"Oz: the Great and Powerful" (2013)

Oz: the Great and Powerful (2013)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Running time: 130 minutes

It is commonly regarded that the months of February and March are considered a dumping ground for movie releases. The Oscar season has finished so all the high-brow, critically talked about movies have gone so the studios use this time to release all the movies that aren’t Oscar movies because there won’t be much else to compete for box office success. In a nutshell, this basically means that people believe that all movies released in this window should be approached with caution, but I disagree. I’ve seen movies come out at this early point that have been quite good, last year’s The Hunger Games springs to mind, and I don’t believe that a February or March release date is an immediate statement on quality like the naysayers would have you believe. And it was with this attitude that I went to see Oz: the Great and Powerful.

I really should have listened to the naysayers.

Now Showing this week is Oz: the Great and Powerful, a CGI tech demo directed by Sam Raimi. A prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Oz tells the story of how the Wizard of Oz arrived in Oz to eventually become the king of Oz. Way too many “Oz’s”! As we all remember, the twist (spoiler alert from seventy-four years ago!) of The Wizard of Oz is that the Wizard isn’t actually a wizard and he had conned the entire world. So this year’s Oz tells the tale of a magician named Oz (James Franco) who magically arrives in the land of Oz (man, this is starting to piss me off!) and is heralded as the Wizard who has been prophesied to come and defeat the Wicked Witch. Along the way he meets a few witches (Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams), a talking flying monkey (Zach Braff), a little girl made of china and an army of munchkins; from all of which he must keep his fraudulent ways a secret.

As I mentioned before, this film is basically a huge CGI tech demo for 3D movie technology. Once the movie opens up into widescreen and colour (it starts off in 4:3 and black’n’white you see), every scene begins with a long winded extravaganza of bright environments and stunning vistas with Oz looking bewildered. Now I’ve enjoyed spectacle for the sake of spectacle before (suck it Aristotle!) in the likes of Avatar, but it’s never enough to make a film good, just enjoyable providing it is some pretty awesome spectacle. And while Avatar delivered on spectacle, Oz‘s spectacle gets old very, very quickly. However, if the story holds up then that little issue can be over looked right?

Well, yes it can! But sadly, Oz: the Great and Powerful‘s script is one of the biggest pieces of literary excrement I have come across in recent memory!

It began competently, the opening stages of the film were interesting and tolerable; but once the movie gets to Oz the whole thing becomes a tirade of “seeing the goodness” in things, cliches and just pathetic amounts of exposition. I thought it must have been a joke, that maybe this was a genre device the film was conscious of and there would be a punch line and everything would go back to normal. But that punchline never came, and instead I was forced to sit through some of the worst tripe to grace my ears. And so for the next ninety minutes I was mentally loading the gun, tying the noose, grabbing my prescriptions, cranking up the oven, starting the engine, and committing  many various other ways to end the suffering that was this film. The fact that a script this awful made it to pre-production, let alone shooting and release, astounds me.

And lastly, the acting is pretty awful. The one character I could stand to watch was the little china girl, and she was completely CGI! And this saddens me as I have seen all the actors in other roles where they have been amazing. James Franco is 127 Hours, Rachel Weisz in Agora, Mila Kunis in Ted, Zach Braff in Scrubs, all these people are good actors but in Oz they are just awful. And it has to be the script’s fault. I’ve seen actors do a good job with a bad script, but some scripts are just such duds that it cannot be saved by talented performers.

I would actively discourage anyone from going to see this film. It is abysmal, plain and simple. Just….don’t. That’s all I can say really: don’t.

See you next time!