Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Oz, Great, But Not So Powerful
ARTH VADER (AV): this rather odd, and potentially disastrous prequel to The Wizard of Oz, one of history's most beloved films, is an interesting attempt to tell the story of how the the great and powerful wizard came to be loved...and feared...by everyone in this magically enchanted realm. The visual effects reign supreme in this film, Ponty. The oddly enchanting Black and White film treatment that starts the movie is an excellent way to bridge the time and visual effects gap. As for the movie keeping in line as a prequel, well, it was a commendable effort but to me, there is little that can truly be done to bridge an 80-year generational gap that would work.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I have never read any of the books, so the only reference I have for continuity is the 1939 movie...and Disney was unable to use many specific elements of that film since it’s owned by Warner Brothers. Still, it made a terrific prequel to that film Vader, despite having no association with it. Makes no sense, really, but again, the film is my only reference with the subject matter.
AV: As the Hollywood rumor-mill goes, I understand that Robert Downey Jr., was originally slated for the role of the Wizard over James Franco. Honestly, that would have made this a complete film. And I dare say, probably better. That said, Director Sam Raimi has assembled an all-star line-up to bring Oz back to life. Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz as the wicked witch sisters and Michelle Williams as the angelic Glenda. And SCRUBS TV comedy titan, Zack Braff is a perfect assistant and voice-over companion. The (ethnically) diverse nature of the citizens of Oz makes for a refreshingly new look to this stunningly rich world.
TP: Kudos on the steady direction of this film that remained engaging always and moved right along. The casting was also well done. James Franco was a commanding screen presence, really selling Oscar Diggs (Oz) as a flawed man reluctantly willing to step up to greatness, by simply being good. Rachel Weisz (Evanora) does a great job of conveying such a dangerous and veiled evil, subtle in her performance, yet profound in her affect. Michelle Williams (Glinda) seems to channel the original performance of the character, but with a hint of realism as she often reminds Oz of his shortcomings, while accenting his true potential. Mila Kunis (Theodora) is the most tragic character in the film...and she does an excellent job of conveying a character both naive and profound in her inability to come to terms with her own feelings.
AV: As of the writing of this post, this movie is still in theaters and if at all possible, I strongly suggest seeing this film in 3D. As my partner in crime knows, I am usually not an advocate for 3D movies, but this film has dimensionality in its DNA. The colors and overall vision of the new Oz is breathtaking. No words can relay the visual assault on the senses this movie delivers but it is impressive. And wait until you see the small porcelain doll-girl; best visual character of the year. As cliché as it sounds, it needs to be seen to be believed. Thoughts, Pontificator?
TP: In one word Vader...awesome. The visuals of this film are truly bright and inspiring, just as the dark moments are truly ominous. Kudos to the special effects department that brought a girl made of china to life, and made a talking winged monkey a viable character. The landscapes really bring the Land of Oz to life. The powers of the characters and the costume design were absolutely excellent and made this PG film something that everyone of all ages could enjoy. I usually always advocate seeing a film in 3D, as this medium keeps getting better, but if you Vader, are advocating the same, that REALLY does say something!
AV: Sadly, this section, at least for me, is going to be light. This movie was ambitious, visually over the top and even fun, but that's where it ends. Upon closer inspection, it is hard to take Franco's Wizard to heart. He's somewhat despicable and Franco comes off disingenuous. The flying baboons are far beyond scary and Mila Kunis' witch is plastic and one-dimensional. And worst of all, the implied musical number is so offensively bad, it made me noticeably ill. The finale is underwhelming and the "message" is a stew of Hollywood clichés.
TP: I was enthralled with the personal struggles of all the characters. Oz, a flawed, womanizing man, wishing to be a great man...on par with Thomas Edison in the annals of history, but instead thrust into the Land of Oz and given the opportunity to be good man. In doing so, he becomes the greatest man the land has ever known. Theodora’s personal struggle is just as profound, although her life journey is not nearly as optimistic. Not having been exposed to the simplest act of dancing, the very human reaction of Oz to her leaves her scarred in a way she is unprepared to handle...and that her sister Evanora, takes full advantage of. Even the China Girl and Zach Braff’s portrayal of the winged monkey Frank, have deep issues to overcome, both looking for family and a friend respectively. In the end (and this is where it really all comes together as a connection to the first film) Oz rewards all those that were pivotal in freeing Emerald City, giving each very thoughtful gifts ala the first film. Although it will be many years before Dorothy’s arrival, the die is cast for the events that take place in the beginning of the 1939 classic.
AV: To be brutally honest, this movie was an ill-advised trist and something that should NEVER have gotten off the ground without at least another year in development. To be fair, Sam Raimi is one of those directors that could make a follow-up matter. With that, though I would personally not advise it, a sequel would prove interesting...
TP: I’ve heard this was the first of a trilogy. If so, I’m very excited about the next two films and hope they are just as engaging and entertaining as this one was.
ARTH VADER Rates Oz the Great and Powerful: In the end, this movie was light-(or empty?) headed fun. A star-studded cast that couldn't quite deliver the knockout blow, despite the cast's best efforts and brilliant visual effects. Stupendously visual, OTGAP (aren't acronyms fun?!) whisks away six busted blocks, sent aloft on a tornado of brightly colored mediocrity. How say you, old friend?
THE PONTIFICATOR Oz the Great and Powerful: An entertaining film like this that can be enjoyed by everyone is a rare thing. The story is light, but profound. The characters are simple, yet complex. The visuals are magical and tap into our childhood imaginations. This film easily sweeps up and delivers seven (7) busted blocks on top of the wicked witch.