DVD review: Oz – the Great and Powerful

James Franco in Oz - the Great and Powerful
James Franco in Oz - the Great and Powerful

Oz may appear great and powerful to the citizens of the Emerald City in the Land of Oz, but like this film he merely uses smoke and mirrors to fool those who gaze upon him.

Sam Raimi’s prequel to the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, begins in black and white and is displayed in a small square screen format.

Undoubtedly this is a little wink to the Wizard of Oz and to help us be more at ease with the introduction to our main character, Oz (James Franco).

We see his background and the chain of events which lead to his arrival in Oz.

Unfortunately this monochromatic, reduced picture is presented for far too long and doesn’t make for a good start.

Things improve slightly once Oz has arrived at his destination; this is only because we are given a full colour, full size picture and the real story begins.

The palette used is very strong and helps to present an almost psychedelic impression of the wonderful world in which the tale is set.

I’m sure that at the cinema and in 3D this would have looked incredible, but at home and on normal DVD, it didn’t.

As a result of this emphasis on effects, the main weapon in this film’s arsenal is rendered useless.

Without this I found that, for the first hour or so, the story was far too sludgy and slow.

I was constantly waiting for something to ignite what was potentially a massive firework of a film; only for it to take so long to light, that when it finally did, I was no more amazed than many other “rockets” that I’d seen before.

Franco didn’t seem to suit the role well; he failed to show me Oz had changed very much and seemed to struggle balancing the comedic and more serious elements of the character.

Rachel Weisz as Evanora was OK, but again fell short of fulfilling the character’s potential.

Michelle Williams (Glinda) was quite effective in her role, but neither of the two matched Mila Kunis as Theodora.

To be fair to Weisz and Williams, Kunis only stood apart because of her transition to a more famous witch created by author Frank L Baum.

The traits of the witch from The Wizard of Oz were plain to see and her mannerisms and voice were well executed.

I was left with no doubt as to her feelings towards Oz – the Great and Powerful, and her fellow witches.

One area in which the effects were very good was that of the characters of the china girl and Frank the monkey.

Both superbly animated, they were excellent accessories to the story.

Again though, this was good for the effects team but showed how poor the rest of the film was in comparison.

In 3D at the cinema I’m sure I’d have enjoyed this more, but only because of the effects.

Unfortunately though it is a prime example of why you cannot rely on big-screen cinema effects to assist a film in becoming a classic; when these eye-openers are lost at home, it has failed.

To put it simply, Oz is neither great nor powerful.