Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a small time circus magician with no friends or ethics. He spends his time performing “magic” in Kansas, trying to fool audiences who soon cotton on to his trickery. The man has seriously power and greed issues and is soon hurled away from his dusty black and white surroundings to the bright and beautiful far off land of Oz. While the three witches he meets – Glinda (Michelle Williams), Theodora (Mila Kunis) and Evanora (Rachel Weisz) – are somewhat dubious as to whether he is the great magician their prophecy dictates, he throws himself into the part head first, for his survival depends on it.
This big budget prequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz certainly comes with high expectations, from director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spiderman), to an impressive cast and stunning visual effects. One would expect a film oozing with the charm, wit and imagination we saw in Victor Fleming’s masterpiece, but it falls dramatically short. Oz has changed a lot since we last paid it a visit and while it looks even more spectacular its pulse has almost slowed to a standstill.
The main shortcomings are the lack of character development. With a running time of 130 minutes, Oz is no short feat and it is obvious that Raimi had to cut a lot of the backstories so as not to make the film drag any longer. Franco had both the weakest character and performance, coming across as quite sloppy of times, somewhat reminiscent to his role of hosting the 2011 Academy Awards. The only character you remotely care about is Glinda, Williams playing her with just the right amount of sweetness as not to make the audience sick.
The yellow brick road might look better than ever, but there’s no charm or substance here. The 3D facto does not add much to the experience and you will find yourself fidgeting and looking at your watches not long after we touch down in Oz.
Oz: The Great and Powerful is in Australian cinemas from 7 March through Disney.