Last night, I went to the theater for the first time in what feels like years. I'm trying to think of the last movie I attended... and I'm drawing a blank. Kung-Fu Panda 2? Something like that.
Anyhow, I was torn between 3D Jurassic Park and 3D Oz the Great and Powerful. Although Jurassic Park is one of the greatest movies of all time, I was afraid to see the 3D-ification. I didn't want another repeat of Nightmare Before Christmas. So of course we clicked our heels and went to Oz.
Oz, the Great and Terrible
First and foremost I want to say that I did not think this movie was Terrible. That's not why I put the word Terrible in the title above. Oz was a good movie, will probably be a sort of classic, and I will inevitably own the 3D BluRay when it become available.
I recommend it to anyone who enjoys 3D movies, Oz or James Franco. They are great in all aspects.
If you are a plot picker, you might want to beat your brains in with the last three chapters of Wicked by Greg Maguire and take a nap. Time to Spoil, lads.
I don't want to say that this was an irredeemable plot. It wasn't horrible, but then again, it really could have been Terrible. I think two or three tweaks and some drastic rearranging of events would have done the trick. Seriously, this is your last chance to keep me from spoiling the movie for you.
Let's begin. The black and white portion was flawless. It was perfect in every way and set up a magnificent character to watch. It was the slow-motion, right in the middle of the strike-zone pitch that they should have been able to smack right out of the ballpark. Franco plays a carnival magician, a suave trickster called Oscar, (or Oz for short) with a weakness for the women. It is here that he brings up what could have been a quite powerful device- The Music Box. Oscar has what appears to be an infinite supply of Music Boxes he claims belonged to his grandmother, and every girl he meets is seduced by the same story. When two of his ladies realize they both possess identical music boxes, it's time for Oz to escape, via a hot air balloon. Which he does. And then flies into a twista. And then to Oz. Colors happen.
When he gets to Oz, the first person he meets is a young witch in scarlet played by Meg from Family Guy. (She needs to do more drama, it's time.) This witch, Theodora, informs him that not only has he landed in a place called Oz, but that he is also the Wizard Of Prophecy! The next few scenes involve Oscar wasting several of his tricks on trying to impress this beautiful witch whom we all know will turn green by the end of the movie. He saves a flying monkey who becomes his whiny minion (wisecracking level - about 2; whinyness level - about 6; monkey-esque behavior - about 0) and of course, he tries to woo the witch Theodora with His Grandmother's Music Box.
And succeeds. He accompanies her to the Emerald City, where Meg's sister convinces Oscar to go kill the "Wicked Witch," who we all know is going to turn out to be Glinda. Overwhelmed by the fact that if he can continue to make people believe he really is the Wizard of Prophecy, he will gain access to Scrooge McDuck's gold vault, Oscar sets off with his stupid monkey to go murder a woman.
On the way to kill the witch, Oscar and monkey take a detour through China-Town, where the best scene in the whole damn movie comes way too damn early. After acquiring an adorable little doll made of china, Oscar sets off again with a new resolve to kill the evil witch responsible for the deaths of the little china-girl's village and family.
The attempt on Glinda's life fails, of course, and Oscar gets sucked into the goodness of Oz and after one more refusal to be the chosen one, he realizes he has something the people of Oz do not- a working knowledge of electricity.
Meanwhile, back in the Emerald City, Theodora's sister produces a Music Box, saying, "Oh no, he tried to seduce you too, sister? Here, eat this apple so you can become green and evil." And then Theodora actually takes a bite, turns green, refuses to let her sister fix her ugly face, and then like a drunk with a cell phone, decides its time to go yell at the Wiz.
She comes flying in to Glinda's secret bubble-place, acts like a jealous ex-girlfriend, and then flies away on a broom, beginning the first air-pollution the land of Oz has ever seen.
Apparently, this is all motivation enough for Oscar and Glinda to plan an all-out frontal assault on the Emerald City, which for some reason in the size of Coruscant. There's a montage about building animatronic scarecrow soldiers. (Tastefully done, by the way, with pulleys and ropes operated by the Ozlings.) There's a montage about Oscar and some wiser Ozlings called Tinkerers, I believe, who assist him in building his smoke and mirror machine we all know and love from the first movie.
The siege begins and although Glinda is able to clear the playing field of all but a few pieces, she winds up getting captured in the process. Oscar then does his Oz the Great and Powerful thing, and the Evil Witches fly away, vowing revenge.
Like I said before. The movie is visually stunning. Even when the visuals began to lag around the end, it was still an amazing spectacle to behold. The first half hour alone is worth the price of admission.
With a few pieces moved around a bit, this would have been better than the original. Bear with me.
1. I like the romance between Oscar and Theodora. I would have played it up a lot more, and saved the green transformation until the very end, as a way to show just how evil the elder sister really is. Better yet, I would force Oscar to choose between Theodora and Glinda, and whoever he doesn't choose would be the one who gets transformed. Oscar would have to of course choose Glinda, the people's princess, and it would have really crushed Theodora's heart. The resultant transformation would have been a great way to begin the final confrontation.
