When you sit back and think about it, making ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ was not only a really risky move, but a rather stupid one. First of all, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is one of the most beloved films OF ALL TIME. It is probably the most famous, popular and well known film ever made and has legions of fans of all ages. It is reference possibly more than any other film, quoted more than any other film and immortalized throughout the years in the hearts and in the mind’s eye of many, many, many people. Latching yourself to any resemblance of the film is cause for instant and unavoidable scrutiny. But then you have another factor, the ‘Wicked’ factor. While ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is beloved by film buffs, ‘Wicked’ is beloved by the theater crowd, and the film buffs have been salivating at the mouth for YEARS waiting for ‘Wicked’ to come to the big screen. Cinephiles have pondered who would star in the film, how they could film it, who would get the big musical numbers, and quite frankly we can all agree that the story development in ‘Wicked’ trumps ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and so taking it on could result in something unforgettable.
Why on earth would you decide to make an ‘Oz’ movie and NOT make that movie ‘Wicked’?
I was skeptical from the moment I saw James Franco was cast in this, since he’s become one of those actors I have no time for anymore. I love how he started his career as this degrading presence most film lovers tried to avoid only to have his status shift during the 2008-2010 years when he latched onto better directors and for a brief moment we thought we had a real talent on our hands, and now he’s turned into this pretentious slab of annoying that we all wish would just go away.
And yes, I thought he was brilliant in ‘Spring Breakers’.
|Do you really want to go anywhere with James Franco?|
With ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’, I was ready for a disaster. I think what makes this particular disaster so upsetting though is that the opening sequence is so magically perfect that I started to get my hopes up. Sadly, the minute that the film gains color and thrusts us into Oz the film falls apart faster than the tickets sold to Justin Timberlake’s last tour. You could liken this to Burton’s disastrous ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and the comparison would be obvious and understandable, but I’m almost tempted to say that ‘Alice’ was a better film. I mean, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is already kind of a camp classic and one that lends itself to interpretation. What Raimi and company do here though is completely desecrate a classic that shouldn’t have been so poorly deconstructed. It’s almost offensive how much they’ve twisted the original story and stomped all over what could have been perfect.
THIS STORY HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN! WHY REWRITE IT?!?!
While I can fault it forever for NOT being ‘Wicked’, I should try and look at it for what it is, which is the story of the wizard himself. But really, is it? I mean, the film seems very uninterested with that particular character, making him nothing more than a self-centered and arrogant idiot who has a strange tinge of redemption in the finale (which felt ripped from ‘Inglourious Basterds’) and was made completely forgettable (and nearly loathsome) thanks to Franco’s ridiculous performance (which was all sorts of perfect theatrics in the opening sequence but lost all manipulative charm once the film actually started). No, this is really the story of the witches, which is why I fault it for NOT being ‘Wicked’. The main focus here is on a hammy Rachel Weisz, and out of her depth Mila Kunis and a ‘dead behind the eyes’ Michelle Williams (I love Williams as an actress, but this was Razzy worthy).
This retelling of the story we already know has become a joke, and one that isn’t fun to laugh at.
Like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ before it, this is technically uneven as well. Many of the special effects and production design elements are admirable and even really, really good and yet so many of them are also so overproduced that they appear inauthentic and ugly. Emerald City is a dazzling delight, until you walk inside a building and that fake green color coats the walls and looks trashy. That fog created by Glinda looks like clouds of milk and lets not even get started on the effects used on the Wicked Witch herself. That transformation was such a mess.
And that brings me to the fact that this film is such a tacky and campy retelling of a story that doesn’t need to, nor deserve to be, told in such a manner.
If you want to experience ‘Wicked’ this year, go see ‘Frozen’.
I give this an F. I wanted to like this, but I just couldn't help but gradually start to loathe it. Oscar recently snubbed this in the Visual Effects category, so I'm wondering if that means they've forgotten it entirely, but I have a feeling that this will snag a nomination for Costume Design, and it would be deserving (the best aspect of the film).