Sam Raimi is truly something else. From transitioning to cult horror status to blockbuster superhero spear-header, the man has become a cinematic emblem for many diehards of varying genres. Now, with “Oz the Great and Powerful”, Raimi continues his blockbuster trend and moves into both familiar and unfamiliar territory. “Oz” tries very hard to stay away from being a simple sequel or even a setup-story, but rather a separate story in a familiar universe. If only it could be what it really, truly, wanted to be.
The film opens with a truly stunning title sequence which (for better or worse) may be the highlight of the film. The cleverly rendered animation style is a delight in 3D (did you know I like 3D? Deal with it) and a whimsical nature we often associate with Raimi (being raped by a tree does bring a warm feeling to an otherwise bleak afternoon in the forest).
The Great Oz (James Franco) is barely making ends meet as a (womanizing) magician in a traveling circus whose two-bit scams are beginning to catch up him. However, with the assistance of a fortuitous mid-western cyclone he can begin using his two-bit scams to catch up with him in an alternate universe.
The moral ambiguity of the protagonist is not as gray as the story would like to believe for itself. It is clear where the story is heading from the end of act one at the latest, and Oz’s continuous efforts to pinch every last penny and posterior are not nefarious. Though clearly a character driven tale, this is bittersweet endeavor. Though the discourse between the three witches (Evanora and Theodora have a particularly delightful dichotomoy, made all the more malicious by Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz’s dastardly dame-ish disasters).
One of these two were voiced by Zach Braff…
go ahead and take as long as you need to think about that.
“Oz the Great and Powerful”, though a beautiful sight and an endearing fable in its own right, falls short in many of the far reaching goals it attempts to attain. The story grants its fair share of smile, but isn’t the powerhouse it enacts. Though filled with fantastic fairy-tale figures, each character is little more than a part of a greater whole, a crutch beside one another. Although, at times, absolutely gorgeous, the visuals are often a distraction from what it lacks.
“Oz” is a satisfying experience, if not an altogether gratifying one. There is much to love and some to endure.