“Oz the Great and Powerful” is a fantasy set in the world created by the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Despite the magic of its predecessor, “Oz” fails to create a world with even half the believability of the original.
“Oz” tells the story of Oscar Diggs, Oz for short, a traveling circus magician adept at parlor tricks and leading on young women. Played by James Franco (“127 Hours”), Oz is nothing short of a jerk, making him incredibly difficult to connect with as a character. He mistreats his assistant Frank, played by Zach Braff (“Scrubs”), and in the first 15 minutes of the movie he flirts with three different women.
Following the lore of the original, a tornado sends Oz to the Land of Oz. Here the film makes the transition from black and white to bright vibrant color. Upon landing, Oz meets a young woman by the name of Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”).
Theodora mistakes Oz for a real wizard, and being the con man that he is, Oz plays the role using his cheap magic tricks. However, he has entered a land of real magic and Theodora is a real witch. Thus the convoluted and contrived plot of “Oz the Great and Powerful” begins.
Theodora thinks that Oz is the man spoken of in a prophecy that tells the end of the war in the Land of Oz. Oz and the love struck Theodora travel to the Emerald City, gaining the help of a flying monkey named Finley, voiced by Braff.
The Land of Oz is filled with expensive computer designed environments. Despite their high price, the environments lack any sort of depth and feel empty. The backgrounds reveal nothing beyond the foreground, and give the film a void.
That being said, Disney managed to avoid the uncanny valley with Finley. Finley is a computer generated character with incredibly realistic facial expressions. His face is full of emotion and never wanders into the realm of uncomfortable. This is incredibly difficult to achieve in a computer generated character and the team who worked on the character deserve recognition.
The CG work on Finley does not save this movie though. Throughout the journey through the Land of Oz, the film heads into unsteady ground and gets progressively worse.
The plot begins to fall apart and continuity issues arise for anyone trying to enjoy the movie. The writers must not have been able to decide if they were writing a comedy movie or not, and the film suffers from jokes that are downright painful.
In addition, character growth is unheard of in the film. Oz is this man of questionable morality, yet he never suffers any consequences for his behavior. He is a static character, and a forgettable protagonist. Franco worked to the best of his abilities in the role, but still feels poorly cast as Oz.
The other witches in the movie, Evanora and Glinda, played by Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams respectively, are just as devoid of character as Oz. Theodora is the only character with any sort of change, and even then it feels forced and lacks anything that would make the audience empathize with her.
Overall the film starts off as mildly enjoyable and gets progressively more difficult to watch or enjoy. From the empty scenery, to the misguided characters, the audience is left wanting something actually worthwhile.
The previews before the film had a better sense of narrative and depth than “Oz the Great and Powerful.” I suggest skipping the eyesore that is this mess, and watching “The Wizard of Oz” at home instead.