Film Review: Oz – The Great and Powerful

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Oz

If It Only Had A Heart

There’s something inevitable about Oz – The Great and Powerful. Inevitable that Disney, that great cultural recycler, should have wanted to make it, after all it’s the purest, most family friendly property in Hollywood; inevitable that they’d hire Sam Raimi to direct it when he’d turned in three perfectly bland Spider-Man movies that showed that he was quite prepared to strip his work of style and corrugated humour if the budget was grand enough and the audience broad enough, and inevitable that the corporation whose business plan of late has been to buy up each and every last square foot of pop-cultural real estate and outfit it with their own branding would provide a climax that looked like a live action retooling of their studio logo: a magic kingdom that erupts with fireworks, just like the run-in to every Uncle Walt spectacular.

It’s funny that the prequel to one of the best-loved movie fantasies ever made should open with a carnival magician peddling cheap tricks to gullible patrons: it’s neat shorthand for the movie’s strategy in managing audience expectations. You may be dazzled by the flames blown by a circus performer streaking out beyond the confines of the digitally desaturated 4:3 frame; a bit of technical grandstanding that marks everything that follows as a pastiche from the pixel age. You may be charmed by James Franco’s huckster with his vaudeville moves and shit eating grin. You may even gasp when the story expands into colour-drenched widescreen, brushed with digital vomit. But to be impressed by any of this is to fall for Oz’s low rent illusions. Raimi’s movie doesn’t have the charm or innocence of its illustrious forebear. It bends over backwards to fake it, like so much post-Pixar House of Mouse product, but we’ve seen enough to know how it’s done: it doesn’t take long to spy the copper under the gold paint.

Of course Raimi will argue that his trip to Oz has heart to spare. He’ll talk about its simple, formulaic arc of redemption that sees Franco’s shyster become a better man in a land that enables him to use his dubious skills to great effect while helping the characters conceived as proxies for the ones he’s disappointed back in Kansas (reusing The Wizard of Oz conceit of having the actors from the real world portion employed in dual roles). You can say this is a reasonable idea; perhaps enough to power a story; you can even say it’s a tale told simply and well; but Oz’s retinue, destined to become a family lest the target audience leave crestfallen, compromised of a talking monkey and a china girl (a character that would have made Ibsen’s head explode), are self-consciously kooky enough and ironicised enough to make tin men of us all.

With all the original film’s tropes repackaged and sold on to a new generation oblivious to the wholesome ingredients that made the old that much more palatable, there’s little to crow about on this return to Oz. All that’s left are the kinds of questions that weigh on the mind like a house that’s fallen on your head. Did we really need an origin story for The Wizard of Oz? Did anyone watch the 1939 movie and say, “it was good but I’m not satisfied that I know enough about the Wicked Witch of the West’s early years”? If it’s impossible to uglify Mila Kunis is she really the right person for that part? But perhaps most pertinent of all is the question of whether this knowing revision inadvertently does to the franchise what Dorothy did to the old wizard – pulling back the curtain to reveal the shoddy mechanics that power the show, when what we really needed was a touch of the old magic.

Directed by: Sam Raimi

Country: US

Year: 2013

Running Time: 130 mins

Certificate: PG for James Franco's smile.

26 Responses

  1. Amee says:

    “Did anyone watch the 1939 movie and say, “it was good but I’m not satisfied that I know enough about the Wicked Witch of the West’s early years”?”

    I take it you’ve never heard of the book or smash Broadway musical “Wicked”?

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      I’ve heard of it, but with it – as with this movie, I’d question whether it really needed to exist. I mean, what next? A munchkins prequel? A story set in the town the tornado hit before it got to Dorothy’s house? Toto: the puppy months?

      The point is that our taste for prequels belies the fact that we’re sometimes given the precise amount of information about a character necessary in order to tell the story in which they originally appear. All you really need to know about TWWOTW is that she hates Dorothy because D’s house killed her sister. Oh and that she’s evil. That’s it. Darth Vader was ruined when his creator decided that his origin story needed to be told. It didn’t.

      What’s particularly irritating about this in a movie context, though not theatrically obviously, is that a movie like Oz: The Great and Powerful, if you accept it as a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, permanently changes that movie. You can discount a bad sequel; pretend it doesn’t exist, but you can’t unlearn something you’ve learned about a character’s background. In short then, studios should think very carefully before they choose to expand franchises in this direction.

      There you go, how’s that?

