Oz The Great and Powerful (3D) (PG)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner7/03/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Sam Raimi's colourful Oz prequel is nicely acted, visually spectacular and makes terrific use of 3D, but the story feels choppy and the pacing slows to a crawl in the middle section, while the prequel set-up means it's difficult to engage with the film on an emotional level.

What's it all about?
Directed by Sam Raimi, Oz The Great and Powerful is both based on the books by L. Frank Baum and a prequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Beginning in black and white, in 1905 Kansas, the film stars James Franco as Oz, a womanising conman who works as a fairground magician. Fleeing the angry father of a recent conquest, Oz escapes in a hot air balloon, but when a familiar-looking tornado strikes he finds himself transported to the colourful land of Oz.

After encountering the beautiful Theodora (Mila Kunis), Oz discovers that the people of Oz have mistaken him for a long-prophesied wizard who's supposed to save them from a wicked witch. And when he meets the good witch Glinda (Michelle Williams), Oz is inspired to do whatever he can to help, aided by two friends he makes along the way: kindly flying monkey Finley (Zach Braff) and a girl made of china (Joey King). Meanwhile, Theodora's sinister sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is cooking up plans of her own and amassing an army of ferocious winged baboons.

The Good
Franco makes an engagingly awkward hero as Oz (his goofy grin is put to good effect) and there's strong support from Williams, while Braff and King both give terrific, scene-stealing voice performances for their animated characters. Weisz and Kunis both do their best but the script gives them relatively little of any interest to do so they feel rather underused by comparison.

The first half hour of the film is terrific fun, from the beautifully designed opening credits sequence onwards. In particular, Raimi has a lot of fun with the 3D effects, having things spill out of the academy ratio frame before it widens when Oz reaches Oz. Indeed, the visual effects are extremely impressive throughout and there are several nice touches, from a number of gentle references to the 1939 film to some wonderful, wordless interplay between Oz and Finley.

The Bad
The main problem is that the script is hamstrung by having to have all the characters in place for the 1939 film, so it's difficult to engage on an emotional level, since you essentially know how the film ends. Similarly, the script is choppy in places, resulting in a key character transformation sequence that loses emotional impact through not having a sufficiently adequate set-up. On top of that, the pacing of the film slows to a crawl in the middle section, though it does rally for an entertainingly action-packed climax.

Worth seeing?
Despite the occasional uncomfortable echo of Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Oz The Great and Powerful remains watchable thanks to some superlative effects work and a likeable performance from Franco.

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Content updated: 13/11/2019 08:22

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