Now I’m having trouble recalling why we were such good friends in high school, we don’t seem to have a lot in common…
I thought the basic back story of how a flim-flam con artist from a county fair became the Wizard of Oz was quite well done. It was after he got to Oz and started meeting its weird inhabitants that felt a little slow. There were plenty of nicely done, understated references to the 1939 musical but the focus was on what I assume were characters and plot lines from the L. Frank Baum original stories.
Mila Kunis was fantastic, Michelle Williams was a perfect sugary-sweet Glinda, and Rachel Weisz was great. There are some nice surprises with the way they handled the origin story of the Wicked Witch; her grand entrance was truly awesome! When they finally get past the slow middle part and the Wicked Witch gets involved, the action is quite thrilling.
I suppose citizens of Emerald City can’t help it that they are basically all as dumb as a stump. Or maybe naive is a better word. But I won’t be able to watch the classic now without feeling differently about Glinda and the Wizard.
For a “prequel” to a classic movie that is still being enjoyed by new generations, it was pretty good. I’m so used to the singing and dancing in the first one that I think somehow it almost felt like something was missing in this new one. But that’s just me. I can’t see a Munchkin without wanting to hear “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”
Oh, about the flying monkeys – it seems that this new production wants to correct some unfair stereotypes. Maybe not all flying monkeys are evil, ugly little buggers but the ones belonging to the Wicked Witch STILL scare the snot out of me. Go see it. You’ll like it.