      • Chris says:

        “All you really need to know about TWWOTW is that she hates Dorothy because D’s house killed her sister. Oh and that she’s evil. That’s it. Darth Vader was ruined when his creator decided that his origin story needed to be told. It didn’t.”

        Your own words indicate you prefer characters to be as shallow and one-dimensional as possible. If an audience cannot become emotionally invested in a character, the writer should either be re-writing said character or questioning the existence of said character in his or her own work. Darth Vader’s story is one that very much needed to be told. The issue is that it was told poorly, largely because no one dared to rein writer/director George Lucas in or question a single one of his poor decisions. If villains were made to be evil purely for the sake of being evil, why would we need anything more complicated than an 80′s action flick taking up space in our cinemas. Characters are complex things that we should be made to care about. If you want Darth Vader and The Wicked Witch Of The West to be evil all for the sake of the evulz, then your taste in writing is limited to those Little Golden Books found in grocery stores to amuse small children. Your stance supports the worst kind of writing that finds its way out of Hollywood. Wait for the next Die Hard flick instead, it’ll be full of the kind of one-dimensional, spoon-fed plot you’re sure to appreciate.

        • Ed Whitfield says:

          Your own words indicate you prefer characters to be as shallow and one-dimensional as possible.

          No, that’s not what I said. The clue was in the words I used. Fundamentally this is an argument about context. You seem to think that every character in every story needs to have a 34 page bio attached to them and not only that but we need to see most of it played out. In all stories not every character is a main character – some are supporting and some are created for plot purposes, perhaps to act as an antagonist for the hero, etc. The Wicked Witch of the West is evil and she’s a witch with a grievance – that, fundamentally is all we need to know in the context of The Wizard of Oz. The story isn’t about her, it’s about Dorothy. The Witch being a type doesn’t make her shallow, incidentally – she’s a vivid character, hence the interest we have in her, but we don’t need to know where she went to school or who her parents were or the name of her first boyfriend – this is surplus to requirements in this universe. The problem with expanding that story, and it’s the same problem we have with Darth Vader (I’ll come to him in a minute) is that it’s been done retrospectively, in other words, in order to hook the existing audience, it’s necessary to contort wildly to tie the origins of these characters into the ones you already know about. The effect is to make everything a fuck of a lot more contrived and improbable than it used to be. So for example, in Oz, the writers feel the need (to solidify the connection between old and new) to create a short romance between Oz and Theodora. Ah, so now we know she became evil because her heart was broken and she bit a magic apple to make the pain go away, etc- aghhh – no no no. I don’t want a psychological profile of the Wicked Witch of the West. Everything has to be linked in prequel land and all that does to make the world of the original that much more narrow and soap opera-like.

          Darth Vader’s story is one that very much needed to be told.

          I hope you’re joking because if not you don’t understand the very thing you love. That would put you on par with George Lucas. The issue is not that he botched it; the issue is that he thought it had to be done at all. The story had been told – very effectively – in a handful of scenes featuring the old Obi Wan and Luke Skywalker. Everything we needed to know about Vader’s backstory we gleaned from those conversations. Retrospectively tying everything to Vader’s backstory turned Star Wars into Anakin’s story but it was not originally designed that way. Star Wars was, before it was vandalised, about Luke. Vader was a supporting character that added depth to Luke’s journey; he personified the conflict Luke felt as he struggled with the Empire. The prequel trilogy also succeeded in ruining Anakin, as well as Yoda, Boba Fett – I could go on. People like to joke that at least the prequel trilogy didn’t feature a young Han being brought up by Wookies, or some nonsense, but then you discover that Lucas sketched out that very story, thankfully opting to cut it at the eleventh hour. I suppose you think that story very much needed to be told too.

          Where does it end? Perhaps you’d like a trilogy based on the origin of the stormtrooper who yelled “Open the blast doors!” in the original movie? I for one need to know where he was cloned – if he was cloned – what his early experiences of the Empire were like, how he found the Death Star in those first few months and the accident that affected his leg, meaning he couldn’t run quite fast enough to catch the doors before they closed in A New Hope. Of course it would be necessary to include sub-plots that set up the story we know so he’d have to be stationed on Tatooine at one point, to enable us meet a younger Han Solo. Perhaps he could visit Luke’s farm on imperial business and meet him as a child?

          Can’t wait for the next Die Hard.

          • Amee says:

            You posed the question, “Who cares?” The answer is “Millions and millions of people.” Millions of us want our characters to be more than just archetypes. Millions of us know that feeling a little sympathy for a character deemed “evil” makes that character more interesting and complex. Millions of us can handle this and desire this in the stories we read and the movies we view.

