Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

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The now less than wonderful landAndrew DISLIKE BannerMy thoughts on Oz the Great and Powerful were depressingly straightforward when I walked out of the theater.  Oz made me feel more horrible about film as an art form than any movie in recent history.  I was depressed that an artist of Raimi's stature had stooped to make a film steeped in sexist ideas, bland images, unnecessary fetishism, and selfish characters presided over by a scarcely contained teenage boy's id.

Oz would be bad enough on its own, but this film plays into the legacy of the all-time wonder of The Wizard of Oz.  I don't know how it happened, but I would like to know who saw Dorothy confronting the Wicked Witch and thinking that all the witch needed was a slight leather remake with two inches of cleavage.  Yes, the story of Oz is more directly sexualized than Dorothy's awakening to adolescence in the earlier film, but that is yet another problem that Sam Raimi seems to have brought to the film in one way or another.

The special effects in the film are in the service of plunging necklines and boring laser show battles.

The special effects in the film are in the service of plunging necklines and boring laser show battles.

Oz serves as the origin story of the smoke-and-mirrors wizard who relied on technology and bravado in the original film.  He is working as an illusionist in a small-time carnival traveling through Kansas during a blustery spell of weather.  James Franco, as Oz, embodies everything that is wrong with the movie and character as written.  He's cynical, smug, obsessed with sex and flair, deceptive, and worst of all never changes.  Oz begins the story an overconfident con-man womanizing through deception, and when the red curtain falls he remains the same.

The cynicism of Oz in this film is felt most deeply in the flat-screen, black and white, opening segments.  It culminates in one of the most directly manipulative and downright unfair moments regarding the power of illusion and film.  A little girl (Joey King), pleased with his tricks, asks him to give her the power to walk again.  A riot that follows shows that neither Oz, Raimi, nor anyone else in the movie is willing to give into the very illusions that they present.  It's painful but entirely unearned in light of the non-arc that Oz is on.

Things get worse when Oz, spirited away by his womanizing issues and a tornado, lands in the fantasy land that bears his namesake.  Raimi tries to replicate some of the magic of the original transition by switching the movie to color and widescreen, but it doesn't work.  The colors are drab and murky, very little pops in a way that the Technicolor beauty of the original seemed to do so easily, and there is little creativity in the environment.

Oz has a chance meeting with Theodora (Mila Kunis) where he is roped into saving the land from the Wicked Witch because of a prophecy that tells of his coming.  This is where some of the sexualization issues his their apex and continue throughout the story.  Oz meets three witches during his time in their fantasy land, tries to bed each one of them, and actually creates more problems in Oz because of his wandering ways.  The problems are, in turn, blamed on the witches and not Oz's lack of commitment as he has the gall to say to one brokenhearted character at the end that when she wants to come back she's more than welcome to.  No apology, no sadness - he just expresses that he did what he did and so what you can come back when you've grown up.

The story of the little china girl is almost pulled off until the message presented to her is still that your family is dead and all magic is a lie. For kids!

The story of the little china girl is almost pulled off until the conclusion is still that her family is dead and all magic is a lie. You know, for kids!

The lessons of the film are duplicity will get you riches, learning to lie well enough will get you laid, if you are deceptive enough you will win out at the end, and you will feel bad about nothing.  All horrible, and Raimi does nothing to dissuade from them.  Even some of his signature horror film touches, like a pair of eyes believed to be ghosts or some vindictive wooden shrapnel, are designed more to pop for the 3D crowd then present a real challenge for the wizard.

It's not all despair in the land of Oz.  Zach Braff manages to score one huge laugh as a beleaguered monkey valet staging a wonderful distraction.  Then there is the story of a little china doll girl (King again) that almost redeems the earlier wheelchair scene.  But if you think just a little bit about her arc and the culminating battle of the film, you'll realize that there are not one, but two instances of mass genocide in Oz the Great and Powerful.

Even what it seems they get right is completely wrong.  I felt angry, disgusted, depressed, and am now completely clueless as to what happened to Sam Raimi's heart.  He's not into these images, and despite choosing to collaborate with Franco again their partnership breeds more cynicism in their films.  I wish they chose to buy into the illusion, for better or worse, instead of smirking their way through what could have been so beautiful.

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Oz the Great and Powerful - TailOz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Directed by Sam Raimi.
Screenplay written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner.
Starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, and Joey King.

Posted by Andrew

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Good review Andrew. If anything, this movie reminded me of the wonderful world of Oz and all of it’s magic and beauty. Was it perfect? Hell no! But at least it kept me happy and pleased for the most part.

  2. Thank you! I thought I was the only person on Earth who absolutely hated this movie. It’s good to know there is at least one other person out there who thinks there is something seriously wrong with this film. Bravo sir.

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