Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz
When sleazy magician, Oz, is swept away in a mammoth hurricane after landing himself in a put-upon spot of bother, he arrives in the magical land of Oz. What isn’t so magical however, is the civil war taking place between three great (and greatly attractive) witches for control over the land… and also, well, the movie itself.
What disappointed me most about Sam Raimi’s Oz, the Great and Powerful was the sheer mediocrity it wallows in. The opening credits were great, both visually and due to the names that were there (Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi), as was the 4:3 black and white extended intro, but the Land of Oz was just so dull! The environment was uninspired and repetitive, the characters (minus Michelle Williams as the Good Witch Glenda) flat and charmless, and the script mostly exposition; why were there no song and dance numbers?!
I realise it can be unfair to judge a movie based on the director’s other works, but Sam Raimi has set such a high standard for himself and made a number of films I absolutely adore: The Evil Dead trilogy, Crimewave, Darkman, A Simple Plan, Drag me to Hell, the list goes on… which is why it was such a shame to see his unique and energetic style subdued so heavily. I counted two fleeting moments that felt like they were directed by the great man, one being the all-to-brief Bruce Campbell cameo, and the other the moment Rachael Weiz’ evil witch has her true form revealed at the end (the sharp 180 degree spin to camera a direct reference to a similar scene in Army of Darkness); I can only imagine how much more imaginative this movie would have been if he had have been allowed the complete creative control he was obviously refused.
I realise this is a movie aimed at kids (though I defy anyone who believes it will hold a child’s attention for the full 130 minute running time), but if I’m buying a cinema ticket or blu-ray to visit the Land of Oz I expect to be dazzled and inspired regardless. I don’t expect to have to suffer James Franco’s smugness as he lies, mistreats women, demands greatness and then saves the day in another half-baked performance that must surely convince the cinema-going public (or those that didn’t watch his attempt at hosting the Oscars) that he is in fact a giant hack.
Disney are on fire at the moment; after Alice in Wonderland, John Carter and now The Wizard of Oz I wonder which beloved and renowned piece of artistic/popular culture they’ll aim to pillage next?
A very generous 2.5 china legs out of 5.