            You are welcome to enjoy your shallow characters and shallow stories. You should, however, accept that you are in the minority on this.

          • Ed Whitfield says:

            I don’t accept that enjoying a character in the context they were originally created, for the purpose they served, marks a craving for shallow storytelling. It depends on the story and the character, surely? You’re also assuming that extending a character’s backstory adds depth. I’d cite Oz and the Star Wars prequel trilogy as evidence that it does not. It can ruin a perfectly good character, however, but if you don’t see how or why I can do nothing for you. It also changes the original story as I say. You may make the blanket assumption that improves said story; I don’t.

            Regardless, I look forward to the Toto puppy movie.

            Incidentally, as we’re making claims for large numbers of strangers, millions feel exactly as I do about this; you just won’t see us in the audience for Wicked.

          • Amee says:

            “enjoying a character in the context they were originally created, for the purpose they served”

            Okay, we’ll try again. Are you aware that the Oz series, as written by L. Frank Baum, contains 14 books (“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was only the first one), details a very rich history of Oz, and delves into the back stories of many “minor” characters including the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and Glinda?

            This is how Oz was envisioned.

            In the original movie, the WWOTW was “demoted” to a plot device – a storytelling trick known as a “MacGuffin.” She does in fact have a rich backstory – written by the original author. Your version of the WWOTW was created by MGM for a children’s movie in a time when storytelling through movies was still a very young art.

            Black and white characters typically only exist in children’s stories, but the best children’s stories – the ones that last – have more complexity and trust that kids can handle it. The Oz series, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia – these all have complex characters that operate in shades of gray, like people do in the real world.

            You are welcome to your opinion, but at least try to base it in fact. I don’t think you know the original story at all, so how are you qualified to comment on it?

          • Ed Whitfield says:

            Well as you so astutely observed, this is a conversation about a prequel to the MGM movie, NOT Baum’s books. That is the context of the discussion. I thought I’d made that pretty clear but I’m grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to clarify it for anyone who skipped over the words “film review” and all that talk of this movie and the 1939 flick.

            I realise you’re an expert, so apologies, this will be like teaching you to suck eggs, but the Wicked Witch of the West isn’t a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is a very specific kind of plot device. It isn’t something or someone that just features as part of the plot, rather something the story is ostensibly about but is fundamentally incidental; a thing that creates the pretext for the story to take place. So in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s the Ark – in The 39 Steps it’s the 39 steps, in Avatar its, er, unobtanium and so on.

            Movies in the late ’30s may have part of a young artform but they weren’t unsophisticated. The 1939 Oz is a better judged piece of entertainment than the 2013 movie.

            Anyway, stay curious.

  2. Chris says:

    You’re entitled to your shallow characters if you like, but it’s obvious you’re going to continue to miss the point entirely. A Big Bad needs a How I Became A Villain Story if we’re to become invested in them at all. This does not mean that every Big Bad needs a prequel, but they do need a story. Again, you continue to favor storylines in which heroes triumph against some kind of Big Bad because the Big Bad is evil. That’s not a story. It’s a fairy tale.

    You’re entitled to having your characters overly-simplified, but the way you go about it paints you as a contrarion–the type who decides to dislike something because too many other people like it, or vice-versa. L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen books about the land of Oz, the only one faithfully brought to film, to my knowledge, being the infamous Return To Oz from the 80′s. The 1939 film was not very faithful to its source material. In fairness sake, Oz: The Great & Powerful isn’t even based on a novel, just the overall idea of Oz, but it’s true to the idea of the 1939 film. Sure, it’s visuals are flashier 73 years later due to the wonders of modern makeup and CGI, but it succeeds brilliantlly in taking us back to a world we first visited as small children. The original film drove home the lesson that we should be grateful for what we have, but the prequel brings us a better story–that maybe we shouldn’t try to be great men (or women), but rather just be good ones–in being true to ourselves, we unlock the potential to be great.

    Darth Vader deserved a real story to make him a more human character. The idea of the struggles he went through, leading to him inevitably taking the way out and fall to the Dark Side, was brilliant in concept but horribly flawed in execution, largely because George Lucas is unable to write convincing dialogue or direct anything without a green screen. But even in the horribly flawed state, the prequels do not change the source material. Star Wars is not about Darth Vader, or Luke Skywalker. Like every successful franchise, it is more than the sum of its individual characters. Otherwise, why would people buy millions of the Expanded Universe books or already be queuing up for the worrying Episode VII? Your continued assumption that simplified characters make for good cinema astounds me.

