OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, 2013
Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis
Review by Matthew Toffolo
A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him.
Oz: The Great and Powerful serves the audience on many different levels. Firstly, it bows to the original Wizard of Oz. It doesn't attempt to be a better version than the origial, but serves as a prequel. It is filled with similar themes and moments of humor, while not pushing the special effects envelope too far. The journey of self-discovery and mad adventure stays intact. Director Sam Raimi isn't afraid of its predecessor like many filmmakers have been in the past when reinventing classic tales. You can look at Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland as a recent example, where the heart and reason why it was a classic in the first place was torn apart in place of 21st century gadgets and imagry.
At it's heart, Oz is a capitalistic story of a man who has attempted to be great, like his hero Thomas Edison, but through it all he has become a dishonest man. There is charm and goodness in him, but these qualities have become lost in his pursuit of success. This is a common theme within the ranks of the ambitious who see others tasting success and want it. We begin our quests as good idealists, but through the pains and sorrows of the journey, we lose ourselves and become someone we're not. That's Oz (James Franco) from Kansas in 1905. He thought he was going to be a great inventor. Instead, he's a con man performing tricks at a 2nd rate circus.
The theme of Oz: The Great and Powerful is that goodness is so much better than greatness. And even if you become great in the eyes of your peers, if you fail to be good then there was no sense in your journey.
Of course this is a great theme for kids to hear, especially in these times. But it's also something good for adults to hear as well. Sometimes the right movie comes along for people, and that's what this film was for me. I felt what was Oz was feeling. The irony of the title is that he's not that great and not that powerful. He's a trickster who has served only himself for too long. There's nothing like a tornado taking you to Oz to help you find your way. And also get some color too.
Oz is also an origin story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became so wicked.
It can be argued that both this film and the original Wizard of Oz are allegories about how God doesn't really exist, but that we need certain religions and stories to give us hope and faith. The person that the land of Oz thinks is a Wizard who came from the sky to solve all of their problems is just a con man and there is no magic powers inside of his soul. But the rationalization of the good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) and others is that the people need a good story and a person to look up to in order for them to keep going. We all need a god in our lives. But the real trick is to not get too obsessed. We need to solve our own problems but sometimes we need to feel we have that magical thing out there backing us up.
In all, I loved Oz: The Great and Powerful. And director Sam Raimi found the proper tone to please not only kids, but adults of all ages too.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas a few years back. It sits in the middle of a small town literally in the middle of the United States. Right in the heart of Kansas where you must drive through hundreds of miles of cornfields to get to it. I was taken by the non-commercialization of the museum and how the creators made this pure tribute to not only the movie, but the 14 book series. At the time I had no idea that there were so many stories about the land of Oz, written by John R. Neil. So I guess if this film is a success, we have 13 more sequels to come.
And bring it on. A fun romp for all to see.
|The Wizard of Oz|
dir. by Larry Semon
|The Wizard of Oz|
dir. Victor Fleming
dir. Sydney Lumet
|Return to Oz|
dir. Walter Murch