It’s important to note that this flick is NOT a prequel to the Wonderful World of Oz like interviews have suggested and instead it’s clearly a prequel to the MGM Wizard of Oz film from 1939. Now I’m pretty sure they can’t legally admit this but the references and homages suggest that it is. Add the fact that Glinda the Good Witch seems to again be an amalgamation of the Good Witches of the North and South (though that can be debated) and the fact the munchkins are played by little people like in the MGM film it’s pretty clear they were far more connected to that classic movie than the original novel. Is this a problem? Well if you’re a huge fan of the books it will probably be annoying but if you’re one of those folk who didn’t even know there was more than one book and are more familiar with movie anyway then I doubt you’ll care. For this review we’ll try to judge it on its merits as a standalone film.
Also, before I forget, this movie is not Wicked (the book or the stage play). This is something that I think way too many people were confused by (possibly because they didn’t read the book or see the play). It’s a prequel, yes, but it’s a completely different story than Wicked. For example the Wizard in this film is just an asshole as opposed to the genocidal dictator he was kind of portrayed in the musical. A slight difference.
Full review after the jump.
[WARNING: There are some minor spoilers in this review.]
|MGM's gonna sue somebody!|
Once Oscar arrives in Oz the visuals of the landscapes of the world are really good, which is not too surprising. One of the things missing from Jack the Giant Slayer was that the world didn’t look too interesting. Oz looks great, it looks unique, and is filled with some pretty weird creatures. Perhaps they could have gone a little further with this but for what it is it’s good. The CGI looks alright but I think that because I watched the film in 2D things looked worse than they would have had I ponied up the bucks for 3D (Note: I probably will never pony up the extra bucks).
|Two hot witches and a room full of gold?|
Yeah, I think I see where Oscar is coming from
This is a family film, no questions asked. This is the film you take your kids to. This is not a negative however because while it’s not the most sophisticated plot ever to grace the screen it doesn’t talk down to its audience and has plenty of things that adults will get that may be over the kids head (like, for example, I’m 95% sure that Oscar manipulates Theodora into having sex with him despite the face it's never explicit shown or mentioned). Anytime you have a film that is supposed to appeal to children it’s always going to be simpler but it’s not always bad if done well. It’s done well here. I actually liked the aspect of the film where the first part is basically done as homage to the 1939 film and I really liked that several actors play characters in both worlds, adding to that idea that Oz may or may not be a real place but rather a dream. I especially loved that [SPOILER] in Kansas Oscar had no ability to allow a girl in a wheelchair to walk but later is easily able to glue the legs of China Girl back on(both were played by Joey King).
The characters are pretty good. I get a lot of shit about my inability to enjoy stories with unlikable lead characters but the fact is that I can get into it if has character development where he ends up becoming likeable (and in something like a movie where I can see the development in one sitting is easier than reading a comic book and hoping that sometime after eight months I’ll start seeing some decent change). With that all said Oscar is a dick. He uses people, he’s obsessed with getting rich and he treats his only friend like a slave. BUT he has a character arc and winds up in a very different place than where he began for reasons that made sense to me in the context of what I was watching. So yeah, he’s totally an unlikable doucebag when we first see him but by the end I in fact didn’t wish death on him.
|Geez, at least Dorothy had the forethought to recruit allies larger than her|
I was very pleasantly surprised how much I liked the flying monkey Finley, partly because I have never liked Zach Braff in anything ever and partly because I’m suspicious of all CGI sidekicks ever since I saw The Phantom Menace. However Finley is surprisingly down to Earth and not at all over the top, which actually makes him 1000% less cartoony than J.D. from Scrubs. Finley’s presence is likely mostly there for the kids but he’s helpful and cleaver and not simply a tool for comic relief.
|Positive remarks about Zach Braff? Is this opposite day?|
Speaking of the witches I’m seriously confused by the nature of what witches are in this universe as the film never goes into details. None of the three have the same power set so maybe it’s a catch all term for female magic users. But then there’s some implication that they may not even be proper humans as [SPOILERS] the character who becomes the Wicked Witch pretty much identifies herself as such because she’s hurt by her own teas (and the Wicked Witch’s weakness is water). Plus earlier Theodora implies that witches don’t get a lot of romantic attention because they’re, you know, witches but we don’t ever hear why. Are they feared because of their powers? Are they like mutants in the X-Men comics? I have no idea and it sucks they don’t elaborate. Maybe it’s because of the simplistic nature of the film but even so it bugged me.
|I don't remember the Wicked Witch of the West being so, um, on fire|
I give Oz the Great and Powerful 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.
-Pretty good characters
-The plot is perhaps too straight forward and simple
-There are questions that the movie doesn’t answer