Oz the Great and Powerful
2.5 stars: Oz the alright and forgettable
Contrary to the belief of every Hollywood bean counter, there is always a risk in making a film within an established successful franchise. Oz the Great and Powerful is the perfect example of what can go wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
It is definitely grandiose, and was clearly complex to build but it lacks heart. To put it in Oz speak, this is the tin man of films.
First off, can we establish a rule? James Franco should not be allowed near anything with the word Oscar in it ever again.
All dressed up and no heart to show ... Mila Kunis, James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz star in Oz: The Great and Powerful.
Much like his infamous Academy Awards hosting effort, this performance as Oscar, nee Oz, the circus illusionist destined for technicolour wizardry, presents him as an overly disinterested, self-centred and largely unlikeable mystery. The mystery being why on Earth are we following him for the next two hours. Franco proves, again, that though he is a great character actor, he is more often than not a charmless hero.
Where the musical Wicked crafted a cunning, twisting and surprising prequel to the Wizard of Oz, building on those great foundations with its own unique style, this film tries to look like the original and spends a lot of money doing so, but adds little.
The result is something that looks like it is trying too hard.
From the poorly conceived emulation of the famous transition from black and white to colour when Dorothy first arrived in Oz – here the shift is also from 2D to 3D and from a square screen to wide screen – to the use of big painted backgrounds, there is a clash of cinematic cultures that the makers seem to have brought purely about because they can, not because they should ... or have any good reason to do so.
The resulting visual mishmash looks expensive, but lacks charm, and as such is a good representation of this film. It is definitely grandiose, and was clearly complex to build but it lacks heart. To put it in Oz speak, this is the tin man of films.
The three witches – Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are wasted in token roles, particularly Kunis whose initially shallow Theodora is given a major character shift only to become a cartoon character.
It's by no means awful. Zach Braff is amusing as Finley the monkey and tends to bring the best out of Franco. There are also some sublime moments of digital imagery, particularly the opening credits. Yet they are themselves an example of the rule that this film is all carefully recreated style and no substance.
While Oz the Great and Powerful will entertain the ten year olds, it won’t be anyone’s new favourite film and may just tarnish their feelings about their old one.