Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful: Lacks magic

Though Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful is said to be based on L Frank Baum’s multi-volume Oz series of books, the movie is essentially a prequel to the famous 1939 film, ‘The Wizard Of Oz.’Walt Disney Pictures’ first attempt to go the Oz way was with Return To Oz in 1985.

Oz The Great and Powerful begins in a black and white mode. Trickster magician Oscar Diggs is transported the magical land of Oz in an air balloon. As the cyclone diminishes, the scenes shift to a gorgeous setting where 3D technique and vibrant colours are at its full glory. There he realizes that he is taken for the wizard who is prophesied to save the realm from a wicked witch. A witch named Theodora falls into his charms and takes him to the Emerald kingdom to meet her sister, Evanora, but unlike Theodora, Evanora needs to be convinced that Oscar is really the powerful wizard that he claims himself to be. The sisters send him on a deadly quest to free the land from the evil witch. With only a winged monkey and a china doll for company Oscar embarks into the dark forest hoping to steal the witch’s wand and destroy it so that she will be vanquished forever. However unusual circumstances lead him to Glinda the Good and the oppressed citizens of Oz. There the truth comes to light.

Oz The Great and Powerful succeeds in the visual department. The luscious mountains, vibrantly colourful flowers, board skylines, green wilderness and breathtaking waterfalls are a feast for the eyes. The viewers are full of expectations when they see the beauty to which Oscar arrives from the black and white sequences. Sadly Raimi fails to retain this excitement throughout the movie.

There is no doubt that Diggs’ role has been constructed with Johnny Depp in mind. However what Depp pulled off with ease is an ill-fit for James Franco. The fact that Franco’s Oscar is introduced as a greedy, shallow, cowardly conman to us does not make his task easier. He fails to win us over with his transformation. Another sad fact is that the talented Michelle Williams who gave a stellar performance in My Week with Marilyn in 2011 has nothing much to do but look pretty in the film as Glinda the Good.

It is actually the dark and deadly characters who stand out in the movie. Both Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are splendid in their performances though they have to play second fiddle to Franco and Williams. Weisz makes an elegant but fiendish Evanora. However Kunis is the true star of the show with her remarkable transformation brought on by the heartbreak from the naïve younger sister to the vengeance-seeking monster. Her act is truly bewitching and adds unexpected and much needed depth to Oz The Great and Powerful. Zach Braff and Joey King do commendable jobs by voicing for the monkey and china doll. Both these characters are good replacements for the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow who accompany Dorothy to the Wizard of Oz in the famous folktale. However it is a pity that the team has not taken the trouble to develop their characters further rather then make them mere companions or side kicks for the main characters.

Screenplay writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire could have done so much better in organising a lively tale with such resources. Yet most of the scenes of Oz The Great and Powerful are clichés or just plain silly. It would have been nice to have some genuine comic relief in the film rather than the scant laughs brought out by the supporting characters.

Taking off with a promising start Oz The Great and Powerful soon loses its steam. Despite its star cast and commendable visual splendours the film fails to hold the viewers’ interest.

Ruwini Jayawardana - Daily News