    Your hyperbole that every extra needs a lengthy backstory is amusing, but its advertising your shallowness. Prequels are always more creative than sequels when it comes to storytelling–at least in concept, as there’s no need to rehash the terrible writing fo the aforementioned Star Wars prequels. Writing a prequel is much more difficult, and engaging, than a sequel–with a sequel, you’re just doing more of the same, but at least you have opportunities to change the characters. Prequels require that all the toys be put back in the box the way they were found at the start of the first film. The ending is often a foregone conclusion–it’s keeping the audience interested that becomes the task of the writer, something Lucas failed at immensely, because he wasn’t really qualified for the task,but enough bashing a guy who isn’t here to defend himself.

    My point continues to be that the character’s in Sam Raimi’s Oz prequel bring the film more to life than hundreds of millions of dollars in CGI ever can. These are characters with flaws, the only wholly good character in the film being Glinda, just as she was in the original film (albeit more saccharine). Really, despite its powerful vistas and special effects, the only element of the film that needs CGI to workis China Girl, as some of the more emotional elements of the film fall to her character tugging on heartstrings–really they only core Disney element in the film. Whose heart doesn’t go out to a girl as physically fragile as she is emotional, Oscar’s redemption for the lame girl from the carnival whom he could not help to walk. Oscar may be a rouge and a fraud, but he is a wizard to China Girl, the straw that even breaks through his selfishness and finally agree to stop looking out for his own neck so much and realize that maybe his chance for greatness is in something so simple as the humble people Glinda shelters.

    “Incidentally, as we’re making claims for large numbers of strangers, millions feel exactly as I do about this; you just won’t see us in the audience for Wicked.”

    This line was so good, I just had to quote it. That’s quite alright, you and your millions feel however you want. You continue to remain in the vocal but irrelevant minority. The box office returns and book sales for “Wicked” and “Oz: The Great & Powerful” show that everyone else is in the silent majority.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Thanks Chris, you’ve revived many of my favourite talkback cliches.

      Box office is not a metric of quality. It’s a manifestation of marketing, brand recognition and timing – that is, you release a special effects laden family movie in March and you can expect a good return, provided you haven’t botched the campaign to influence people into seeing the bastard, a la John Carter. It’s got fuck all to do with whether people enjoyed the thing or approved of the choices the filmmmakers made.

      You vomited up my favourite cliche, namely that if you say you dislike something that’s popular, you’re a contrarian. In order for that to be true I’d have to dislike everything that’s ever been liked by large groups of people, which would make my affection for the original Star Wars trilogy pretty hard to understand. Having labelled me as a contrarian I’m perplexed as to how I love those movies…and the original Wizard of Oz. Perhaps I don’t really, maybe I only think I do. Anyway, thanks for clarifying how I think for me – I was arrogant enough to believe I knew my own mind. It’s reassuring for you to think of my view, the one that challenges yours, as irrelevant, I know, but perhaps it’s better to be irrelevant in this instance than a font of received wisdom. Well, I say wisdom: hype.

      Anyway, as for the rest…

      Darth Vader deserved a real story to make him a more human character.

      It’s his inhumanity, his montrousness, that made him interesting. I’d rather watch Vader force choke someone than walk around spouting execrable mills and boon dialogue in the form of Hayden Christensen. Still, whatever your pleasure…

      Prequels are always more creative than sequels when it comes to storytelling–at least in concept, as there’s no need to rehash the terrible writing fo the aforementioned Star Wars prequels.

      ????????

      Writing a prequel is much more difficult, and engaging, than a sequel–with a sequel, you’re just doing more of the same, but at least you have opportunities to change the characters.

      Yes, I mean look at The Thing prequel. That had me on the edge of, er, my seat? In fact I’d argue they’re easier in some ways because you’re not required to have any new ideas. All you have to do is join dots.

      My point is that these characters don’t need to be changed; they’re good as they are.

