Remember Peter Jackson’s King Kong? Y’know--the one that threw such a huge special effects budget at a beloved classic that it made you want to go home and re-watch the original? Welcome to Sam Raimi’s Oz The Great and Powerful, which does the exact same thing to The Wizard of Oz. Seriously -- the novelization of this film begins with the words "You don't know about me without you have seen a 1939 movie directed by Victor Fleming."
So what can you say about a movie that can only stand on its own two feet by grabbing an 84-year-old crutch?
1. If you don't like James Franco, you'll hate the movie.
2. Even if you do like James Franco, he comments when he should commit. So you’re probably going to be annoyed as hell whenever he opens his mouth.
3. Speaking of which, the man’s facial hair goes back and forth between scruffy Ethan Hawke beardage to immaculately sculpted goatee, sometimes within the same scene. Hey Disney--next time you spend a couple of hundred million dollars on a special effects movie? Earmark ten grand for continuity, okay?
4. And speaking of continuity, Franco’s character seems to have had a cardiectomy at birth, and only grew a heart because the script says he had to.
5. Giving the good witch a father complex and making the bad witch go bad because she was jilted by a gigolo: take that, powerful women!
This was a big problem for me. When I think of Oz, I think of spunky heroines, women who are much more powerful than men, and a huckster who’s pretty much venerated by Ozites the way Emperor Norton was venerated by San Francisco. What I do not think of is women who are suckers for a con-man even when they have his number, or women with magic powers who are too dumb to recognize a gigolo when his every look says I AM A GIGOLO, and then go all Gossip Girl on his ass when they see the truth. Seriously: what kind of woman says “Revenge on the whole world!” instead of “What an asshole!” when she finds out her Romeo is a roamer?
THE SCREENPLAY WRITERS: A Hollywood writer’s idea of a woman.
ME: Oh right; silly me.
6. Also--since the Wicked Witch of the West is the Oz version of Miss Gulch, isn’t she specific to Dorothy? Making her the creation of the Wizard is yet another way this movie undermines its female characters by saying “She really wants a man in her life.”
7. Thanks to the end of this movie, I now have to use a ton of mental floss to wipe away the image of Billie Burke and Frank Morgan bumping uglies.
8. Thanks to the beginning of this movie, I now have to use a ton of mental floss to wipe away the possibility that the wizard’s sweetheart Annie is marrying John Gale because (thanks to the wizard) she’s pregnant with Judy Garland.
9. The monkey in the bellhop uniform was supposed to have been given laugh lines, writers. Try to remember that when you work on the sequel, okay? Or else pay Zach Braff double for making you look good.
10. Not enough Rachel Weisz. Although now we know who’s going to die under that Kansas farmhouse in about fifteen years.