Combine James Franco, a $200 million budget and a well-loved children’s classic that has stood the test of time and you are bound to get one of the year’s best films.  Right?

Wrong.  Pffffttt. *Blows raspberry to adequately convey disappointment for this film*

While Oz The Great and Powerful definitely has its attributes and positive aspects, overall it was a film that lacked depth, originality and the simple charm that its predecessor, The Wizard of Oz, has in abundance.

However, as a film reviewer (self-titled, go with it) onwards and upwards I may go to describe in full, why even the lovely James Franco couldn’t keep me entertained.  Plus, I think a lot of people have really enjoyed this film so I may have to defend my opinions.

Plot:

Set 20 years before The Wizard of Oz, Oz The Great and Powerful stars James Franco as con artist Oscar  Diggs, a small-time magician who uses illusion and trickery to make people believe he is magical.  Straight away we learn that Oz lacks morals, is a bit of a ladies man and is concerned solely about making money.  When escaping from an enraged strongman via a hot air balloon, Oz is sucked up into a tornado and transported to the land of Oz.

The land, for all of its beauty, is apparently cursed by the Wicked Witch, and Oz (who everyone believes is their leader and saviour), is to team up with the two ‘good’ witch sisters to bring about her downfall.

Cue slight twist, a romance, a couple of wonderful sidekicks and a realisation that there is more to life than money and you have reached the end of more than 2 hours of film.

Expect some spoilers below.

The Good:

  • Director Sam Raimi makes good use of his massive budget by creating a beautiful and fantastical world.  The colours are gorgeous, the effects surreal and the world believable.  From the textures of the bubble, to the green of the emerald city, Raimi has produced one of the loveliest looking films going around
  • I appreciated the references, both narratively and stylistically to the classic, from the sepia tone to technicolour; the use of the tornado; the way that original characters are replicated in the Land of Oz.  And of course, the lovely yellow brick road is as omnipresent as ever.  Wouldn’t life just be better if all our sidewalks were in yellow?  I wish
  • His sidekicks Finley the flying monkey (Zach Braff) and China Girl (Joey King) (who came from Chinatown, hilarious).  They are possibly the biggest source of entertainment and hilarity that this film has to offer, which is more often than not the case.  Out of all the characters they appeared to have the most depth and personality, as well as being genuinely likeable

The Bad:

  • The acting.  The cast, while all incredibly beautiful (Franco is supported by Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz) are two dimensional and weak.  Although all have shown depth and incredible acting talent in other films, together none of them shone or appeared to be anything special.  As a big James Franco fan I expected him to bring an unusual quality to his generic and cliched character, but he fell easily into the mould and didn’t attempt to break it.  Williams was insipid as Glinda the Good Witch and Weisz immediately came across as evil, although this was meant to be one of the major twists in the film.  The only actress that appeared to put in any effort was Kunis, but once again, her character should have been a lot stronger than it was
  • The storyline.  While intended for a younger audience, I felt that this film lacked charm, innocence and that ‘something’ that so many great kids films have.  I felt that this film tried to convey multiple messages, and while its predecessor did it so well, unfortunately it just came across half-hearted and jumbled.  Are we teaching kids that money isn’t everything?  Or not to lie?  Or just to lie when it’s for a good cause?  That love can go terribly wrong if it’s one-sided?  While each of these could have been addressed in greater detail and really made a poignant point, unfortunately they weren’t explored enough to really make any traction
  • The length.  127 minutes.  I am not always adverse to long films, as I think from the past 5 years we can accurately say that some of the best films created have been lengthy.  However this, sadly, was not one of these films.  There were too many bits of the film that were unnecessary and didn’t add anything to the overall storyline, making it feel like it was dragging a lot of the time

While this is one of my more negative reviews, I know people who really enjoyed this film.  Perhaps it is out of personal preference, or because I had such high expectations (but seriously, with the combination of The Wizard of Oz and Wicked to back you, HOW did it end up with no storyline?), but at the end of the film all I felt was disappointment.

Have you seen Oz The Great and Powerful?  What did you think?  Am I too harsh?   Or do you agree?  Let me know!

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