"Oz" is not great, it is not powerful. It's not even good or passable. It's a failure that calls all the more attention to itself by being mounted on such a grandiose and flashy CGI-infused screen. This prequel is nothing but smoke and mirrors-a glitzy, hollow bore. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was lazy and cluttered. But "Oz" makes it seem like the Citizen Kane of classic reimaginings.
Let me list out the wonders of "Oz" from best to worst:
The GREAT and POWERFUL:
-Rachel Weisz is fantastic as Evanora. She really finds a niche in the role and connects with it.
-The black-and-white opening is a fun homage to the original film. The kitschy corniness of the opening works well for the setup.
The GOOD and PASSABLE:
-Whoa, bright, oversaturated colors!
-Silly references to the original film are to be expected... From the crows cah-ing danger to a random lion attack, the "wink-wink" moments maybe aren't as memorable as they could be, but they're mildly amusing.
-At least the monkey is funny.
The DULL and DISAPPOINTING:
-The wonderment of Oz and all of the creatures and lands inside it are reduced to just landscape shots. But when they enter various places (like Chinatown and the Dark Forest), it proves to be strangely uninteresting within.
-Mila Kunis' performance is a total misfire. While some of the blame lies in how underwritten her character is (more below), she overdoes her performance in the wrong direction beyond what the premise can withstand.
- One witch can throw fireballs and another can zap-fry someone with electricity? Wow! Wait, that's the only magic they have for the entire film? Pff...at least Glinda has bubbles AND clouds.
The BAD and OFFENSIVE
-So Oz is primarily run by women? That's a good model for strong female characters! Oh, wait... what was that? They basically sit around and wait for the Wizard to solve their problems? Ah, I see. Typical...
-Theodora (Kunis) is dreadfully underdeveloped here. This character is the heart of the conflict in the world of Oz, but instead of allowing the character to undergo an actual transformation from innocent to gleefully evil, the script gives her one note of rage to play for nearly the entire film.
-Whatever lessons and morals are to be had here are lost in the oceans of mind-numbing special effects.
The HORRID and UNFORGIVABLE:
-James Franco is as great here as he was at the Oscars!!
-But seriously, he's so bad in this role. From the rapist smile he continually flashes at the camera to be "charming", to what seems to be a total lack of mental presence in the material, Franco drowns in role that needs to command this film.
-Why are the special effects so often terrible in the film?? There are painfully noticeable green screens that make it look like Franco's about to give the morning weather forecast. The doll floats awkwardly every time one of the actors picks her up. The list could go on. While there are plenty of undeniably impressive visuals within, to have such noticeably-bad effects alongside ruins the illusion.
-The simplicity is gone. From the very first encounter in Oz, we feel like we ought to be taking notes. Instead of being whisked away into the world of Oz, we're suffocated by all of the backstory trying to connect the dots.
-The conflict, which was so distinctively "good-versus-evil" in the original, is so muddled here that it's impossible to feel any tension or stakes in what's happening.
I didn't have high expectations for Oz: The Great and Powerful. Going in, I was just expecting a fun, diverting time at the movies. But instead I got a bloated, hammy waste of potential. Without the catchy songs, the memorable characters, or the simple plots of the original, this new film was instantly forgettable. And that was one of its most redeeming qualities.