Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful as a film is actually a pretty solid analogue for both the title character and all three of the witches: pretty, but just a bit 'off' and ultimately without depth.

Throughout the entire film, the first though running through my head was ‘oh, that looks like they’re in a cartoon’. I’m not sure if this was the look they were going for, but that’s definitely what they got. It was all the more apparent any time one of the characters had to interact with the China girl. I get that it’s harder to replace a prop that the actors are holding than creating a completely CGI character, but the latter has the unfortunate side effect of looking exactly as fake as it is. It was particularly noticeable when Oz was off with the money and China girl. You could almost tell that when those scenes were filmed, he was all alone in front of a green screen.

Add onto that a dearth of things that didn’t really make any sort of sense in context and never were mentioned again. The musical swamp at the very beginning, the gemstone flowers, things like that. It does help to make the world feel somewhat more fantastic (and I bet many of those scenes were shout-outs to the original books; easy enough with 14 canonical books plus numerous others) but it would have been nice to see some of them actually come back in the latter acts.

If I had to point out one thing that was really unfortunate about the new Oz though, it was the complete lack of a strong female character. Now, not every movie necessarily has to have a strong female character, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Particularly since that’s one thing that the Wizard of Oz has always had. Instead we got a whole series of girls that fell for the most blatantly obvious ‘charm’ with nary a backwards glance. I know that was part of the joke, but it just sort  of fell sour.

I did like the few shout outs that I caught though–like Oz’s spurned lover back in Kansas engaged to a man named Gale. I’m sure that if I had watched the original film more recently, I would have caught more, but I did appreciate that they kept them subtle. Too many prequels have been ruined by making them far too obviously prequels and not letting them stand on their own merits.

Overall, it was longer than it needed to be, quite obviously made for 3D (I saw it in 2D), and kind of fell apart if you look at it too closely. But on the flip side, it was visually quite impressive and there were a few actual laugh out loud moments. It’s not something I’ll probably watch again, but if you’re looking for something to watch, you could do worse. Overall, I enjoyed it more than Hansel & Gretel, but not quite as much as my current top 3, so it comes in just at the halfway mark for the year.