Going to go ahead and wait for the rimshot following that title….and now wait for that tumbleweed to pass on through…okay, here we go!
Right off the bat, I have not felt this indifferent to a movie in quite some time. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. I liked some things, and didn’t others. In other words, there was no passion in either direction when I left this movie. So it should stand to reason, I am having a difficult time trying to review it.
I grew up having only seen the original 1939 film only once at the instance of my grandmother. I of course was well versed in the iconography of the film well before I ever saw as everyone that has been born in the past 80 years is. The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Munchkins, Yellow Brick Road, Flying Monkeys, and Wicked Witch are ingrained quite deeply in pop culture at this point. I’ve always been a bigger fan of the 1985 “sequel,” ‘Return to Oz.’ It’s not better, it’s just a hell of a lot scarier. Other than that though, I have no real connection to the franchise. I’ve read a couple of the L. Frank Baum, but that was back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. No, what really drew my interest in this film was director, Sam Raimi’s involvement. Raimi is one of my favorite directors in his involvement in almost anything is going to get my attention.
Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he’s hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.
What the trailers were selling was what looked like a rehash of the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland adaptation which I absolutely hated. If there ever was a better example of ‘style over substance’ in a negative way, I’d be hard pressed to find a better example than that piece of trash. Needless to say, it had me worried for this movie. Fortunately, while they look somewhat similar, this film has a tad more substance than the aforementioned Wonderland film. Visually this film is pretty spectacular. Oz is a land I’m not too familiar with, but the visual effects team create a world that really defines breathtaking. I can already tell though that this is going to be one of those experiences that just isn’t going to translate as well to 2-D televisions. Basically, see this movie in 3-D if you can, and while you can if you want to see it at all. There’s also numerous Raimi traditions at work here which never get old. So expect a Bruce Campbell cameo, frantic first-person shots, etc. I wasn’t able to find his car on my first viewing though.
Performance wise, the film is pretty standard. Some of the performers seems like they are phoning it in, but the talent onscreen is so good that even their uninvested performances are better than most. (Looking at you, Rachel Wiez and Michelle Williams.) SPOILER…I GUESS. I thought Mila Kunis was a pretty interesting choice for the Wicked Witch. I really wish she had been more threatening though. Don’t get me wrong, if I were a child I may be shitting my pants when she transforms for the first time, but beyond yelling a lot, she seems more like a nuisance. A woman scorned is already frightening. Add the god like powers of a witch, and everyone should be cowering in fear, and I just didn’t feel that. This brings up another problem I had: this really was a kid’s movie, NOT a family movie. There are some things adults may get i.e. how Oz gets laid a lot, but beyond that this was much more of a kids’ movie. The stakes weren’t really that high in my opinion besides your run-of-the-mill good vs. evil. I liked that the main character was a pretty big douchebag for a majority of the film. James Franco does a solid job at being dick. (Robert Downey Jr. would have been a better choice, but when isn’t he.) I will never be able to get past Zach Braff being J.D. so it was weird seeing him without Donald Faison…and his voice coming from a talking monkey.
Well, I appear to be out of things to say about this movie. To me, it will just exist. It didn’t make me feel a sense of wonder so many critics seem to be feeling, but it didn’t bore me, so I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of time. If you like the world of Oz, chances are you will dig this. So odd to see a movie that clearly so much time was dedicated to, and leave with just a “meh” on your breath. I honestly don’t see how there will be a sequel (besides the obvious motivator of money) because the story wraps up in such a way that just a strait-up remake of The Wizard of Oz seems like the only option, which is impossible for now as Disney doesn’t have the rights to the essential characters to tell that story. (Fun fact: the classic trio of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion couldn’t be used because of legal reasons. Same goes for the Ruby Slippers. The Wicked Witch even had to be a different shade of green.) Anyway, I’m sure Disney will find some excuse to milk this property for all its worth. Its what their best at after all…unless your name is John Carter.
Until next time, my pretties!!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!