      You don’t truly understand how good movie characters function. Villains like Darth Vader are interesting because they have a certain mystique; what we don’t know about them gives them an enigmatic aura. Part of the fun of moviedom, at least for me, though perhaps not for you in your “I’d like everything to be explained to me” universe, is that we don’t always have all the facts about movie characters – we get to speculate, create our own backstory for them – argue about it with fellow fans. It’s this pleasure that prequels seek to monetise. It’s unlikely that any filmmaker, determined to lock these characters down, is ever going to produce a backstory that’s as good as the one we have in our heads, so my argument is that they’re best off leaving well alone. For me one of the best moments in the original trilogy was in Empire when we caught a glimpse of Vader sans his helmet. It was a magnificent tease. Taking that mask off at the end of Jedi may have hit an emotional beat but it totally demystified the character. I suppose they thought it didn’t matter because he was about to die and maybe, in that event, it didn’t, but I think it was a mistake. Still, relatively minor next to the clusterfuck that was the prequels.

      Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed Oz. Not two hours wasted then.

  3. Amee says:

    From Merriam-Webster:

    MacGuffin

    “an object, event, or *character* (emphasis mine) in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance”

    In the 1939 film, the WWOTW keeps the plot in motion and (per your account) lacks intrinsic importance.

    You crack me up! You’re like an attorney that tries to have all evidence that doesn’t support his claim thrown out of court with the argument of “irrelevant.” You can’t claim that nobody gives a rip about character’s backstory and then simply ignore all the rich backstory of Oz. The 1939 movie was (loosely) based on the book; all Oz stories are based on the books, no matter who writes them. They all point to rich backstories of somewhat minor characters, intriguing motivations, and history of the land.

    You tossed out what was intended to be a rhetorical question. Turns out the question had a very real answer, but it’s one that you don’t like.

    If you didn’t like the movie, that’s fine. That’s certainly your right. But point out real flaws then, not invented ones. “Nobody wants to know the backstory” simply isn’t true. Maybe YOU don’t. As Chris pointed out though, you really aren’t in the majority on this one. Sorry.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      It’s good that you can read the dictionary but you’re not quite attuned to the meaning. If the WWOTW was the person Dorothy was searching for – if she was the focus of Dorothy’s journey, if the film were called “Dorothy and the hunt for The Wicked Witch of the West” then she’d be a MacGuffin. As it is, she’s a supporting character in Dorothy’s search for the Wizard. You can discern this from watching the movie.

      If I’m an attorney, then I’m afraid that would make you an idiot jurer who doesn’t understand that you’re supposed to base your verdict on the evidence, not on whether you like the defendant or not.

      You’re also a tad literal minded. Obviously in any review you ask rhetorical questions that represent your own opinions. That’s what I’ve done. Recognise one before you acuse others of tossing one out. Do you represent a majority of people, because you like the movie? No. More Americans didn’t see it than did. The point I was making was simple: telling the backstory to the Witch is a bad idea that does nothing to improve the 1939 film. You’re entitled to disagree but you’re not entitled to tell me that my view doesn’t count because you liked the result. Incidentally, how do you know that everyone who saw the movie approved of what was done? You don’t, but like poor Chris you assume that box office is a metric of quality and/or approval, rather than the unsurprising consequence of millions of dollars of carefully targeted marketing and brand recognition.

      • Amee says:

        I see that you are completely committed to your little world view and have no desire to hear anything that doesn’t fit within it. Have fun with that.

        Funny enough, I don’t think I actually said whether I liked or disliked the movie. I disagreed with your basic premise of nobody cares. Whether it’s a majority or not (I haven’t found a way to poll every single member of the country), it’s still millions of people. Ignore that if you want, but it doesn’t change the fact.

        • Ed Whitfield says:

          I shall ignore you, Amee; not least because you’re a hypocrite but mainly because you seem to believe that millions can’t be wrong. Have fun with *that point of view.

          Incidentally, “nobody cares” was not my basic premise, it was one part of a larger review you chose to latch onto.

          Have a nice day, etc.

          • Amee says:

            When it comes to morality, an argument of “millions can be wrong” works fine. When it comes to popular art and culture, however, the argument makes no sense – by definition.

          • Ed Whitfield says:

            You really should learn to quit while you’re behind, Amee. When it comes to art, the only opinion that ultimately matters is yours. It’s great when lots of people like something but that doesn’t make it intrinsically good, just as something not connecting with a mass audience doesn’t make it intrinsically bad; that’s a judgement you have to make as an individual. You can’t be wrong in that respect, so an argument about how entertaining the movie was is a hiding to nothing. I’m sure Dude, Where’s My Car is someone’s favourite movie. You can however get closer to objectivity when talking about good or bad practice. I’m a big fan of the Brian De Palma flick, The Fury, for example, but I’m still conscious that it contains a lot of weird acting. That, for me, is part of its charm.

