Sam Raimi directs James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz in this fantasy adventure prequel following the “wizard”’s crash-landing in Oz and the fallout from his arrival.
I’m always surprised when I read this has a bad reputation. I remember really enjoying it on opening weekend and haven’t changed my opinion seven years later on revisit. It certainly is the best of the CGI vista environment, 3D cash-in films that followed in Avatar’s wake. Better than even Avatar. Unashamed digital is not my preference for fantasia generating yet still this Oz looks stunning. Like a shimmering pearl or crayon box come to life… the actors never seem to float a click out from the green screen, the pitfall of this style of filmmaking. Except when they are actual floating through the animated flora, fauna and yellow brick masonry. O.K…. Franco is a little smug (he’s a schmuck and so is the hero as written) but the three female leads more than make up for him. These are three of the most talented and attractive actresses working in modern Hollywood. It is never going to be boring watching them vamp and camp it up as witches in waiting. Zach Braff’s wisecracking monkey sidekick garners plenty of laughs. For the first half he threatens to Robin Williams the show and takeover the production like the genie does in Aladdin. Once the action begins, he fades into the background a little too much. If you approach this as Raimi’s take on a fairytale then he delivers it with the same verve as Army of Darkness or Darkman. The big battle action is a little weak but the slapstick knockabout and character design is perfect in the smaller kinetic moments. Full tilt Looney Toons lunacy. Raimi’s playful honed eye for big screen movement aside this isn’t to my taste when it comes to mega budget cinema, yet I genuinely believe it is as about as good as a 21st Century trip to Oz as you could expect.
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