My take on…Oz the Great and Powerful
Sam Raimi’s new movie does not disrespect Oz, and looks pretty…but the same thing can be said of Anne Hathaway. 😉
I was not disappointed in the movie, but I think that’s because I had my expectations in the right place.
SPOILER ALERT: I’m careful about not spoiling the events in a movie without warning you of the possibility first. In this case, I don’t think I’m writing anything that much affect the enjoyment of someone seeing this movie, especially if that person was familiar with the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie and/or the books.
The movie has great effects (the little china girl and Finley the monkey are quite expressive and interact well with the non-CGI characters). There are some very imaginative things that Oscar Diggs (later to be known as Oz the Great and Powerful) drifts past in something that could clearly eventually be a ride at Disneyland. In fact, there was one object that seemed right out of the old Alice in Wonderland ride, and it seemed as though the music might even be an allusion to that.
Just as his character drifts uncontrollably after taking a big drop on the roller coaster–er, river, the movie as a whole seems to float through the story. Generally, the characters don’t surprise us…they make the decisions we would expect, for the most part.
There is one clear possible exception, although it’s actually spoiled for the sharp-eyed during the title sequence.
The actors don’t seem to be looking for any real depth (which might be ironic in a 3D movie…it’s worthing noting that I saw it in 2D), but that may be appropriate, given the overall tone.
As a big fan of the Oz books, I can tell you that this isn’t particularly closer to those than the 1939 movie (which did not do well at the time…for one thing, people thought that having a well-known comedian like Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, playing it in a very contemporary way for the time, didn’t fit). It was nice to hear the Wizard’s full name mentioned, and there is a village of people made of china in the originals, but these elements seemed more like something that could have been Googled than a fan’s understanding of the Land of Oz. Certainly, the politics are very different.
If you are a fan of the Judy Garland version, you may actually feel more of a connection. Much has been made of Disney trying not to infringe on the copyright of that version (the original fourteen Oz books are in the public domain, but the 1939 movie is not), but there are several clear parallels (including starting without color before reaching Oz, the Wicked Witch being green, the reference to the Yellow Brick Road ((Baum only says, “…the road of yellow bricks”)), and so on.
I should point out that while I said the movie doesn’t direspect Oz, and I sincerely believe it doesn’t, it does spoil the first movie for you. That’s one of the hardest pure discoveries to give anybody…to have them watch the Judy Garland version for the first time without knowing what happens at the end, but it’s a magical one if you can.
I’ll point out both Jamie King and Mila Kunis for good performances: they’ve found more than what was on the page.
In terms of Oscars, I do think it could be nominated for costumes, hair and makeup, music perhaps (a fine job as usual by Danny Elfman), visual effects…and there were some impressive things done with sound (at one point, I actually thought someone in the nearly empty theatre was making a sound, which turned out to be a character on the screen).
Overall, I thought Sam Raimi’s heart was in the right place. If this was someone’s first exposure to Oz, I do think it would exert some of its magical pull. For me, though, I don’t see it sticking with me much. I can’t imagine people casually quoting it decades from now. I just think the next great Oz movie is still yet to be made.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.