Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Please note that while we try to avoid most of the major spoilers, the nature of our goal here will result in a few spoilers. We choose to warn you instead of let you be surprised, which sometimes requires that we give a few things away. Still, we do our best to avoid any big spoilers and try to leave a trail full of gaps so it is difficult to figure out exactly how things progress. Wouldn't want to spoil all the excitement!
Also, I tend to err on the side of being overly careful in my age recommendations because it's better to be safe than sorry. Which is why I also include the "word of warning" section so you can see the reasons and decide for yourself who it is appropriate for.

Title: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Author: N/A
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ***
Age Group: 10+ (for freaky witches and moral weaknesses with the plot)
Official Rating: PG
My Summary:

We start in black and white, as I am told is the tradition, and we are at a carnival. Oz is up to his usual tricks, flattering a girl he doesn't have any lasting intentions for, but runs into trouble, and things get messy. Long story short, a tornado sends him to a very strange land where he meets a  beautiful witch.
Oz has one goal: greatness. He wants to be good, not great, he tells an old love who he apparently really did care for. So when he finds out that everyone believes he is The Wizard (of the prophecy, of course), and a room full of riches and a throne come with being the wizard, well, how is he supposed to turn that down?
Of course, somewhere in there he does end up flirting with both the witch he first met and her sister, causing a bit of a mix up, but does that really matter?
Oz doesn't think so.
But Oz is a coward. He wants to do things the easy way, he wants to escape and become great at the same time. Is that possible? He certainly thinks so.
When his quest to kill the evil witch is turned on its head, he's ready to leave. But someone tells him that while he is not the wizard they were expecting, if he can only get everyone to believe, anything will be possible.
Everything spirals out of control and Oz pulls some old carnival tricks out of his hat, finishing with a bang.

As for his lady love? She tells him that he is good. And that is better than greatness.Word of Warning:
The entire story follows a man who thinks he can bestow affection on women and move on without any ramifications to himself, and apparently to the women either. He wants to be great and rich no matter what it takes. But he staunchly rejects killing anyone and is horrified at the thought.
Still, I was a little worried as I was watching the movie. While all he ever does is kiss a girl and dance with her in the moonlight (in addition to sweet words and such), I found myself squirming a little. The movie was more than half way over and he still hadn't given any indication of changing. I knew he would change (it's a required cliche, no?), but I wasn't sure if he would change as much as he needed to. Rest assured, he did, and I was impressed with the writers for pulling it off so well. He learns that his affections cannot be given in the way he had done before and that they do have consequences--horrible ones that he regrets very deeply.

Then there was the idea that of course he wasn't a wizard with actual power, if everyone would just fall for his tricks and believe he was, things would be just fine. And they are. Which is a problem. The underlying message is that if one lies and everything works out for the greater good, everything is just fine. It has a nice fuzzy feel to it, but really, utilitarianism, anyone?

Other than the problems with the story line, we have a scene where a sister betrays her sister and one of them turns into a nasty green witch because her love for the wizard hurt her so deeply. She is destructive, throws fireballs, and has an evil cackle like any good witch would. China Town (populated by people made of china) is shown destroyed and a china girl is shown with both her legs broken off. Because of her species, the scene is not as disturbing as it could be (she does talk and walk, as do many other curious creatures in this world). Some of the characters take a trip through a graveyard, a trip in a dark forest results in musing about ghosts and the undead (both terms are glossed over and mentioned very briefly), there are winged baboon creatures, and several battle scenes (though no one is shown injured except the China girl mentioned earlier).
The kisses between characters are brief, as far as I can remember, except for *SPOILER!!!* the one at the end, but it is still done in an appropriate manner and when it goes beyond the usual time frame we see only an outline in smoke/on a curtain. Nothing to worry about in this area.

My Comments:
I have not watched the entire first movie with Dorothy in it and have been told that is a crime (I did watch part of it). Still, this is a wonderful explanation for the first movie. Who is the wicked witch, exactly? Why is she so wicked? Who is Oz and how did he get to a land that seems to be named after him? And what's with the whole nobody-sees-the-Oz thing? All (and probably more) are realistically explained and the viewer feels satisfied. Particularly if he/she has seen the first one. For me, a stranger to this whimsical land, I felt this was a wonderful introduction to the Land of Oz.
I was particularly impressed with the conclusion. We are told that being good is better than being great. The only confusion comes in the definition of "great". But overall it was a great, oh, I'm sorry, good finish.


Lurai said...

Very nice review!! I've seen the movie as well and found it surprisingly good. It beautifully explains the original Oz movie and has several throwbacks to it, particularly in how the movie's format works. And it was indeed a good finish. Another great review! :)

Maria Gianna said...

I'm glad you liked the review. I too was impressed with the movie and would watch it again, though probably not in theaters.
Spider-Man on Thursday at 7:00 AM :)

grandma jane said...

Thanks again for an interesting review. When I viewed the previews (on TV) I thought Oz probably wasn't worth my time, but after reading your review I will see it. Yes, thanks to your review I too would like answers to those posing questions.
I have to agree that it's a shame you have not seen the original in its entirety, because I think it helps to see transitions beginning to end. There have been theories over the years to (the book's) hidden agendas which could make viewing in that light even more interesting.
So now that you're all grown up ;-) you really need to see the complete original sometime.

Maria Gianna said...

Grandma Jane,
I am very glad you found the review helpful. While I probably would not pay to watch the movie in the theater again, I don't regret doing so the first time and would really like to watch it again.
I think, having watched the first one (not the original), I'll have to watch the original now. Maybe watching them in the order that the story goes will be helpful.