Starts in black and white at a Kansas fair in 1905. James Franco plays a fairground trickster who doesn’t want the responsibility of marriage to Rachel Weisz. His magic is fraudulent. He escapes from aggrieved colleagues in a balloon in which he gets into a tornado and ends up in Oz. He meets two witches (Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz) and a winged monkey. Later he rescues a porcelain girl. He must prove himself to the Munchkins and the citizens of Oz against the wicked witches….
If MGM has the rights to the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow, how come this film can show the Munchkins which MGM presumably has the copyright on? Oz the Great and Powerful takes full advantage of its seventy five years of cinema technology over the Selznick film, so I suppose it’s unfair to compare them as spectacle. This Emerald City is a green version of the red palaces of Tim Burton’s Alice. It’s of course much superior to the painted cardboard of 1939 which was magical enough in the world of depression and impending war. The new film is a highly efficient CGI extravaganza but cannot claim the earlier film’s magic. We are too consumerist and sated, “less is more” is not a respected precept in today’s cinema. The scene at the funfair in black and white is a throwback to the opening scenes of the Garland film, but that was the contrast of reality to dream whereas in this film it feels like it’s from gimmick to gimmick. The only new character we get is a china doll and with this ‘Shrek-like’ midget we romp through the latest computer tricks with no human depth. James Franco’s fairground magician reprises Heath Ledger’s role in Imaginarium, the film works like a Terry Gilliam project as we get reminders of that film. Oz The Great and Powerful share the same limitations as other productions of the L Frank Baum stories in that the characters may look weird and a bit threatening but they lack the violence and terror (for children) of the books. The Munchkins, the doll, and the monkey are all reduced to the lowest common denominator of bland amenability and acceptable character changes through predictable plot developments. The bad guys look like cereal packet monsters and the good guys are the usual contenders for the Prom Queen’s favours. In the end, love and sincerity must prevail over deceit of self and others, a conventional message of hope. Sometimes fun but could have been more imaginative..