I watched the new Oz movie about two weeks ago at the Empire in Leicester Square. Having grown up on the original and been petrified as a kid by the Wicked Witch of the West, how did the new Sam Raimi effort compare?
I’ll start with what I hated-
3D: First, the 3D was awful and gimmicky, particularly that mind-numbingly stupid use of 3D in an early scene where lethal splinters of wood pierce the basket of the balloon that holds James Franco and almost spear him. Yes, I do get the reference to the standard stage magic sword box trick, but it was not thrilling. If fact, it just tipped me right out of the fantasy and reminded me that I was only watching a movie. As for the glasses themselves, they were tiny, more like pseudo-military special-forces sun-glasses. What an incredibly moronic style choice because they were a good centimetre in circumference smaller than my own glasses. This meant that I lost a significant portion of the picture and had to do a lot of bobbing and weaving, more compy than Chris Eubank, so as not to miss out on the widescreen format. Also, despite my total disagreement with almost everything film critic Marc Kermode says, I do agree with his opinion that badly applied 3D is disastrous. The final bullet-to-the-head occurred when I took my 3D glasses off several times during the course of the movie to compare the lighting (and alleviate eye-strain). I found that there was an extraordinary loss of brightness that made daylight scenes look badly lit. If Hollywood insist that we watch expensive 3D movies and wear those annoying spectacles, make sure that the cinemas where your films are shown give out BIGGER glasses. For example, when I went to see Avengers Assemble at the Apollo Cinema (Piccadilly Circus, London), the glasses they gave me were ginormous Joe 90-style affairs.
Casting: I think James Franco was not suited to the role. When you compare actors who have recently played stage magicians, like Edward Norton in The Illusionist and Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige, James Franco falls far short. He can do sleazy well, as we saw from Spiderman, but charisma? No, not even close. The other terrible casting decision was Michelle Williams as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. She was so unconvincing that I rooted for Mila, but more on that later. I’m sorry to say that Michelle William’s acting was anaemic and she had very little stage presence, much like her co-star James Franco.
The Plot: Good-versus-evil, the power and seduction of evil. OMG, it’s Star Wars! Zzz. And I do mean that literally. I fell asleep. Twice.
And now what worked for me-
The Team: Instead of Dorothy, Toto, Tin-Man, Lion and Scarecrow, this time we got China Girl, Flying Monkey and the Wizard. I have to give Zack Braff some credit for his portrayal of the Flying Monkey as the only vaguely interesting member of the new team in whom I could invest even the barest modicum of emotional attachment. Much less hateable than his moronic JD from TV’s Scrubs.
Theodora: Rachel Weisz’s performance as the Lucretia-like Evanora, the Wicked Witch of the East was passable, but the best thing about this movie was the incandescent screen presence of Mila Kunis as Theodora, the Wicked Witch of the West. She dominated every single scene she was in, completely dwarfing everyone else even when she had very little to say. She utterly convinced me that her later nastiness was entirely justified. If the good characters had been played with more conviction, I might lave left the movie with a quite different view. Without her, the movie would have been utter dross. It’s amazing that she has come so far since That 70s Show. She was brilliant in Black Swan and she’s brilliant here. I have lasting impressions of her disturbing transformation and the way she rockets round Oz; more akin to riding a rocket-propelled grenade than Harry Potter’s friendly Nimbus 2000. Well done Ms. Kunis!
Conclusion: As for Sam Raimi’s future projects, we have the pointless remake of the Evil Dead and a sequel to this latest Oz movie in the pipeline. Oh dear. The trouble is that I really rate Sam Raimi’s earlier work: The Evil Dead movies, Darkman, The Quick and the Dead, Spiderman and Drag Me to Hell etc. Who knows though; maybe he’ll surprise us all with some incredible side-project. But, even if he doesn’t, then at least we can say that his previous track record was a pretty great one for most filmmakers.
As you can see from the title, I have finally caved in under the terrible weight of my own egomaniacal supervillainy. Why fight it? Revel in it. But don’t call me Mr.Glass, nor anything that rhymes with “glass”.