            Anyway, you’re still trumpeting the fallacy that big box office = approval for the filmmaker’s choices. Half the people who’ve seen Transformers and its horrible sequels think it constitutes painting with excrement. It didn’t stop each one being a hit though. McDonalds food is popular; I don’t think you’ll find many people who’ll argue it’s gourmet cuisine. The point is, relative to your own tastes, millions can always be wrong. There will of course be millions who agree with you as they agree with me, but where does that leave us? Back with the movie I’m afraid.

          • Amee says:

            Oh believe me, duue, I’m not behind. Have a lovely day.

          • Ed Whitfield says:

            Well you’re certainly not in front. Believe that.

          • Wifi13 says:

            The back-and-forth banter amongst you all has me far more entertained than the original topic of this string ever will; what a “powerfully” insipid and unfunny piece of opiate-flavored candy for the masses. It’s a shame that Ed Whitfield wasn’t able to contribute his writing skills to that “unimagined” and dull piece of CGI. Stay true to your opinions, Ed, they have keen insight and plenty of value.

  4. Chris says:

    I’m sorry if you feel I’m vomiting up cliches, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s very likely a duck. You don’t like prequels. Fine, you’re welcome to enjoy movies the way you want. I’ve spent my free time rebutting you because your viewpoint presents itself in a manner as though there is something wrong with me for enjoy movies in a different manner. Mystique behind a character doesn’t necessarily make them interesting. It can–but it can also be the tool of a poor writer who doesn’t know how to properly flesh out and connect with a character. If you prefer to make your own conjectures about characters, you’d probably be much happier creating your own fanfiction. You’re likely to take that as some kind of attack, but fanfiction can often be considerably better than its source material. It can also often be considerably worse, but that’s the chance you take.

    Sorry you disagree, but the box office returns mean quite a bit in a case like Oz. If the majority felt the film was poor, it would’ve fallen off a cliff on its second weekend. Word of mouth will quickly kill that sort of mistake. If you want further evidence of that, watch how the box office take for every poor Star Trek film pushed it into the box office at #1 (excluding Star Trek: Nemesis) and then rapidly fell off a cliff, with only the good films holding onto box office share. The Star Wars prequels were an exception to that rule, proving that people just wanted more Star Wars, even if it was bad, it was still “good” somehow. People wanted to believe the prequels would turn out just as good as the original trilogy in the end. But in most cases, the public is discerning, especially when it comes to franchise films. You don’t like Oz. That’s fine. Lots of other people do. Even it’s review scores are doing well. Is it a 4 star, Academy Award Winning extravaganza? No, no it isn’t. I don’t expect that from most box office fare. It’s a three star film. It’s good. It does what it sets out to do, and its better than most of the other dreck out there. It succeeded in making me care about its cast of characters and dusting off a forgotten franchise, giving it what I consider to be great and you consider to be dreadful backstory. So be it. Prequels are fragile, of that I’ll agree. They take considerable skill to pull off. They don’t always work. This one did. You disagree. Fair enough.

    I’m still reeling that you think prequels are somehow easier to do than sequels, that you don’t require new ideas. Most sequels are just the original film to the Nth degree–Terminator 2: Judgement Day is irrecocably praised when it boils down to little more than a remake of the first film. It’s the original Terminator with a real special effects budget and Arnold getting to play the good guy. It’s not a bad film by any means, but it’s far from creative. James Cameron could’ve told a much better story about Reese and John Connor fighting machines in the future and John ultimately sending Reese into the past to protect his mother. But instead he opted for the sure thing. More of the same. Prequels are much harder to do–or at least, do well. Star Wars and The Thing would be prime examples, I suppose. They require more imagination and far better writing skills. In many cases, they simply might not be given the creative attention they deserve. But they’re not going to go anywhere, because they continue to be licenses to print money at the box office. J. J Abrams is responsible for some of the most horrific crimes against cinema imaginable, but he’s still being put in charge of the Star Wars franchise. I’m sure it can only mean good things.

