Film Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

I will tell you upfront: I have a skeptic’s eye when it comes to science fiction and fantasy being adapted for the big screen. I’m usually prepared not to like what I see as excesses of flash over substance, and especially poor choices in screenplay and acting. I heard some good things about the new Oz movie. So I was prepared to like it. Or perhaps be disappointed. But it was at the local discount theatre, so why not?

My first reaction: I found the film to be quite enjoyable. The 3D did little for me. The special effects were not great (in the sense of contributing to the film), nor were they awful. The writing was charming, and I got a sense of respect for the books, the ’39 film, and also a love for the fantasy world of Frank Baum.

The Oz books are clearly superior material to begin with. So a writer is going to have to work hard at making a good story bad. Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire did the work on this film, and my hat’s off to the guys for the screenplay. The people writing sf for television should take lessons. And amazingly enough, everything in this film sets the scene for Dorothy Gale dropping in some years later. And there are some twists and turns along the way.

So if writing’s in the bag, the next line of defense in a sf/f film is acting. And while the three witches are all extremely attractive women, you need more than eye candy to make a film work on a serious level. Rachel Weisz had the least to work with in this story. Which is too bad, because she’s clearly a superior actor to either Mila Kunis or Michelle Williams. I didn’t get the sense any of the three of them were taking this material too seriously. That was something of the problem with the actors in the very first Star Wars movie. Except for Alec Guinness. Maybe Disney would have done better to cast British actors, like the Harry Potter movies.

James Franco didn’t do a lot for me either. And I think he had an Oscar nomination once, didn’t he? Oh well.

So I really liked this movie, and it’s too bad the acting wasn’t quite up to Hogwarts standards. I’ll go to see the sequel.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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