Green cleavage is not a good look, you guys.
The nicest thing I can say about Oz the Great and Powerful is that the special effects were decent, and that the CGI flying monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) was probably best character in the whole movie. Seriously, his facial expressions made that movie for me.
Now let’s discuss why this movie was so awful.
There’s something about three strong, powerful women waiting around for a man to come save them that doesn’t sit right with me. I read a great article about L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books, being a feminist and how the books he wrote were sort of a tribute to his wife — who gave up a lot by settling down and marrying him. So his books always featured a female protagonist, and never included a romantic plot. Oz the Great and Powerful seems to defy everything Baum stood for.
James Franco plays Oscar, also known as “Oz”. With the help of his assistant (Zach Braff), he works as a conman magician as part of a traveling circus. Side hobbies include duping gullible young women into thinking he’s in love with them. His true love seems to be the sweet and spritely Annie (Michelle Williams) who knows all about his con artist ways, yet loves him and want to be with him in spite of all that.
We don’t really see Oscar be anything but an asshole, especially in the beginning, so I’m not sure why Annie keeps giving him big lovesick, adoring eyes. Clearly, she can do better than him, and Oscar himself says as much.
We’re supposed to see Oscar as a nuanced character; that much is clear from the dialogue. The problem is that Franco doesn’t play him that way.
Eventually, Oscar hops into a hot air balloon, winds up in the epicenter of a tornado, and is swiftly transported to the land of Oz. There he runs into Theodora (Mila Kunis) — dressed like Carmen Sandiego for some reason — who asks him, “Are you the great man we’ve been waiting for?” Cue my gag reflex.
Oscar goes along with the whole prophesied wizard angle, and Theodora tells him that she’s a witch. So is her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz). According to Theodora, the evil witch wreaking havoc upon everyone and everything is Glinda (also played by Michelle Williams). Except it turns out Glinda is the good one, and Evanora is the bad one. (You know because Glinda’s blonde and Evanora’s a brunette. I mean, the hair color totally gives it away. Come on now.)
Anyways, Theodora is heartbroken when she finds out that Oscar/Oz has left Emerald City and is now dallying around with Glinda in her bubble fortress. Despite knowing Oz all of twenty minutes, his treatment of her is why she ends up turning “evil”.
Meanwhile, Oz has to figure out a way to bring peace to the land and fulfill the prophecy even though he’s not a real wizard. Not to worry, though, because Glinda has total faith in him. Why? I have no idea.
The amount of times we’re hit on the head with the idea that Oz is “great” and “good” is more than enough. Doesn’t mean I buy it.
All of the characters are terribly one-dimensional and the plot is flimsy at best. Weisz and Williams are too good for this film, and Kunis just looks lost and confused.
The worst part, however, is James Franco. He’s the weakest link in this movie. The whole time I was sitting in the movie theater, I kept thinking to myself, why did they cast him? Originally, the role was supposed to go to Robert Downey Jr. and if he had been cast, perhaps the movie wouldn’t have been this bad. RDJ has enough charm and charisma to carry two franchises already: Iron Man and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Johnny Depp was also being considered, but that would have been too obvious.
What this movie did was show that James Franco simply doesn’t have the acting chops to play the role of the charismatic Oz. He looked stoned the majority of the time he was on screen. I know the movie was supposed to be cheesy, but Williams and Weisz played it off well — even with a terrible script. Franco, on the other hand, seemed completely disengaged, like he was playing a parody of himself playing Oz.
Of course, none of that really matters given this movie’s stellar performance at the box office. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a sequel some time soon.