2. The China girl was probably the best character in the show. Despite being incredibly fragile, she has a lot of heart and wasn't afraid to jump into the thick of things. In order to maximize her potential, I would have had Oscar find her on the side of the road at the beginning of the movie, travel with her for a while, and then trick her into going home. Then I would have taken the scene where he fixes her legs and saved it for the final catalyst that spurs him into action.
3. Lastly, I would have done away with the Yellow Brick road and the emerald city altogether. Oz would have been better suited with much simpler people whose gullibility would have been made wildly apparent. This way, the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City would have been marvels that the Wizard would have brought to them. He could have taught the Quadlings and the Tinkers about how to build things with steam-powered machines, taught them to make bricks and roads so they would no longer have to walk about in mud.
In fact, I would have gotten rid of the prophecy altogether. My story would have gone something like: Oscar lands in Oz, meets Theodora, the monkey, the China Girl, and is then taken to THE TOWER OF OZMA, where he meets Theodora's sister. The evil witch would consult her magic ball, and then learn that Oscar poses a threat to her reign.
In one of the Oz books, Ozma is a character who is trapped in the mirrors of her own tower. I think the Return to Oz movie (Which was awesome, by the way...) touched on it a little. Anyhow, Oscar would see the mirror apparition, which leads him to realize he's in way over his head. He escapes, tricking the China Girl into going home, and running out on Theodora and even his monkey.
Therefore, instead of running off to go kill Glinda, Oscar would have wandered about Oz, and in the process of mucking about, has his bravado and glam stripped away from him, until he simply admits to a befuddled Quadling that he is "Only a Man, nothing more."
Destitute and starving, Oscar is taken in by some Munchkins, who put him to work the next day in exchange for room and board. This is where the magic would begin! Over the course of the next few scenes, he would inadvertently spark a sort of industrial revolution. He would give the people of Oz wonders they could never imagine- waterwheels, irrigation, a printing press, steam engines, clean potable water to eliminate sickness, etc.
In the mean time, Theodora would learn of her sister's wicked ways, and seek Oscar out. She'll find him, play the role that Glinda had in the movie- magic wand and all.She'll reveal to him that Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, is trapped inside the mirrors of the palace. She would show him that he really could be strong enough to defeat the Elder Witch, because, after all, he had already begun to transform Oz into a wondrous place.
He would flatly refuse again, but agree to accompany Theodora to the the edge of the woods he's staying in, and it would be there that he comes across the China Town and fixes the China Girl's legs. This would be a powerful enough scene to make him want to act, and then we queue the montages.
During the climax, Theodora would rescue Ozma, but of course they both get captured. The evil sister would show Theodora the Music Box, causing her to cry those awesome boiling tears. Oscar would have to choose to save either Theodora or Ozma, but choose Ozma instead (because he has to) and in doing so creates the Greenie we all know and love so well by betraying Theodora.
Enraged, Oscar will unleash his bag of tricks, becoming not Oz, the Great and Powerful, but Oz, the Great and Terrible. And he would have done a lot more than the single smoke-projection trick. He would have been everywhere, dark, sinister, and out for blood.
Oscar defeats the Elder Sister, dropping her in the same vat of acid that she dropped Theodora into, making them both green. Everything will look like it's turning out okay, but then Theodora comes out of the goop, blows a bunch of stuff up, and attempts to kill Oscar.
Half-broken, the China Girl will grab Theodora's wand , deliver it to Ozma, and fall down some steps where she's smashed to bits. Ozma will then use it to banish Green Theodora, who is now soulless and hell-bent on evil. Amazing pyrotechnics ensue. Rivers are rerouted and the threat of getting wet drives Green Theodora away, dragging her evil sister behind her.
Broken beyond repair, Ozma collects the China Girl's pieces. Oscar is out of glue and crying, but Ozma uses Theodora's wand and turns the China girl into a real girl, named Glinda.
The movie would end with Oscar presiding over the construction of the Emerald City, alone, and pining for Theodora, probably shown by him fondling a trinket he stole from her, and searching the skies.
They will call him Oz, the Great and Terrible, because he's not a kind man, but he is a wise and fair man.
If the plot had moved that way- and there's no reason it couldn't have- I think Oz would have been the greatest movie ever. It doesn't need to be Gregory Maguire complicated, veiled in overwhelming symbolism, but at the same note, I feel like it was just too simple, and Mila Kunis spent far too much time being green. I understand they made the movie for kids, but I feel like even my modifications are simple enough for just about any moviegoer to follow- after all, my treatment relies a lot on tugging at your heartstrings and building rapport, of which Oz the Great and Powerful does neither.
Still, awesome movie. See it in 3D. 4/5 stars.