Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful: Review

An enjoyable, if predictable, take on the classic

Ever since Tim Burton decided to tackle Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland, it's been a commonplace sight to see a modern, big-screen take on a children's favourite in the local cinema listings. But does Sam Raimi ruin another staple of our staple of our younger years, or does Oz the Great and Powerful do its basis justice?

The film starts out, as it should, in Kansas, following James Franco's Oz, a small time magician and deft womaniser. What defines the opening segment of the film is that it is displayed in a 4:3 ration, and in black and white (a nice acknowledgement to The Wizard of Oz, it must be said), before returning to the brightly coloured, CGI-fest we've come to expect from today's blockbusters. Offering credit to where it's due to Raimi, he does a fairly good job at using this gimmick to good effect; many of shots did feel genuinely pulled straight out of a pre-colour film. But the overall effect was diminished by the obvious green screen and screen-dominating special effects. For the next ten minutes or so afterwards, the film is just a computer generated showcase of strangely obvious imagery, much of which I'm dubious of it's placement in Oz; I can't remember River Fairies or Bell-flowers in the original.

From here onwards, though, the CGI is used considerably more tactfully. Besides a couple of overblown shots, there is a genuine sense of style to sprawling Emerald City and fog-filled graveyard. Although Zack Braff's flying monkey looked a little horrible at times, the little China Girl was aesthetically superb, and should serve as an example of how characters should be created in CGI.

The acting, for the most part, is solid enough, but no one in the cast brings anything particularly special to the table. The only actor in the pantheon that even vaguely stands out is Rachel Weisz (far right), who does inject at least some level of genuine drama into her dialogue, but is let down infinitely by the script, which was clearly written with Disney-loving kiddy-winks in mind. Some of the lines were sappy at best, and it's fairly obvious some of the characters don't believe what they're saying. What's more (though it pains me say it, given the amount of talent the girl has), Mila Kunis (far left) simply cannot pull of The Wicked Witch of The West; her performance veers violently from heart-broken heart-throb to the cackling witch so jarringly it's impossible to take seriously, and the exposed green-cleavage and tight leathers don't much help either. 

That aside, most of the characterisation is even enough. As mentioned before, Rachel Weisz keeps a definitive running theme throughout all facets of her character, and, although all of his development seems to happen in one moment, James Franco keeps Oz buoyant at least. I'm going to come back to the China Girl, however, as she is one of the best developed and used characters within the whole film: Joey King does an excellent job at supplying her voice, whilst her frailties (drawing clever parallels with her porcelain origins) make her incredibly endearing and even a little moving in places. She, too, acts as a catalyst for the development of Oz's character, and makes herself very useful towards the climax, which, if your heart is even the slightest bit soft, will bring a smile to your face.

Whilst the conclusion of the plot is satisfying enough, the ending itself is a little overbearingly happy; it'll please children, and inevitably, their parents, but it doesn't quite gel with the position Oz finds himself in the film on which this is based. But that is only a slight bugbear in an otherwise stylish, fun, and relatively clever third act, which will please those who know their Oz and not leave you disappointed. 

So, to conclude, this is an enjoyable, but entirely safe, addition to this new trend of film making. If you're in for some light entertainment, or (as is intended) going to see this as a family, you'll have a good time. Taking your inner cynic would be a bad idea, as it's not the next Blade Runner, but, otherwise, worth a light-hearted watch.



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