‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ (2013) – a massive turd.

27 Mar

Oz the Great and Powerful posterPerhaps you know the story? A tornado arrives and whisks some poor soul away; however, this time it’s Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a travelling circus magician with too many girlfriends and a knack for swindling. After defying what would in normal circumstances be certain death, he in fact wakes up in the mystical land of Oz, where plants herald his arrival with music and the locals exude a borderline narcissistic sense of glee. Running into a friendly witch (Mila Kunis) with whom he must team up, Diggs sets out on an epic quest to liberate Oz from the clutches of the Wicked Witch.

From the first few scenes of the film I strongly felt that something simply wasn’t working. It took me a while to figure it out, but then it hit me like the debris of a hurricane: I didn’t buy Franco’s character for a second. I simply could not believe that someone as uncharismatic and doubtful as Diggs could actually sell the bullshit he spends the entirety of the movie peddling. At this stage it’s common knowledge that Franco wasn’t the first choice for the role (Robert Downey Jr., of Iron Man fame, was the intended face of Oz), and frankly he is massively miscast here. Through no fault of his own, he’s simply the wrong guy for the job.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Mila Kunis is only ever used as little more than eye candy. A beautiful and (judging from interviews) seemingly quite intelligent lady, in Oz she is either wearing tight leather pants, is gratuitously ripping off her own clothes or just generally yelling. Her dialogue is so awkward and clunky, and there is zero chemistry between her and Franco. When she loses her temper (and all of the witches do forgo their composure at various occasions) she sounds so whiny and non-threatening; all I could think of was Meg from Family Guy (who she voices) yelling at Chris to get out of her room. Her performance is so overblown and silly, and when she’s calm she is the most lifeless witch ever committed to the big screen.

So the two leads are each a travesty, how do the minor characters fare? In truth, not much better. The other two witches are so blatantly hiding ulterior motives, and Michelle Williams’ blindingly white spellcaster is so overbearingly pure and saccharine that I just can’t take her seriously. Of the two sidekicks, one is annoying and the other is interesting (a great play on the phrase ‘China Town’ must be applauded) though under-developed. The established Munchkin army make their contractual appearance, and continue to infuriate me by spouting the most irritating nonsense. Basically, all of the dialogue in this movie is terrible.

From left to right: The Screech, The Loser, The Sickeningly Sweet and The Least Awful One.

From left to right: The Screech, The Loser, The Sickeningly Sweet and The Least Awful One.

All of this said, I was totally down for this, and am generally willing to overlook a film’s narrative or character design flaws so long as it remains entertaining. Alas, Oz is BORING BORING BORING! Although there is no lack of attempted dramatic action, it is not even slightly engaging or interesting. The major character issues construct an impenetrable barrier between the viewer and what’s happening on screen, which results only in keeping us at arm’s length from the events of the film. The jokes are unfunny, the drama is dull and I frankly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone involved in the story.

Several parts of it were clever. The big showdown near the end (which are virtually guaranteed in modern fantasy movies), while incredibly dumb and needlessly elaborate, does endeavour to explain some of the wizard’s power displayed in the original Wizard of Oz. Also, near the beginning, when Franco is transported to this new magical world full of crystal-clear lakes and welcoming flowers, I was reminded of James Cameron’s Avatar in terms of coming into contact with a beautifully-rendered CGI paradise. However, saying that my favourite part of the movie was when I was reminded of another better film just speaks for itself really.

Oz the Great and Powerful looks and feels identical to that horrifying Alice in Wonderland remake of last year, which is a crime of the most heinous sort. Boring, joyless and way too long (127 minutes felt like 127 hours), I hated this film from start to finish.

Simon says: another film with a grossly inaccurate title.

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5 Responses to “‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ (2013) – a massive turd.”

  1. CMrok93 March 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    It can be a good movie to see with your kids and something adults can enjoy, too, but you should probably see it in 3D, as I did and liked. Good review Simon.

    • Simon Mernagh March 27, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      I saw it with four other adults and the opinion was pretty unanimous! Perhaps the 3D could’ve helped, but the problem didn’t lie in the aesthetics!

  2. bankholidaytuesday March 27, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    I will hold my hands up and admit I found some parts funny in their badness (Mila Kunis’ strip tease to the dark side was hilarz) but overall I think a major problem was the tone- this movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a whimsical big budget fantasy flick like Alice, a creepy adult twist on the fantasy genre, a fantasy comedy like Stardust or an adult psychological horror- it’s got all these really awkwardly intersecting parts that don’t fit together, the screenplay’s obviously been re-written multiple times and it takes it’s best ideas from the source material or it’s spin offs (Little China people are taken from the original Oz books)

    That’s not even going into the creepy sexism and moral absolutism that they don’t even attempt to play with or address.

    • Simon Mernagh March 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      I’m surprised you of all people loved the gratuitous boob scene! I didn’t really get any of the ‘creepy adult’ or psychological horror stuff; with the possible exception of the flying monkeys, there isn’t really anything frightening in this. I think it was intended to be a family-friendly prequel to the original, with semi-unsettling bits lifted from the books. Yeah, the sexism was rather blatant. Also of note: a suspiciously politically correct mish-mash of genders/races that could only be saved by a WHITE MAN?

      • bankholidaytuesday March 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

        Baum himself was an early Feminist and big into the presence of powerful women in his stories. There was something very weirdly uncomfortable about the good witch having blonde hair and Aryan features versus the dark haired villains- both played by Jewish actresses.

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