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L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” was probably the first major American children’s tale that wasn’t inspired by either European fairy tales nor by tales from other Eastern cultures. It affixed itself to be the true American children’s story; so it seemed imminent that it would get adapted for the screen in a matter of time. And after the success of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, MGM went on to do just that and created the 1939 musical classic, “The Wizard of Oz”.
It wasn’t until after a few re-releases did the film become a megahit and a household name! And it wasn’t long after that people would try to recreate the magic of this musical masterpiece and the books that inspired it. Walt Disney himself would be one of these people. He had even begun working on a film entitled “Rainbow Road to Oz” featuring his Mouseketeers. It was supposed to be Walt’s first live-action musical, but due to his lack of satisfaction with it, he quickly gave up on that idea and made “Babes in Toyland” instead.
But the Disney Studios wouldn’t give up on the wonderful world of Oz so easily! Oh no, they would eventually make two live-action Oz-related films! The first was a sequel to the 1939 film entitled “Return to Oz”. Released in 1985, it sadly was a financial disappointment, but has since gained cult status!
And the second was an official prequel to the 1939 film entitled, “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, which is the subject of today’s review! So sit back and enjoy as we venture through this 2013 box office sensation!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
So the film opens up to a very enjoyable and creative credits sequence (Probably the only time I’ve ever wanted to watch the credits):
After that interesting “Pink Elephants on Parade”-type scene, we get a glimpse into our beginning locale: a travelling circus in Kansas! It’s your typical travelling circus with feisty female Western heroes, revenge-seeking strongmen, and eventually our eponymous protagonist of the film, Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs, or Oz for short.
Oz, played by James Franco, is a typical con man who wants nothing more than greatness. But this is hard to achieve whilst performing in a travelling circus! Instead of working on attaining greatness, Oz makes a living by making people disappear, treating partners like trained monkeys, and destroying little girls’ dreams of ever regaining the ability to walk!
This causes Oz much frustration with the whole business, but one day, an aforementioned revenge-seeking strongman chases after Oz, prompting Oz to do the only thing sensible: hide in a hot air balloon and fly away!
All seems to go well, until he notices something!
Inside the tornado, we’re treated to a bunch of 3D gimmicks which makes one feel guilty that one hasn’t seen this film in 3D!
Oh well, after pleading to God (presumably), Oz is saved and is mysteriously transported to a strange unknown land of color, more 3D gimmicks, and a widescreen view!
As Oz looks in awe at this new world, he comes into contact with a character dressed in a burgundy-type color played by Mila Kunis, who gives an extremely uninspired performance throughout the whole film.
She informs Oz that he’s landed in…Oz, a place that apparently has a legend stating that one day a wizard with the same name of the land will fall from the sky and help bring peace back to the land! And to top it all off, Mila Kunis tells Oz that she is in fact, a witch!
No, not a stereotypical witch! (She doesn’t even know that witches are supposed to be riding brooms)! No, she’s actually Theodora the Good! Ok, sorry, Mila; but I honestly don’t believe that you’re a good witch! There’s just something about your uninspired acting that spells “EVIL” in big, capital, imaginary lettering!
Anyway, the reason that peace needs to come back to the land is that there exists an evil witch, a WICKED witch, to be precise, who causes terror and turmoil throughout the land. And at the moment, she is after Oz with hopes of killing him! The only thing that can be done is for Theodora to take Oz to the Emerald City, in which he is promised a handsome reward for carrying out the prophecy. And being the con man seeking greatness that he is, Oz allows Theodora to think that he is indeed the prodigal wizard and goes along to this City of Gold..umm..I mean, Emerald City!
After passing through some more obvious CGI backgrounds and 3D gimmicks,
we come across a monkey with wings in a bellboy’s uniform!
Yeah, umm…I don’t drink alcohol nor do drugs, so I’m pretty sure that maybe there’s something wrong with my vision!
Nope, it is in fact a monkey with wings in a bellboy’s uniform! Actually, let me rephrase, it’s a TALKING monkey with wings in a bellboy’s uniform! Maybe it’s someone’s idea of a Halloween costume!
The monkey, named Finley, is trapped in some vines and begs Oz to help him out of it.
Finley is voiced by Zach Braff who played Oz’s partner in the travelling circus. Hmm, so Oz calls him a “trained monkey” in the beginning of the film, and now he’s reincarnated as a monkey in Oz. Hmm…subtle!
Anyway, Oz saves Finley, gains Finley’s complete and irrevocable lifelong servitude to him, and also gives us an explanation as to how the Cowardly Lion became cowardly in the first place.
Oz, Theodora, and Finley continue on their journey until they get to the royal palace in the Emerald City and we meet Theodora’s sister, Evanora, played by Rachel Weisz, or as I like to call her, Rachel Weiß.
Evanora is the royal advisor currently in charge of the kingdom until the Wizard arrives. But she isn’t convinced that Oz is the Wizard, hmm…go figure! This angers Theodora, who has fallen in love with Oz, so much so that fireballs fly out of her hands!
