Oz the Great and Powerful
Someone was going to make a sequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz’, it was unavoidable given the huge erection movie producers have for updating older shit. As much as people like to yell during heated arguments about movies (I’m looking at you YouTube) that “It’s perfect! They should just do NOTHING!”, this is reality and that’s not going to happen. We all scoff and get pissed at how movies make more money off of brand names rather than quality, and while that might be true, it works. ‘Transformers’ for example, would need a scene of Optimus Prime robo-fucking a pile of babies before movies goers decide that they’ve had enough of the franchise. Even then, wait enough time and reboot it. People will give it another shot because they loved something about it in the past.
At this point, all you can do is reduce the collateral damage. By hiring a team that will try their hardest not to fuck up, specifically one with talent, it’s possible that you’ll get something that will be worth your money, maybe even remembered. With Sam Raimi behind the wheel of ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ we probably came the closest to a decent treatment of a beloved classic. And while one should never settle for “eh, it was good enough” in regards to the argument about remaking films, when the inevitable is going to happen (whether you bitch to your 3000 subscribers or not), it’s all anyone can hope for nowadays with the garbage we get the other 99.99999999999999% of the time.
RATING: RETURN TO THE WONDROUS WORLD OF OZ, WHERE MAGIC IS NOT MERELY A CONCEPT, BUT A KEY COMPONENT OF THE WORLD ITSELF (AND A BITCH CAN GET HER ASS FRIED WITH FORCE LIGHTNING!)
Many of us grew up with the film The Wizard of Oz; our parents grew up with it, as did their parents. Chances are, we you have kids, they’ll grow up with it. It’s quite possibly one of the first films to have such a strong impact on multiple generations. The next generation will have Star Wars and Lord of the Rings (well, the movies…they’ll still have the books, if you can get the little shits to read more than half a page), but before these huge blockbusters came along, there were few movies so beloved.
This little factoid makes the idea of a prequel or sequel to The Wizard of Oz repulsive. Even if they never expressed it, I bet millions of people world wide had the sinking feeling of shock, and burning of anger, about someone coming in and fucking up the magical world they grew up with! Their outrage would be so great, you’d think that someone decapitated and gutted a duck right in front of them (or in the case of China, a…um…person? No, that’s not shocking enough for them…)! It doesn’t matter that there were over a dozen sequels to the book, a new Oz would be an affront to childhood itself!
Moping and whining aside, in this day and age, making sequels and prequels is the norm. Tim Burton made a career of raping childhood dreams, going to far as to produce the works of others doing the same. It’s kind of like Ted Bundy supporting John Wayne Gacy because he liked his style. It takes someone who understands the world itself to develop something beyond the dark fetish of someone who didn’t get laid enough as a teenager (seriously, Tim Burton ruined a lot of stuff). The director’s vision much mesh with the core of the story, the reasons behind why people love the original, and most importantly, do more than make a carbon copy of what came before. What kind of person could do this? Who could take the helm and inject new feelings of wonder to an established creation without making the audience feel like someone suckered them into the theater and sold them bullshit for $17.50 (prices may change with the inclusion of IMAX and/or 3D, but let’s not kid ourselves, chances are you can’t escape one or the other)?
Once again, we leave our childhood in the hands of a man known for almost drowning an actor with fake blood (Bruce Campbell) and creating horrible monsters to shock audiences (also involving Bruce Campbell). Then again, this is also a man with a childlike nature attached to him. Take away the goo and gore, and there’s a charming slapstick nature behind his violence. Even on set, he’s known for playing pranks on his friends, as well as putting them in roles where they get the ever loving shit kicked out of them (you figured out that I’m talking about Bruce Campbell, right?) He did a great job with the first two Spiderman films in the early 2000’s by utilizing his unique brand of imagination and story telling, so it’s not impossible to picture something decent coming from this talented man-boy. Just look at his picture again, with his head cocked and confused half smile, don’t you just want to pinch his cheeks and baby-speak some condescending nonsense to him about how much of a good job he’ll do making another big-boy movie? It’s okay, go on and do it. Any frustration that may come about will be taken out on Bruce Campbell.
I enjoy the majority of Sam Raimi’s work. In fact, the only factor I saw getting in the way of Oz the Great and Powerful’s quality was the IP itself. If Raimi was allowed to do whatever he wanted with the Oz universe, then there would be no doubt in my mind that the quality would be outstanding. It wouldn’t fit in with established cannon, and it would probably scare the shit out of anyone under twelve (even then, this might be an understatement), but it would be fun as hell to watch. As is, I could only expect that he’d do the best he could to make it more than the boring, cliched mess a lesser director would undoubtedly create. If Sam Raimi has anything, it’s style.
And style is what saves this movie, because…well…it’s a cliched mess. No, mess isn’t right. Watching Oz the Great and Powerful is like watching a movie that deliberately designed itself around tropes. Scenes build on one another, seeming like they’re aiming towards something different and refreshing, only to be knocked down to established key points that producers figure are what get people to spent almost twenty bucks on a ticket. While I could bitch and complain about how the ‘established’ structure that these people hang onto so much to pinch a penny drive films to the point of predictability, and therefore a waste of time, I’d rather just say that what Oz the Great and Powerful does right is enough to keep me interested far beyond the point of me saying “Here’s where ‘X’ happens. Now ‘Y’. I’m going to get a fucking soda until after ‘Z’ and maybe take a piss until the credits.” (This pretty much happened when I went to go see Battleship)
The magic of Oz is here. I had absolutely no problem with the world itself. Every detail feels like it would have been in the original if it had the technological prowess that exists now. Vegetation that creates music as the wind blows, old men called Tinkerers who create new marvels within their shops, even the unnecessary force lighting power the Wicked Witch had fit right into the world of Oz. Other factors are ripped right out of the original, and are used as actual plot devices instead of “OMG guys! Do you remember this from the original?!? Isn’t it so cool that it’s here?!?!?!?” moments (or as Quentin Tarintino calls them, ‘homages’). It was nice to see Glenda the Good’s bubble power pop in and play a vital role. You could say that it becomes an unneeded throwaway by the end (and you’d be right), but it’s not like that shit made much sense in the original. Bitch just came down in a bubble and started talking to a jail bait farm girl and a dog, what fucking sense does that make?
Final Thoughts: As a whole, Oz the Great and Powerful isn’t that bad. Is it a classic the way the original was? Fuck no. But, I saw it twice and it didn’t manage to bore me either time (once was because my office was closed during a snow storm, and the other was because Bunny bitched that I should have waited for her). It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was fun to watch (and yes, it was made better when I saw it with another person). It’s something you can take your kids to, or check out if you’ve got some free time. It does a good job keeping the feeling of what you love alive, even if you expected more from it in the end.
And that is one of the biggest goddamn compliments you can give a movie like this. Tim Burton could do well to follow from Sam Raimi’s example. Raimi might not take the story telling risks that Burton does, but he knows what’s going to piss off people and what’s going to make them happy. Then again, Burton can’t be happy. Everything must be dark and twisted; a completely warped version of what people grew up with. There’s no way people would ever want to see their favorite childhood things replicated once they got older, right? Adults get depressed once they hit a certain age and all good and innocent childhood memories must be culled.