    I’m perfectly fine with allowing you to have the last word, I think it’s safe to assume that none of us are going to be changing our opinions.It seems to me that the real divide here is that you didn’t approve of or accept this film’s premise. Your review reads like checksheet of things you were looking to find fault with to justify your pre-conceived notion. I had no preconceptions going in, only that I was seeing a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz. I didn’t read reviews beforehand, I had no idea whether it was good, bad, so-so, whatever. I was merely intrigued by the idea and went to see whether Raimi pulled it off or not. In my opinion, he succeeded admirably. Your opinion reads as though you wish you had been there to stop the film from being made in the first place. it’s certainly your right to feel that way, but then, why bother going? A review built around preconceptions serves no purpose but to justify your own prejudice.to yourself. You closed your last response by stating that this story did nothing to improve the 1939 film. Was it supposed to? i thought it was supposed to be its own story that ties into the original film, setting up certain events. I certainly didn’t leave the theater feeling any better or worse about the 1939 original. I’m certain I would have had Oz been a remake, but it wasn’t a remake, and never attempted to be. It was a prequel, another story set in the same land with backstories to the Wizard and the Witches. It’s completely optional, it’s not as though The Wizard Of Oz is incomprehensible unless you view Oz: The Great & Powerful first. Or at all, even. It’s there for those who want it, easily ignored for those who don’t by the virtue of not purchasing a ticket. Being that the movie is showing no signs of slowing down, it seems to me that more people want it than don’t. Whereas John Q. Public obviously voted down the ill-conceived Jack The Giant Slayer with their wallets, ensuring it will be difficult for that disaster to ever turn a profit. You may feel that the Transformers films are bad. They certainly aren’t high cinema. But if the majority of people hate them, why does each film make more than its predecessor? Dark Of The Moon should have opened lower than its predecessors and died out quicker. Instead, it was one of the biggest successes of 2011, performing stronger than its past incarnations, despite being by far the weakest of the three films. If people disliked them, the movie should have died a quick death once the fans so it on opening weekend, not gone one to continue raping the box office with extreme prejudice. There is a strong and vocal minority that says those films are bad. I’m not saying they’re bad. But I’m not not saying it either. Nevertheless, the silent majority begs to differ with you and will continue to dominate pop culture. You can disagree with them if you like. You can join them in some instances. But their way is always going to rule, the rest is so much pissing into the wind. You’re free to like and dislike what you wish, but the silent majority and the box office have already had their say. You can argue its relevancy until you’re blue in the face, but the court of public opinion will beat you every time.

    I wish you luck in finding films you enjoy more,

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      No need to wish me luck, I enjoy plenty.

      Chris, I’m not interested in the court of public opinion. When I review a movie I’m here to tell you what *I think. I repeat, because it’s worth repeating, that box office is not a reliable measure of quality and hasn’t been since the late ’70s when marketing and making movies for a younger, less discerning demographic became Hollywood’s business model. If you don’t understand that, I can’t help you. As for Oz not falling off a cliff, well, it’s pretty average, why should it? It’s aimed at children and families, it has little competition, and most parents will probably tell others that their saplings enjoyed it; again, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the choices the filmmakers made in respect of this movie’s relationship with the 1939 film.

      You mentioned cliches, so allow me to point out another; the idea that I was predisposed to hate this sort of film so had, in effect, written the review before I saw it. Reassuring for you to think so, but no. It’s true I don’t much like this current trend for prequelising but if the movie had succeeded on its own terms in my eyes, I’d have said so.

      I love the idea of a silent majority, though if the disruption I’ve encountered in cinemas is anything to do by, they’re not nearly silent enough.

  5. Chris says:

    The silent majority, as in “the large group of people too busy enjoying a movie/album/book/video game/etc. to go online and in engage in debate over its merit. Like how people take the time to denegrate how shallow the Call Of Duty franchise is in video games–it earns them clicks on an opinion site, but most people invested at all are far too busy playing the game and enjoying it to care about anyone’s opinion, even if it may in fact be right. Different medium, so I won’t dwell on it. But the silent majority exists for every medium. They’re the reasons sequels, prequels, and interquels and spinoffs continue to appear. That silent majority is consuming it. If they didn’t, it would cease to be profitable, and a franchise would die.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      I was being facetious Ch- ah, nevermind.

      Again, the majority you speak of is just another name for the audience. All we know about the audience with any certainity is that they responded to the studio’s marketing campaign and bought tickets. That’s it. We can infer they thought the movie was okay – it’s a hit that’s perfectly true, but the full spectrum of opinion, the nuance of argument, is closed to us. It doesn’t matter if most of them choose to record their comments or not; what does that have to do with the arguments we’re making? What does that have to do with the movie? Perhaps a majority don’t comment because they’ve already forgotten about it, had that occured to you? Maybe they just don’t care enough. The point is that we should stick to what we know, i.e. the film and what we thought about it.

      It’s also worth remembering with all movies, games, books, etc, that more people will not have bothered to consume it than consume it. Again, so what?