But no, apparently I’m wrong! There seems to be ANOTHER sister, and SHE is supposed to be the Wicked Witch! Too many sisters to keep track of, oh well, I guess we’ll come across her eventually.
Anyway, Evanora still needs further proof that Oz is indeed the Wizard, so she shows him the handsome reward that he’ll get once he defeats the Wicked Witch: an incalculable amount of gold that would make Smaug wish he was in a Disney film!
What does Oz do when he sees the gold? He becomes a human Scrooge McDuck!
But, Oz is quickly reminded that he needs to defeat the Wicked Witch first in order to obtain this treasure. The way to do this is that he must go to the Dark Forest wherein the Wicked Witch has taken shelter and break her wand in half. Apparently that causes the Wicked Witch to die somehow! Is her soul connected to her wand or something?
Anyway, Oz sets forth on the journey with Finley (who has been told the truth by Oz that he isn’t really a wizard) to complete Mission: Wicked Witch Defeating. On the way there, they come across an area that seems to be the ancestral home of Mrs. Potts’ family!
The place has been obliterated by the Wicked Witch’s evil minions, and only one survivor has…well, survived! It’s a little girl made out of china, voiced by Joey King! Joey King played the girl who wanted Oz to give her back the ability to walk in Kansas. Hence in this reincarnation, her china doll character has her legs broken off and desires for Oz to help patch her up! Hmm…subtle!
Anyway, Oz does indeed patch her up with the help of one of the greatest inventions of all time, glue!
She is grateful for the help and decides (much against Oz’s will) to join Oz and Finley on their dangerous quest.
The three of them finally reach the Dark Forest, a forest so dark and creepy that it immediately reminds one of the Wild Wood from “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride/The Wind in the Willows”, the woods from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, as well as the Tulgey Wood from “Alice in Wonderland”.
But wait, this is a 3D movie! Time for more 3D gimmicks!
After travelling through the forest for some time, they come to a spooky cemetery (as opposed to those pleasant, fun-filled cemeteries) and see a cloaked figure near the gate. The cloaked figure puts down a wand on a rock by the gate. The figure then turns to leave. Our heroes assume that this is indeed the Wicked Witch or at least that the wand is the Wicked Witch’s. Quickly, Oz and Finley distract the figure so that they can successfully retrieve the wand. They succeed and are about to break the wand in half when the cloaked figure approaches them!
After talking with her, Oz, Finley, and the China Girl realize that this Witch is NOT the Wicked Witch; she’s actually Glinda the Good! And apparently, Evanora is the true Wicked Witch who has killed their father and caused corruption in the land! Evanora apparently laid all the blame on Glinda causing her to retreat into the Dark Forest for sanctuary. And of course, Evanora has caused everyone in the kingdom, including their sister, Theodora, to believe that Glinda is indeed the Wicked Witch!
Ok, a few comments:
1) So, Glinda is actually a good Witch, and Evanora is the truly Wicked Witch! But, I still can’t get myself to accepting Theodora as a good witch! There has to be some explanation for Mila’s unimpressive and uninspired acting!
2) What’s with the title, “the Good”, that come after Theodora and Glinda’s names? Are they nicknames that they’ve been given by the public? If so, why do the public consider Glinda to be wicked then? Surely, they would have changed her name to “Glinda, the Wicked” or something!
3) Then, if they’re not public-given nicknames, are they birth titles given by their parents? If so, it seems kind of cruel to denote two of your daughters with the title, “the Good”, and not give it to the other daughter! It seems obvious that the other one would become evil!
4) And if they’re not birth titles given by their parents, are they just titles that they gave themselves? If so, that seems kind of vain! It’s like me calling myself, “Mark, the Meritorious”! That’s just too vain, at least to me!
Ok, back to the review:
Meanwhile, Evanora is watching everything that’s happening through a crystal ball that she owns and of course, is angry that Oz has learned the truth. Nevertheless, she has a plan! She tricks Theodora into believing that Oz has fallen for Glinda. This causes Theodora to become so angry and jealous that her tears actually scar her face.
Evanora then sends an onslaught of Winkie guards along with her troop of flying baboons
no, I mean these:
to attack/destroy/any type of bad verb Oz, Glinda, Finley, and the China Girl!
(Aha! Maybe this explains Finley’s origins! Maybe Finley was originally a baboon that worked for Evanora! Maybe they once had a meeting at a hotel to discuss plans for the futuristic Oz and maybe Finley was elected the honorable bellboy! Maybe while dressed in the bellboy’s uniform, he realized that he had no evil in his heart and wanted to leave Evanora’s army! Maybe Evanora found out and transformed him from a baboon into a nondenominational monkey! And maybe Finley ran away just in time before Evanora could destroy him! And maybe that’s why he appears as a talking, flying monkey with wings dressed in a bellboy’s uniform!)
Ok, I’m looking into this a bit too much!
