Movie Review: Oz: The Great and Powerful

By Diana Eales |

I expected Oz: The Great and Powerful to be an entertaining prequel to the original 1939 The Wizard of Oz, but despite impressive graphics I was disappointed in the characters’ lack of, well, character.Oz (James Franco) himself is a lying, cheating and arrogant charmer. What a poor example for a child of a worthwhile suitor. It’s like saying, “Ok, kid, lying is okay if it helps you succeed, and if you make sure your pride is overflowing you can have anything.” Right. Oz is assumed to be the Wizard and takes on that role knowing that his “great and powerful” is just a flashy carnival act. I guess it all works out in the end and good wins. But good wins at what cost? Dishonesty? Faking it until making it?

And then there are the witches. I’ve never been a fan of witches, but I suppose they have their place in fantasy. Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) are witches of the West, East and North. The plot holds up and anyone who’s seen the original will make connections to what they know will happen next. Still, a perfectly good witch turns evil because she falls for a charming man. Is that a testament to the lengths to which women will go or to the damage men can do?

The only good parts were the CGI and the monkey, Finley (Zach Braff), who pledges himself to Oz and follows him everywhere like a dedicated sidekick. With the little the film had to offer, at least some comedic relief came from time to time. And if not from a winged monkey in a bellhop’s outfit, then from the little China Girl (Joey King), whose witty remarks ironically brought much of the story’s darkness down to earth.

So with the promotion of questionable means, a stunning creative landscape is overshadowed by shallow character development. Oz is the only character that seems to positively develop over the course of the film, but even so the end result seems to justify his shady actions. He ended up a slightly less selfish man who got everything he wanted, anyway.

For so many in my circle of friends to say it is a family friendly movie, I question where they get their definition of “family friendly”. While the land of Oz is full of musical plants, colorful animals and a gleaming Emerald City, the tense plot line is darker than the innocence of Dorothy Gale and Toto. If flying monkeys creeped you out in the original, try way more realistic looking flying baboons. Director Sam Raigi did an excellent job with the visuals but everything else was sub-par.

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