No one can accuse director Sam Raimi of not having a visionary mind full of wonder and weirdness. To be perfectly honest I think Tim Burton could learn a thing or two from Raimi these days. The man who in 1981 brought us the original Evil Dead and showed us low budget horror at its finest and in 2002 brought the worlds most famous web slinger to screen and made more than a few of us believe in heroes again has taken us to Oz.
I am a fan of Wicked and the story of Galinda and Elphaba. I am a fan of the brilliance of Victor Fleming’s 1939 spectacle with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. I need to let you know now, this is neither of those stories. This is a new Oz.
This is an Oz with water faeries, witches, Winkies, China Dolls and let us not forget flying monkeys This is an Oz with impossible cloud formations and even more impossible geography. One where the day is warm, kind and clearly magical; and where the night is intimidating, menacing and you know you don’t want to see what goes bump in the night.
The opening of this movie in a 1905 Kansas made me smile. It could be because I was a carnie for a summer once and that in a century some things never change. It could be the nice call back to the original and a hint of things to come. One twist(er) later and we are in Oz. The CG landscape while bright and colorful was jarring in it’s rendering. I had trouble accepting the world at first but it grew on me as I realized what it was for – Wonder.
Oz is Wonderful. Not the man, he’s a bit of a schmuck. The land of Oz is truly wonderful. When I stopped caring about the CG and listened to the reeds play carnival music. When I saw the majesty of the Emerald City given form more than a painting it started. What truly sold me was the China Doll. I’ll be damned if the FX team didn’t do an amazing job. There were only a handful of times where I knew she was CG rather than Practical, but I truly lost myself in a world with a China Doll who could walk, cry and may be one of the most memorable and endearing characters in the movie.
That isn’t to say that James Franco as Oz isn’t good, he turns in a performance we know he is more than capable of as a man who doesn’t know what he is capable of. Rachel Weisz is ravishing as Evanora the Guardian of the Emerald City and gives us what we expect, but surprisingly she is upstaged by Mila Kunis. Mila’s turn as Theodora, sister to Evanora, was for me nothing but heart breaking as she devours scenery like pop corn. Some have said Michelle Williams as Glinda is a bit flat but that is only in her delivery and dialogue. Let’s be honest Glinda isn’t exactly the most dimensional person in the world no matter what version you like. I do disagree that she’s flat though. Her performance isnt to be found in the dialogue. It’s Michelle’s body language and expressions. This is a woman who knows her face, her shoulders and blocking and can use it.
Was the CG heavy handed at times and took me out of the world? Sure.
How about the 3D? This one uses it in interesting ways a few times, some tricks I haven’t seen done. A lot of it is the classic “thing coming at your face” but there are some nice depth of field effects. I don’t think you will miss much if you can’t stand 3D. If you could go either way, see it in 3D and let me know what you think?
Can I take Kids to it? – Yes. Yes. Yes. This movie is for them more than Jack the Giant slayer ever could have hoped to be.
Will I get something out of it as an adult? No promises, but I know I did. The movie made me smile, it made me laugh, it let me look at the world and remember what movies are here for. To let our minds wander and wonder. Let that inner child that watched the Wizard of Oz and saw someone travel by Bubble or Broomstick and go “that would be cool”.
So there it is, I recommend this one for kids of all ages; inside and out.
I plan to catch this one again, sans 3D with friends later. Making this one of the few movies I will see more than once in the theatre. Between this and Beautiful Creatures earlier this year ((see it damnit)) – I think some directors have realized we don’t always need darkness. Sometimes we do need a Wonderful Wizard.