  6. @HeroicMarc says:

    Your review of the movie is misguided and your arguments with those who disagree with you are repetitive and weak.

    You don’t like the “mystique” of movie villains pierced by any explanation or back-story, we get it.

    But it seems you’ve let this personal pet peeve of yours color your entire review, and indeed your entire opinion of “Oz the Great and Powerful”.

    It’s too bad you haven’t been able to see it with an open mind and evaluate the movie on its own merits. Personally, I don’t even like “The Wizard of Oz” and didn’t particularly want to see this prequel. However I was dragged in kicking and screaming, and had a ball. I’d watch the movie again in a heartbeat. In fact, it’s made me like the original more.

    Anyway, you might benefit from an (openminded) re-watch.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      And you might benefit from re-reading the comments to date. My alleged closemindedness is just another way of repeating Chris’ stillborn comment about preconceived ideas on the movie. I’ve dealt with this. I know how you hate repetition so why not just re-read the reply? That said, your repetition of this sort of half-bakery is the reason why it’s necessary to keep coming back to the same answers. I suggest you only see that as a problem when the replies challenge your own view, not that you have one, as “I had a ball” seems to be it.

      You say you get the point about characters retaining their mystique. You don’t.

      You also confuse an opinion that informs a review with one that colours it. Why does it colour it exactly? Because you don’t agree? Why are the conclusions misguided? Why are they weak? Let’s read your considered alternative or is “I had a ball” it?

      The movie was evaluated on its merits. Every movie I review is evaluated on its merits. That’s the nature of reviewing. What you mean is, “see it for what it is”/”don’t think about it, just enjoy it” – well here’s the thing: ‘what it is’ is not fixed. I’m not interested in talking about the movie as marketed, I’m here to discuss what was actually done. Mind blowing, no?

      Anyway, I’m glad you and your balls had a good time.

  7. Claudia A. says:

    Reading the responses and the debate on the merits of back-stories and prequels was a “hoot” to say the least, but if we are talking about legitimate stories portrayed in movies, I find fault with the 1939 film, because it doesn’t begin to tackle the richness of OZ, as described in the one book that shares the same title.

    Don’t get me wrong. I adore the classic movie, and its the first film I remember as a young child, but those vivid memories do not justify butchering the story that the author wrote. The only way I can accept the premise MGM presented is to imagine the scripted OZ as the product of an alternate universe to the original, much like a comic book recreation of a famous supercharacter’s world. New origin story, costume, expanded (or reduced) powers and experiences.

    Here is what I cannot forgive. Baum dubbed himself as the “official Historian of Oz.” He wrote over a dozen more stories about the magical world and it’s delightful inhabitants by request. Because children enjoyed the fairy stories about regular people who interacted with magic and strange creatures. They wanted MORE wonder and Baum gave it to his audience, while swearing up and down that OZ was real, just like Santa Claus.

    I know I’m rambling… I guess my point is, How could a movie studio, a mere two decades after the death of Frank Baum, insist on ending the movie as a mere dream? I can understand turning the silver slippers ruby red (better visual appeal). I don’t object to adding a bunch dwarfed Munchkins (all the adults in OZ were smaller than the norm but were not considered “little people”). But I sdon’t think getting rid of the 4th witch – the Good Witch of the North (a lesser character who originally sends Dorothy off to see the Wizard) makes any sense. The Good Witch of the North didn’t know the silver slippers could send Dorthy home. That change in the story just turns Glinda the Good from a benevolent guide into a bit of a b*tch for not telling Dorthy the secret of the shoes from the beginning.

    I applaud the person who stated that the movie that stayed true to the World of Oz was the 1985 movie, “Return to Oz.” This movie bombed in the box office but it was pretty faithful to several of the Oz books (Marvelous Land of Oz & Ozma of Oz) in which Dorthy returns to an Oz that is NOT a dream.

    As long as the movies stay true to the HEART of Baum’s stories, I’ll buy a ticket. I’ve read nine of the original stories and I think there is room for so much more creativity as well as multiple interpretations. I didn’t LOVE “Oz the Great and Powerful” but I did adore many elements of the movie. The China Girl, ironically, is a character based off a chapter in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz about a delicate China-town Dorthy, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion visit on their journey.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert movie reviewer, but I am a fan of Oz, as well as Star Wars… I like prequels and sequels, in movie franchises, that don’t suck. The ones that do suck? (X-Men!!! Well you can always hope they’ll create a multiverse and try again in a couple of decades.