Oz the Great and Powerful [Blu-Ray] Sam Raimi

Oz the Great and Powerful [Blu-Ray] Sam Raimi
5
Despite the effort and care put into this family-style tent pole prequel to The Wizard of Oz, it's lacking the essential emotional spark that makes a movie more than the sum of its parts. Sam Raimi (the resourceful horror-comedy auteur gone spectacle machine) makes so much magic happen on-screen — the special effects, production design and artfully composed cinematography are jaw dropping — that it's a shame the story isn't up to snuff. A similar feeling arises in regards to the characters, especially the titular opportunistic charlatan. James Franco is perfectly suited to the role of a seedy sideshow magician forced to find redemption, comfortably embodying a sense of false bravado born of deep-seated insecurity, exuding a sleazy yet sympathetic charm. But his journey doesn't feel earned; Oz is such a womanizing jerk that any good he does should be considered necessary amends, not cause to admire the selfish trickster. There are also some issues with how metaphors stack up between the Land of Oz and the real world, mostly because of a lack of ambiguity in the interpretation of events — unlike Dorothy, there's no indication that Oz will wake from a dream. That places this story in continuity with Frank L. Baum's original books more than the massively overseen film, but that doesn't stop Raimi and his screenwriters from loading in familiar symbolism from the overrated Judy Garland classic. Sure, it's cute, but the internal logic doesn't compute, nor is it consistent. Why do the people Oz befriends have mirrors in the real world, but his foes do not? His flying monkey butler is the assistant he takes for granted; the china doll girl he glues back together is the little girl he couldn't make walk because he's a phoney; and Glenda the Good is the virtuous woman he should have settled down with instead of running around on. But where are the other two witches? Since they serve the function in Oz, why not make the other compass point crones jilted lovers? The special features offer no answers to this or the many other lingering questions for those not content to be showered with opulent visuals and hyperkinetic action scenes, but they do offer a surprising amount of entertainment value. "Walt Disney and the Road to Oz" is a thorough mini-documentary on Walter Disney's attempts to realize a version of The Wizard of Oz over the years. It ends up with a great deal of self-congratulatory "Walt would've been proud" comments, but the look behind the curtain of the entertainment magnate's failed production attempts should tempt the curiosity of film fans. Each of the expected production features has more personality than typical of a blockbuster release. "China Girl and the Suspension of Disbelief" covers the use of a marionette and puppeteer to give the character an on-set presence, while "Before Your Very Eyes: From Kansas to Oz" explores the creation of the many majestic, practical sets built to ground the CGI-heavy fantasy environment. "Bloopers" features vocal booth flubs, fake animatics and bizarre directions from Raimi, and "Mr. Elfman's Musical Concoctions" is notable for the famed composer's unrehearsed candour. Lastly, "Mila's Metamorphosis" comes with a built-in fan base of people eager to see the goofy, lovely young actor spray-painted green by makeup effects legend Howard Berger. Oddly, best of all is "My Journey in Oz." James Franco takes on the challenge of shooting a "Making Of" and his genuine interest in what motivates his co-stars and bosses makes his interviews feel far more honest than we're used to seeing. Getting the coy and mischievous Raimi to open up is a greater trick than any Oz pulls off. (Buena Vista)