Thursday Night Movie Club
Oz the Great and Powerful
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Release Date: 8 March 2013

Director: Sam Raimi
James Franco
Mila Kunis
Rachel Weisz
Michelle Williams
Zach Braff
Bill Cobbs
Joey King
Tony Cox
Stephen R. Hart
Abigail Spencer
Bruce Campbell
Ted Raimi
Tim Holmes
Toni Wynne
Rob Crites
Annie / Glinda
Frank / Finley
Master Tinker
Girl in Wheelchair/China Girl
Winkie General
Winkie Gate Keeper
Skeptic in Audience
Strong Man's Wife
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Oz the Great and Powerful does not live up to its name. The film is interesting in the setup but the film spends too much time on the grandeur of Oz for 3D Imax experience. The acting is nothing special and neither are any of the main characters. Shame.

Oscar Diggs arrives in the land of Oz in Oz the Great and PowerfulOscar Diggs (James Franco) is a small-time magician with the Baum Brothers traveling circus. He is a talented magician yet he is mainly a con artist who dreams of greatness. He dreams of personal achievements and fame, rather than doing good deeds for others. His hero is Albert Edison, a man who dreams of the future and then makes the future happen. Diggs problem, he dreams but he doesn't act.

His ruse to seduce women is to present them a gift of a music box that is "the last surviving memory" of his late grandmother. When he hands out one-too-many music boxes, he is forced to flee the circus. He escapes in a hot-air balloon just as a tornado strikes! When the ballon finally settles back to terra firma, Oscar Diggs finds he is no longer in Kansas.

Oscar Diggs arrives in the land of Oz in Oz the Great and PowerfulDiggs meets and promptly cons/seduces a young, impressionable witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis) with yet another music box. She tells Diggs the story of his inescapeable destiny. The land of Oz is in turmoil. Legend speaks of a strange wizard who will descend from the sky and bring peace to the land. Diggs, seizing the opportunity for untold wealth and fame, promptly lies through his teeth and proclaims himself the Wizard.

Once inside the Emerald City, Diggs does what he does best... and gets deeper into trouble. He uses the music box ploy on Theordora's sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz). Theodora turns green with envy, eventually. Evanora tells Diggs the trouble plaguing Oz is the Wicked Witch name Glinda, who is so evil she murdered her father, the former Wizard. Unfortunately for Diggs, the only way he can be proclaimed Wizard is to kill the Wicked Witch. Diggs reluctantly agrees, as a dodge while he thinks of a plan where he can get the gold without risking life or limb.

Michelle Williams as Glinda in Oz the Great and PowerfulNotice any parallels? The original idea for this film seemed like a good idea at the time: telling the story of how the magician from Kansas became a good man and the powerful wizard. However, the plot of Oz the Great and Powerful is eerily similar to The Wizard of Oz. Both stories involve the walk down the yellow-brick road to destroy the Wicked Witch.

More surprising for a Sam Raimi directed film is the lack of surprises and grandeur. Visually, the CG land of Oz looks spectacular. Somehow, a feeling of overwhelming awe is missing. The munchkins seem to be bored. They inexplicably break out in a goofy song-and-dance number that, mercifully for the audience, Diggs cuts short. In fact, the characters of Oz are as underwhelming as the scenery. This film is not a spectacular spectacle.

The Wicked Witch of the West in Oz the Great and PowerfulThe film is also hindered by the audience knowing well in advance how the film's double-crosses will resolve themselves. This film has two sisters who are witches and a third witch named Glinda The Wizard of Oz had two sisters, who were Wicked Witches and a good witch named Glinda. Surprise! Surprise! There are no surprises here!

That is not entirely true. The one true surprise is the film's most tender moment. Diggs, on his way to destroy the Wicked Witch, comes upon some of her evil handiwork. A town comprised of china saucers, plates and china dolls has been destroyed. Diggs finds the only survivor, a young girl who has her leg shattered. Diggs helps mend her broken leg with a magic potion known as "glue". The legend of the Wizard's kindness, goodness, and magic begins to grow, despite Digg's best efforts.

The only other true surprise is the moment when Diggs uses his carnival theatricality, magic tricks and a fair dose of Thomas Edison, to transform himself into the Wizard and fulfill the prophecy by setting things right throughout the land of Oz. In order to pull off the greatest con of his life, Diggs must betray everyone in Oz, including his friends. He does exactly what he has been telling everyone he meets in Oz, he robs the gold from the King's horde and promptly leaves Oz in his balloon. This effort is Diggs way of divorcing himself from himself in order to become something greater.

The munchkins in Oz the Great and PowerfulFor the most part, Oz the Great and Powerful moves along on an even keel. As grand as everything looks, nothing feels grand. James Franco is good as the conniving Oscar Diggs but he doesn't portray the special moment when the Diggs transforms into a good man. The three female leads go through their respective parts without making their performance special. Any of the actors could be interchanged with other parts and have the same result. The witches all seem the same. They are missing individual personalities. Zach Braff, as the flying monkey Finley, grates on the nerves when he is first introduced. He still grates on the nerves at the end of the film.

For all the spectacle and grandeur of the subject, Oz the Great and Powerful is a surprisingly dull movie... and that is a surprise!