An origin story for the “Man behind the Curtain,” Oz the Great and Powerful was a flawed but very enjoyable film. Visually, this was a glorious, vibrant, imaginative movie. The effects were well done. The visuals did an excellent job of pulling me into another world.
The CGI characters were remarkably well-animated (even, courtesy of motion capture, well acted!). The little china girl was completely credible and vulnerable and adorable. The monkey was cute but had enough of a sarcastic edge to him that he didn’t cross the line into cloyingly over-sweet. The flying baboons (or whatever they actually were) were the stuff children’s nightmares are made of. Very well done.
That brings us to the real characters. While the actors all did quite well with what they were given, I had some pretty big quibbles with what they were given. My biggest quibble was with character motivation. Time and again, I was thrown out of the movie when on-screen action left me thinking, “Now, WHY, other than ‘well, it’s in the script,’ did the character DO that?” Here are three cases in point.
Oz himself: For a guy who repeatedly wishes to be not just good, but GREAT, Oz spends a lot of the movie being neither. He repeatedly dodges opportunities to do great things. Granted, this makes it all the more satisfying when he does pull himself together and do something both great and good, but he frustrated the heck out of me for the first half of the film.
Theodora: Started off so naive. I could see her character train-wreck coming, and it could have been so gloriously tragic. It wasn’t. I could see her anger at Oz, no problem. But to side with the sister who actively and horribly betrayed her against Oz? How does that work? And to follow that sister into banishment, instead of pretending to repent in order to stab the hated wizard in the back later? I know, that’s how it has to be, to match already established future events, but surely they could have figured out some semblance of a rational reason behind her behavior!
Evanora: Classic case of “I’m evil, never mind why.” This would have been forgivable in a children’s movie, but Oz the Great and Powerful was not a children’s movie. And toward the end, why would a villain who had hitherto managed to be reasonably clever, at least, waste several minutes monologue-ing and then panic over fireworks and sleight-of-hand? Rachel Weisz looked stunning in the part and acted it up as much as she could, but her skills were wasted on this.
In fact, the only lead with clear, rational, well-developed character motivations was Glinda—and, while writer(s), director, and actress alike did a remarkably good job of balancing her, she still bordered on saccharine.
Okay, done venting. For the most part, I really did enjoy Oz the Great and Powerful. The visuals were amazing. The story was fun and had some pleasantly surprising details. The music added to the movie without distracting viewers from it. And, in the end, Oz became what I think they meant him to be—a flawed, believable, endearing character. Except for the irritating character motivation issues, this was a very fun show.
Release Date: March 8, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 0 (description)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Sexuality: 1 (minor innuendo)
Violence: 3 (some fantasy violence)