I Don’t Want to be a Good Man … I Want to be a Great One.
It’s Tuesday (as I’m writing this, not as you are reading this), which means it was $5 movies at my local theater. Most of the times I get to go to the theaters on Tuesdays, I try to make it a double feature. And, if possible, I try to make the movies I pick be one for me and one for you, my audience. Today was only different in that I accidentally created a theme with the two movies I saw, tied together by the director of today’s movie. But the movie I wanted to see for myself was the other movie. Today’s movie was the one that was requested on Facebook, and it’s also a movie I probably never would’ve seen on my own. The first thing that drew me to the movie was my roommate Richurd telling me about how awful it was. That always makes me want to see something. But I do like the director, so let’s see how Sam Raimi did with Oz the Great and Powerful, based on a series of novels by L. Frank Baum, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, and starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bill Cobbs, Tony Cox, Abigail Spencer, Tim Holmes, Stephen R. Hart, Bruce Campbell, and Ted Raimi.
We are in Kansas once more. Oscar “Oz” Diggs (James Franco) is a magician at a travelling circus who is down on his luck. He is forced to make a hasty retreat when the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) attacks Oz for flirting with his wife. Oz is thoroughly satisfied with himself for escaping in a hot air balloon … until he realizes it’s being drawn into a tornado. He crashes and, when he reawakens, he is in color and in the Land of Oz. He meets Theodora (Mila Kunis), a good witch who believes him to be the wizard prophesized to overthrow the Wicked Witch that terrorizes the Land of Oz, and she quickly develops romantic, and unrequited interest in Oz. On the way to the Emerald City, they rescue a flying monkey named Finley (Zach Braff) from a lion of questionable bravery. When they reach the Emerald City, Oz meets Theodora’s sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who tells Oz that the Wicked Witch poisoned the previous King of Oz, and to defeat her he would need to destroy her wand. But all may be only slightly different than it appears…
I was not a fan of this movie. It wasn’t horrible as my roommate suggested, but there wasn’t much in the movie that was able to win me over. I have a lot of experience with the original Wizard of Oz movie since it was one of my mom’s favorite movies, which meant that I would be forced to watch it several dozen times in my youth. This movie captures a lot of what they accomplished in the original movie, but neither one of them were particularly strong on story. The original movie was all about a girl making friends on her road to meet the Wizard of Oz. This one is Oz making friends on his road to defeat the Wicked Witch. They have a couple of twists in the plot that were admittedly ruined for me by my knowledge of the previous movie. But, though you know where it’s going to end up since it’s a prequel to the original movie, it’s still a little interesting to see how they get there. But it felt like it should’ve been much more interesting. I understand Theodora’s motivation for becoming the Wicked Witch, but I don’t understand the love at first sight thing she had going on. She just dives right into being all the way devoted to this guy and why? Because he’s going to be king? Because he’s a wizard? Because you realize that you’re a witch, right? You can throw fireballs out of your hands but you’re going to be really impressed that he can pull fake flowers out of his sleeve and throw a smoke bomb on the floor? But then she gets pissed enough to commit her life to evil because the relationship she committed to too quickly turns sour. I suppose that’s a thing that women do, but my problem with that situation is that I didn’t see any reason that Evanora should’ve even bothered to conceal her wickedness. When she unveiled it, the soldiers of the Emerald City were still on her side. I also didn’t understand why Glinda was the only one that had the wand as her weak point and crutch? Neither of the other witches even used wands, let alone would die if theirs was broken. Also, “China Town” being a city made out of fine porcelain? Come on…
The look of this movie is by far its most appealing aspect. Once we get to Oz, the movie is beautiful, colorful, and visually striking. As much as seeing the original film in Technicolor must’ve delighted audiences in 1939, I was delighted by the look of this movie. But with the relative lack of story, I started feeling like I was watching a demo video for some new Nvidia graphics card. There were still a couple of issues I took with the look in this movie though. The first I noted was that Finley was not nearly cute enough to be tolerable. The people in the movie acted like he was supposed to be cute, but I found that role was occupied by the tiny China Girl, who was unforgivably and relentlessly adorable. The second was the look of Theodora after she turns evil. I understand what they were trying to do by making her look like a younger version of the same character in the original movie, but I just thought it looked goofy. She had Mexican chola eyebrows for crying out loud! I would’ve felt better about it if they had just Hulked Kunis up with some green paint and let her do the rest with her performance. I would just assume that her appearance changed over the years.
A lot of the performances worked for me, but sadly the main character mostly did not. I’ve liked James Franco in things before, but he was a little too wacky for my tastes in this movie. One could say that he was chewing the fantastic scenery, as they say. I was fine with Mila Kunis in the movie right up until she turned green, and then she kind of lost me. It was possibly the makeup, but also the over the top wicked witch laugh. I don’t know how much you can knock her for it since it was obviously an homage to the original movie, but judging this movie on its own, that was just pretty goofy. It may also have been the fact that she wasn’t wearing those tight pants that made her butt look so good anymore. Rachel Weisz did a good job throughout the movie, and I felt like she was giving a better performance to this movie than it had earned. Had I been in the movie, I would’ve seen Kunis and Franco goin’ nuts and decided to take it easy. On the other hand, she didn’t do a very good job of concealing her wickedness. I kind of had an idea of it from the first time we met her. Michelle Williams brought it to the movie as well, and I found her extremely charming as Glinda. I was trying to figure out what it was I liked so much about her. She had something similar to naiveté, but she was smarter than being considered naïve. Perhaps it’s just extreme optimism. I did feel like Kunis and Weisz should’ve had a Kansas counterpart like Braff and Williams did, though. That’s kind of a staple for the Oz movies. Or at least the one I remember.
Oz the Great and Powerful didn’t really work for me as a movie, but it still has some very watchable parts. They took a cue from the Wizard of Oz in having a super simplistic story, and at least half of the performances were off-putting in how over the top they were, but Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams gave more to the movie than it had really earned. The movie was inarguably beautiful, though the combination of the visual spectacle and lack of story made it feel too much like a demo for a new graphics card. I like watching the video demos when I get a new graphics card, but I won’t recommend that you pay $10 to see it in theaters. Check it out at a RedBox eventually. Oz the Great and Powerful gets “I don’t want to die yet! I haven’t accomplished anything!” out of “You’re capable of more than you know…”
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