HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Oz the Great and Powerful
HTS Overall Score:85.5
When I heard that Disney was creating a prequel for the “Wizard of Oz,” I was a bit skeptical at best. Modern remakes never seem to do justice the classics of old, but when I heard that they were scoping out Robert Downey Jr. for the role of Oz I became more intrigued. As luck would have it, RDJ passed on the role and then so did Johnny Depp. Finally, we have James Franco, an actor who can be really good with the proper direction, but a bit over the top if not reigned in. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I entered into this new realm, and I was partially correct. Sam Raimi’s trademark wit and heavy use of practical effects may have seemed like a good idea at the times, but it seems that he decided to rely on heavy use of over acting and special effects to cover up writing flaws in the film.
Our film starts back in 1905 Kansas. Oscar, nicknamed Oz (James Franco) is a two-bit circus magician intent on rising to the top of the greats, but unfortunately stuck back in the mires of a mediocre existence. Running from his home life as a farmer, he longs for life in the fast lane, where he can do something great with his life rather than just eke out an existence. His only problem is that he can’t seem to get out of the rut he’s in, performing cheap tricks to entertain the country folks. Fate has a different idea though; whilst running from the circus strong man for hitting on his girlfriend, Oz escapes in a hot air balloon only to be stuck in a tornado which shoots him off to the magical world of Oz. Awakened in a place of magic and fairies, Oz is rescued by a beautiful young lady named Theodora (Mila Kunis) and sent to the Emerald City where everyone believes that he is the wizard prophesied about - the man who can defeat the wicked witch and bring order to a kingdom in chaos. It seems that Theodora is a witch, one of three sisters in the Kingdom of Oz. She and her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) live as guardians of their father’s throne until the prophecy can be fulfilled. The only problem is their third sister, Glinda (Michelle Williams) is claimed to be a witch of extraordinary evil and a powerful magic that can’t be defeated. Promising him wealth beyond compare, Evanora sends Oz off to destroy Glinda and restore balance to the kingdom.
The only problem is that Evanora may have a slight secrete of her own. As Oz finds out, Glinda is not who she appears to be, and Evanora is not as innocent as she might seem. Realizing that he has made a terrible mistake, Oz and Glinda the Good unite and see if they can find a way to take down the TRUE wicked witch of the East and restore order to the land. One problem: Oz isn’t exactly the TYPE of wizard they were expecting, and with his lack of magical abilities, the only real power that he has at his disposal is the ingenuity of one experienced in illusion and sleight of hand - a con man.
The movie can really be broken up into 3 acts. The first is actually rather dreadful. Filled with wild amounts of over-acting it actually made me wonder WHAT I was watching. Everyone from Zack Braff, to James Franco to Milia Kunis was over-acting so badly I thought we were watching a junior high play. As we progressed into the second act, the film started to gain its footing ever so slightly. Intermixed with the over-acting and rough dialogue were scenes that were inextricably sweet and heartfelt. I’d go for longer and longer periods of time where I could be immersed in the story instead of little tidbits. The third act is really the tone that the movie should have striven for the entire time. There’s a decent amount of lighthearted humor and some cheesy dialogue, but it straightens itself out and flows towards a very satisfied ending at a smooth pace. The characters now have purpose and focus, with the only one really over acting a whole lot being Mila Kunis.
I’m honestly not sure what Sam Raimi was trying for here. You could see a ton of his influence with the practical effects and the cinematography. I was wildly impressed with his vision of what the Land of Oz would look like. It was truly a breathtaking display of technology and imagination. The only real negative to the film was the seeming lack of perspective on what made the original film the classic that it is today. The writing left something to be desired, and I can only concur that the COPIOUS amounts of over-acting was a directorial decision rather than a subversive plot cooked up by just about every actor on screen. The Sam Raimi flair of good writing and solid direction just seems to be lost here. It was rather frustrating for a man who’s spent a lot of his life watching Raimi’s works and coming out impressed for most of his showings. For all of this going on about the faults, there is a flip side. I was more and more entertained by the film as it went along and there is a sense of beauty and wonder that is truly heartfelt. The relationship between the China Doll and Oz was extremely sweet and the highlight of the film in my opinion (well along with the STUNNING audio and video).
Rated PG for sequences of action and scary images, and brief mild language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11837[/img]Disney has decided to give us a beautiful video encode for our viewing pleasure. Just for clarification so that no on decides to freak out, the film starts out as a window boxed, Black and White presentation and then opens up to a full 2.40:1 scope presentation around the 25 minute mark. During the black and white presentation the greys are about the only color you’re going to see, but the levels of detail are fantastic throughout. As the film opens up to its full scope image color literally is SATURATING the view space. Bright, very heavily permeates every crook and crevice. Lush green, bright neon reds, and crystal clear blues all flow in and out, over and under each other to create one of the most insanely color filled presentations I’ve ever seen. Contrast is a bit boosted, but it seems to be an artistic choice rather than a problem with the encode; and the faces tend to have a bit of an overly bright orange hue to them as a result. Detail is just absolutely fantastic from beginning to end, you can see every line and crevice of James Franco’s face and thick vinyl costumes of the witches of Oz with startling clarity. Black levels are deep, inky and full of detail, even down to the darkest scene. I didn’t notice any black crush or the effects of any digital manipulation, giving us an unmarred image that rivals the best of them.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=11838[/img]Oh my, that’s all I can really say. Disney pulled out the stops on this. Giving us a bombastic 7.1 DTS-HD MA track for the ages, “Oz, the Great and Powerful” bursts onto the soundstage with a ferocity that would make a flying monkey cower in fear. From the moment Oz was sucked into the tornado in Kansas I knew I was in for something special. Wave after wave of intense LFE washed over me until I wondered if my poor subs could take it anymore. The LFE didn’t let up the entire movie either, the thudding of flying monkey wings rippled throughout the room, pondering food steps crashed to earth and deep thudding explosions of a magical nature just tore the low end up one side and down the other. Dialogue is clean and as delightful as one could hope for. Locked to the front channels it is perfectly balanced with the score and effects without any wild fluctuations in dynamic range. The surrounds are used with much aplomb and create a wildly immersive viewing experience. I don’t like to give out 5 star ratings for audio or video unless I truly think it’s something special, and folks, THIS is something special.
• My Journey in Oz By James Franco
• Mr. Elfman's Musical Concoctions
• China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief
• Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz
• Mila's Metamorphisis
• Walt Disney and the Road to Oz
A truly uneven film, “Oz the Great and Powerful” is a bit hit or miss in the entertainment department. Trying to be something completely different, Director Sam Raimi misses the mark just a tad. Wildly over the top one moment to incredibly sweet and focused it shifts from one to the other so rapidly that it’s hard to truly give this film a solid rating. The one good thing is that when it’s good, it’s actually VERY good, but when it’s bad, it just drags the film down to that middle of the road standard that no film wants to be stuck in. The closest analogy that I can think of is that the film suffered from Bipolar disorder. However, the audio and video scores for the film are through the room and it’s a treat for your ears and eyes. While I love Disney to death, I have to say that I would have to give this film a rental. It’s so wildly uneven that you probably will need to see for yourself whether it’s worth a second watch or not.
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Zack Braff
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abaire
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English, French, Spanish DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 130 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 11th, 2013
Buy Oz the Great and Powerful 2D/DVD/DC edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Oz the Great and Powerful 3D/DC edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Oz the Great and Powerful 2D/DC edition Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It
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