Anyway, Oz and the others escape due to evasive techniques suggested by Oz (which causes Glinda to realize that he is not a wizard). These techniques end with all of them jumping off of a cliff just to be saved by landing in floating transportable bubbles!
They then travel via bubbles to another palace and domain of Oz, one that neither the Wicked Witch nor her evil forces can penetrate due to a force field that allows only good hearts to enter. Here, Glinda and Oz are welcomed by the inhabitants including Quadling farmers, Tinker…tinkers, and of course, Munchkins!
Meanwhile back in the Emerald City, we find that Theodora wants Evanora to give her something that will stop her broken heart pain. Evanora gives Theodora a green apple to take a bite of (ripoff of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” most probably), and only after doing so and feeling evil enter her body, does Theodora realize that Evanora is the true Wicked Witch! This doesn’t matter because Theodora has now transformed into a repulsive and even wicked-er witch, the green Witch that I suspected her of being all this time!
Theodora then decides to go to Glinda’s domain so that Oz can see how wicked and evil she’s become on account of him. And apparently, she’s so evil that she flies straight through the impregnable force field!
Anyway, she reveals her evil plan by saying that she’s going to bring back a huge army consisting of Winkie guards, flying baboons, and her sister to destroy and kill everyone, Oz especially. The question that I have is why doesn’t she just kill everyone right there? She’s become the most evil witch ever and does indeed have the power to do it! Granted she does try killing Oz once, but is thwarted by Glinda. But surely, she can try again! And again! She is literally the most powerful being in that domain! She went through the impenetrable force field, for crying out loud! She can probably kill Glinda for all we know! Why go about this the hard way? Maybe it has something to do with revenge tasting sweet or something. Or the fact that this movie needs to be over 2 hours long!
After Theodora leaves, our heroes start preparing for battle after Oz starts believing in himself that he can indeed help and make a difference. Everyone works together to create uniforms, praxinoscope carriages, and even scarecrows.
Finally, the day of the battle begins with our heroes marching forth unto the castle of the Wicked Witches. They get rid of most of the flying baboons by tricking them to attack scarecrows disguised as farmer-soldiers in a foggy patch of sleep-inducing flowers.
But this doesn’t deter the Witches too much as Glinda is captured by Theodora and taken back to the palace. The problem is that Glinda has also lost her magic wand thereby making her powerless to do anything. Luckily the China Girl finds the wand and heads surreptitiously to the palace to give Glinda back her wand.
Meanwhile in the Emerald City center, Glinda has been chained and is displayed for all the citizens to witness her torture and ultimate death. Oz and the others have snuck into the castle to reveal the master plan. The only problem is that it seems Oz has betrayed everyone and instead fills a hot air balloon with gold to disappear forever. Theodora notices the balloon and strikes it down with a ball of fire!
All the citizens of the Emerald City are shocked and sad, including our dear Finley.
But, shock, Oz hasn’t died! No, that’s all part of his plan! Instead he uses the praxnisocope carriage to project his image unto the smoke created by the demolished hot air balloon. This, in turn, creates the illusion of his powerful face wreathing in anger at the witches and their armies!
This frightens the witches, brings cheer to the citizens, and gives ample time for the China Girl to give Glinda her wand back allowing her to break free.
Theodora realizes that she can’t do anything to Oz and leaves. Oz tells her that she’s more than welcome to return once she regains goodness in her heart, to which she replies, “Never!”. And that’s how one of the greatest movie villains ever was born!
But what about Evanora? Well, she escapes into the castle and is confronted by Glinda. And they have a flying duel of sorts. Why doesn’t Glinda use her flying abilities more often? Why does she prefer floating around in a bubble? Oh well!
The duel ends when Glinda rips off a necklace that Evanora is wearing. This causes Evanora to regain ugliness and look even worse than Theodora. She then leaves too with the help of a couple of her flying baboons! Oh well, I’m sure we’ll see her again sometime!
The movie ends happily with Oz setting up his place in the Emerald City, the citizens living in freedom, as well as a possible romance occurring between Glinda and Oz!
What can I say about the film? From a visual aspect, it’s simply gorgeous, but like I said before, it seems to be made specifically for 3D viewing. But, it’s still quite enjoyable without the 3D. And the film’s main draw is the visuals!
The story is extremely interesting since it seems to tie up all loose ends and be an epic prequel to a classic film. Yet, at the same time, the story can be somewhat stretched and slow. I mean it’s about a guy who has to defeat a witch, yet it takes like 2 hours for him to even get close to defeating the witch! And in the end, he doesn’t really defeat the witch! It was more of a forfeit by the witch than anything else!
Many characters have no purpose in this film including dear Finley! Don’t get me wrong; I love him! But sorry, he just has no purpose whatsoever!
And the acting ranges from enjoyable
to just plain uninspired and not caring.
Summing up, the film has its problems, but what great film doesn’t?
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
The final score is: 31/35 = 88.57% (B+) !