Mila Kunis and James Franco in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Disappointing

Following his shenanigans with the Strong Man's daughter at Baum Brothers Circus, magician Oscar "Oz" Diggs (James Franco) flees the scene in a hot air balloon only to find himself sucked into a violent tornado which takes him to the Land of Oz. It is there that he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a naive witch who believes Oscar to be a wizard prophesied to arrive and defeat the Wicked Witch who killed the King of Oz. Taking him to the Emerald City they also encounter a flying monkey who Oz saves from a lion and so becomes indebted to Oscar for the rest of his life. But whilst Oz is only thinking of himself and how he can make off with the King's fortune he finds himself drawn in to the trouble in Oz especially when first he rescues a China Girl and then meets Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams) who he has been tricked in to thinking is the Wicked Witch by the deceptive Evanora (Rachel Weisz) who is in fact behind everything and is manipulating Theodora.

Maybe it is me but by the time I had finished watching "Oz the Great and Powerful" I was utterly disappointed, in fact when ever I review a movie I jot two columns of notes, the positives and negatives and I had just two positives and far too many to mention negatives written down. Now maybe it is me, maybe as a fan of the classic "The Wizard of Oz" my expectations for this prequel were too high, maybe I expected something more along the lines of the classic version and wasn't prepared for what whilst a prequel is also a re-imagining for a 21st century audience. What ever the reason I honestly don't think there has been a movie made so far in the 21st century which has disappointed me as much as "Oz the Great and Powerful" has.

The China Girl in Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

But before I get to what disappointed me about "Oz the Great and Powerful" let me quickly cover the positives with the storyline being the best thing about the movie. The whole back story to how Oscar the magician ended up in the Land of Oz and creating his contraption to make him Oz the Great is entertaining as is also the back story to how Theodora became the Wicked Witch. In truth it is a shame that this movie does such a poor job of telling that story with the only other positive in this movie being the character of the China Girl as she has the charm, humour and beauty which I expected from this movie.

Unfortunately those positives are hugely outweighed by the negatives starting with the decision to try and imitate the classic 1939 version by starting in black & white before going to colour. It ends up a weak gimmick which due to the use of CGI lacks the same sort of power when you suddenly enter the Land of Oz and rather than seeing these amazing sets we are confronted by computer generated backdrops. On the subject of gimmicks there is also the use of 3D which for me added absolutely nothing to the movie other than increased minutes so that we could have things thrown towards the camera which have no relevance. Not only that the use of 3D to create danger, such as when Oscar is almost killed by sharp wood panels tearing through the balloon basket gives it an element of darkness which feels not so much out of place but too dark for a family movie.

And the negatives keep on coming as to be frank there is little I liked about the casting and acting either with James Franco seeming to be struggling with how to smile naturally through out "Oz the Great and Powerful". I don't know what it was but Franco continuously looked like he was struggling with the character of Oscar and I do wonder whether Zach Braff, who voices the friendly flying monkey, would have been a better choice. It isn't just Franco who disappoints as both Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz both look like they are struggling to play their characters and it makes me wonder whether acting in front of I presume green screens caused them difficulty in getting in to their characters.

What this all boils down to is that "Oz the Great and Powerful" ended up "Oz the Disappointing" as it failed to deliver what I expected and ended up a movie dominated by awkward performances and gimmicks. And that is a shame as the prequel storyline certainly had the potential to be an entertaining and charming family movie.