In 1939, Victor Fleming directed the novel-made-movie, The Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, in which Dorothy Gale finds herself in the magical Land of Oz after being transported there by a tornado. Sam Raimi underwent an arduous journey down the yellow brick road, attempting to bring back the same magic in Oz: The Great and Powerful.
The story is a simple one, much the same as the original was. In Kansas, Oz (James Franco) is nothing but a scheming, womanising, circus magician who soon lands himself in trouble. [Funny enough, he draws his inspiration from Thomas Edison]. Oz then escapes from the circus in a hot-air balloon, only to find himself whipped up into a tornado, and after having survived the ordeal, finds himself in the Land of Oz, where the prophesies foretold the return of the great wizard. In the opening minutes of the film, Raimi opts for a 4:3 aspect ratio in black and white, resembling video capture of the 1930s, without the smoke burns, and quickly transitions into wide-screen colour HD upon Oz reaching the other side. The visuals that proceed from this point are pleasing to the eye, aided by its 3D component.
After capturing the audience and their imaginations, Raimi fails to do much else, as the film enters a state of predictability, along with a host of clichéd and forced storytelling. Mila Kunis and James Franco share some interesting onscreen moments, although not brilliant, are believable. This, too, fades away and the acting develops into overplayed awkwardness, especially on the part of Kunis as her character undergoes a significant transformation. To be fair on them, there was an obvious lack of script to work with. The voiced characters, namely Finley (Zach Braff), the talking, winged monkey and China Girl (Joey King), a girl made of China, are far more likable, and coupled with their good sense of humour detract from some other onscreen performances.
The movie is by no means bad, although seems to be a definite push to introduce as much CGI where possible, which is probably where most of the $200m budget was spent. The time and effort would have been better spent on creating a decent script, and developing more plausible character relationships. I expected much more from this movie, something I initially thought could have made the top 10 list of 2013. There’s no doubting, though, that kids will enjoy the film, with the possibility of a few scares and sad moments thrown in, and having to tag along isn’t the worst thing you could be doing on a Saturday afternoon.