Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oz the Good Enoough

Oz The Great and Powerful (2013) seems like a good idea: a prequel showing how the wizard got to Oz. It's directed by Sam Raimi, who I like even when I don't much like his movies (*cough*Spiderman), and stars James Franco, a charming actor with chops to spare. So what went wrong?

It's easier to say what went right. After the basic idea, the look of this was amazing. The land of Oz is truly magical. I liked the flying monkey. And ... the ending.

On the other hand, I didn't really like the story of the witches, good and bad. I liked them all individually: Evil Mila Kunis, confused Rachel Weisz, good Michelle Williams (does she remind anyone of Terri Garr? Or do I mean Teri Hatcher?), but the payoff wasn't there. In fact, as their arcs develop, their three-dimensional natures are compressed more and more until they are just flat signifiers. Maybe this is the idea, that Fate or the force of the fable made these women into witches, good and bad, the same way it made the smarmy Oz into the Wizard? No, I think Raimi just succumbed to the cliche.

And speaking of the Wizard, I know the carny version of Oz is not supposed to be a misguided saint, but did Franco have to play him so slimy? I don't mind ham - Franco shows a lot of teeth, but so does Jean Desjardins. But he just wasn't that likable, at least until the end.

Now, the ending I liked a lot. Raimi takes up the slack, picks up the action, and Franco shows what a truly great and powerful Wizard he is. It left me with a much better feeling about this movie than I had when, for ex, we meet the creepy Disney-fied China Girl.

In conclusion, I liked the art direction best. It had a Roger Dean feel, and that gives me a great idea - a feature length animation based on the prog-rock classic Tales From Topographic Oceans. Once we get Roger Dean attached to this project, we can get Raimi to direct, and with Kickstarter funding...

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