I finally got around to watching Oz the Great and Powerful. I hadn’t seen it in theaters because I didn’t like James Franco as the lead and the “romantic storyline” emphasized in trailers really did not seem like the Wonderful Land of Oz.
The plot has small time carnival player Oz schmoozing his way through performances with a new young woman frequently playing the part of an audience member who assists him in his tricks. He gives them a pep talk before the show and “his grandmother’s music box” (of which he has a seemingly endless supply in his pockets) to show how captivated by them he is.
A show goes awry when a little girl in a wheelchair asks him to fix her legs so she can walk again. She believes in him, she says. Stopped mid-speel, he is a bit annoyed and hasn’t a quick and slick answer for her except no. The audience, filled with an unusual amount of rowdy and disbelieving farmers, demands that Oz help her.
As they toss objects at him, he flees the stage, only to have the circus strongman chase him as well on behalf of another circus performer (his wife) lovingly holding a music box.
Safe for a moment in his wagon he is visited by a girl who he has more than the usual connection with, but he fobs her off with his tale of dreams of being a Great Man rather than a Good Man.
In crashes the Stongman, Oz disappears through an escape hole in the floor and he’s off to climb into a beautiful balloon with Oz emblazoned on it. Cue the tornado to whirl him to Oz.
Landing in Oz, he is met almost immediately by a beautiful woman in a red velvet hat and jacket with tight black leather pants. As quickly as you can say Anachronism the movie has problems.
Doe-eyed Theodora, a witch who seems knowing yet helpless, falls for Oz immediately and plans to be his queen. Our slick showman is happy to produce a music box and dance the night away with her, but of course he has no attachment.
Off to the Emerald City which has been watched over by Theodora’s blatantly evil sister Evanora since the tragic death of the former Wizard King.
The Land of Oz does have some wonders to behold. Colors are sharp and practically scream look here, look here.
The first view of the Emerald City, done with technology that should be wondrously advanced since 1939 looks like a cheap backdrop painting. Once in the city, you just see the throne room, no tour on the way to the palace to take in the beautiful city as seen for the first time through the eyes of newcomer Oz.
Later as he is finishing a tour given by Evanora you see the city at night from a height and it looks huge and complex. It just isn’t the introduction to this place which is the heart of Oz that it should have been.
The great wonder that captivates our showman is a treasure room full of gold and jewels. It is the contemplation of having this treasure that motivates our con man to leave the city at night, flying monkey companion Finlay in tow, to kill the “evil” witch Glinda.
The illusions Oz produces with the help of “tinkers” are really a great bit of showmanship, worthy of a humbug wizard. I liked the explanation for how Oz became a face in a cloud manifest, seen by few.
The only person Franco has any chemistry with in the film is the China Girl. I don’t know why but in every scene he has with her, he is warm and charming and he connects to another human being, even though she is made of china.