Oz the Great and Powerful is so bad… so bad…
The film keys on Oz (James Franco), a ladies’ man circus magician who aspires to “greatness” and is thrust into the fantastic, incredible, 100 percent CGI world of Oz. There, he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz), who send him to kill the wicked witch, Glinda (Michelle Williams). Upon her death, all his wildest dreams will come true.
Oz the Great and Powerful is viscerally bad. The scenery, which seems to be the key drawing point of the film, is on par with a nice screen saver. All of the main cast members, Kunis in particular, turn in willfully bad performances that point to director Sam Raimi as a root problem. When visual effects are asked to do more than just liven up the background, they fail spectacularly. This is most notable in the completely unnecessary visual enhancements to the Wicked Witch of the West, who is the most awkward thing in cinema so far this year.
Despite being a children’s film, Oz sets a disturbingly poor example for children. The main character is a slime ball with no redeeming qualities, yet the story makes him into a messianic figure.
The weakness of the female characters would have L. Frank Baum spinning in his grave. A firm feminist, the majority of Baum’s Oz books featured strong female leads. This film features three pathetic female supporting characters, all of whom exist as a function of the wizard. The film goes so far as to paint The Wicked Witch of the West, one of the most iconic film villains of all time, as a product of heartbreak from the wizard’s schmoozing.
But this isn’t just a bad movie. If it were just a bad movie, it could go off in a corner and be bad without drawing attention to itself. No, this is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, one of the most enduring, beloved movies ever made.
By tying itself to a piece of American iconography, Oz gains instant market credibility and guarantees itself a good opening weekend, despite being garbage. This kind of piggybacking is painfully common and seems more and more pronounced as time goes on. It can come in the form of categorically worse remakes (The Amazing Spider-Man), a never-ending stream of sequels (Ice Age, Madagascar) or prequel trilogies that advertise the same creative team as their predecessors, but manage to invalidate them anyway (The Hobbit). All of these were top-10 at the box office in 2012.
The baffling part is Disney put the effort in to make a new, lame story for this simple end. If they’d re-made The Wizard of Oz to be closer to the book, it would have done the same thing but been more interesting. If they’d adapted Wicked, which is based on the 1939 film version, it would have done the same thing but been much more interesting. Writer Mitchel Kapner has said that they wanted a male lead character and went on to imply that there weren’t enough of those already.
Oz the Great and Powerful is bad and its editorial decisions make no sense. It claims famous source material that it spurns at every turn, usually for something stupider or more far-fetched. It is a soulless cog in a soulless machine, not suitable for viewers of any age group.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a staff writer for the NT Daily. He also holds a BFA in political theory from Shiz University. For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back next week for a review of Olympus has Fallen.