Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire
Cast: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Tony Cox and Bruce Campbell
Studio: Walt Disney
When Disney starts investing in deconstructing kid lit, one has to wonder what will come of it. While I respect Sam Raimi like few directors alive, I can’t quite give this film a pass. So much of it is an homage to the 1939 film without any consideration to the long line of Oz books. But, so much of it comes across as an “Army of Darkness” pastiche by way of “Return to Oz”. While the film is beautiful to watch, I can’t quite say that I was moved by the material. Oh well, that’s enough about me. Let’s go meet the Wizard.
There is a “wizard.” He is a carnival wizard, so most of his acts are staged. This is how are movie begins, in the classic thin and hauntingly colorless screen from the original movie. It begins in a carnival, and this is how James Franco as the wizard is introduced. But, as it was in the original movie, disaster occurs. A tornado sweeps the wizard, or Oz, away into the wondrous land of…well, Oz. While there he is confused as a legitimate wizard from a prophecy that entails a wizard coming and saving the people of Oz from the Wicked Witch.
The fates of these pivotal witches of Oz is intertwined closely with Oscar’s transformation from an opportunistic and self-centred trickster to a revered hero of the people of Oz, and like Dorothy, Oscar is joined on his adventure by two unlikely companions – a flying monkey and an all-porcelain China Girl. Along the way, fans of both Baum’s novels as well as the original will recognise the other cleverly placed narrative sleights – including flying baboons, singing and dancing Munchkins, poisonous-scented poppy fields, and floating magic bubbles. Yet at no point do these plentiful references ever feel slavish; rather, building on a solid foundation from Kapner and Abaire, Raimi creates a visually resplendent world wowing in its lovingly rendered details that feels fresh and original. The effect is, we dare say, just as magical as that audiences in the past were transported on when Fleming’s Technicolour visual effects fantasy was first unveiled, and perhaps even more so with the wonder of today’s CGI advances put to work.
Where the acting does work, marvelously and in every scene is Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Two polar opposites that look like they actually enjoy the characters and the movie they are in. They elevate the material a bit to make the drama more tangible. Whereas without them I think the film would have fallen more flat. The drama and character choices didn’t really bring me into the story. The film didn’t feel like it took chances, or tried to have complex situations for the characters. It had mapped out beats, hit them and marched on.
RELEASE DATE: 03/08/2013