Tuesday 23 July 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful escaped from the cinemas and landed right on Blu-ray and DVD this month. Starring James Franco as ‘Oz’ this is a prequel to the original Wizard of Oz film, and unfortunately was about as respectful and faithful as The Phantom Menace was to Star Wars.

Oz lives in a world were everything is black and white, with a screen ratio of 4:3. Eventually he gets whisked away to a world that is in full blown colour and in lovely 16:9 wide-screen known as Oz. Oz, the guy, begins this film as a small time magician living his life sleazily seducing women and tricking people into giving him money by pretending he is something more than a mediocre performer, a role perfect for James Franco in that respect. After getting caught in a storm while riding in a hot air balloon he crash lands in a pond somewhere and as he disembarks he meets one of the good witches of Oz. She introduces herself as Theodora and tells Oz that he is the famed wizard that all the Ozlings had heard about from a prophecy. She says a wizard would come and save the world from the evil witch and if Oz is the wizard like she believes, he is entitled to a Kingship and infinite wealth. He then uses all his charm and tricks as a failed magician to convince everyone he is in fact a powerful wizard so that he can get his hands on the gold and rubies in the Emerald City.

I didn't like this film. The whole thing felt like it was written with James Franco’s penis instead of a pen. Despite his clearly awful personality and severe lack of a sense of humour every woman on screen falls in love with him for at least a little while, eventually leading directly to the chaos which he allegedly would save them from. The world doesn't feel anything like Oz and any reference to the original film feels like a big James Franco shaped turd curled out onto its legacy. I'm not even a massive fan of the original, but I do like it and this film just makes me want to chisel out my own teeth to give me something fun to do while it’s on. I actually had to watch it over two days because half way through it on the first day I burned my house to the ground in disgust.

Now it’s not all bad, in fact the climax made me question whether I was wrong about the film, then I flicked back through it and realised that yes, it was in fact that bad. I have to say though it looks beautiful, the Emerald City looks great, the yellow brick road is there, and the addition of the little china girl was great, though I get ‘China Girl’ by David Bowie in my head every moment she appears on screen.  She is a genuinely loveable character, really sweet and should have been used much more prominently.

The costumes are great and Sam Raimi basically did a fine job directing, I just think he was handed a dreadful script and story to deal with. Also whoever suggested hiring James Franco should be sacked. I think Jim Carrey or Nathan Fillion could've portrayed a much better ‘cheeky scamp’ character. When Oz inevitably grows a conscience and starts being nice to people, you never feel comfortable, unable to shake the feeling that he has some sort of money or sex influenced plan he’s just dying to execute when the cameras are off.

If you are either a child, someone who has recently ingested magic mushrooms or you have recently had a head injury and find all your pleasures in bright colours, then give this one a watch. Before you watch it for nostalgia reasons though, make sure to interview anyone you know over forty about their feelings on the Star Wars prequel trilogy. There is a similar vibe of pissing on the grave of a genius about this, though ‘Money Grabbing George Lucas’ pissed on the grave of ‘Creative Genius George Lucas’ long before the prequel trilogy came out, but that’s another matter.  If nothing else it looks really nice so take the nieces, nephews, kids you've successfully taken from parks and older relatives who are just happy to be out of the house and go and buy a copy each.

Therefore, if you all end up agreeing with me, you can have a wee bonfire.

David Roberts, CeX Ann Street, Belfast

Oz The Great and Powerful at CeX

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