The other day, I set off down the yellow lined road to journey once more to the merry old land of Oz. Despite the lackluster reviews, I still wanted to see this movie, especially since I'm currently working on the crucial "transition" scene in my own story and wanted to see how this movie handled the switch from Kansas to Oz. I also believe that Sam Raimi is a director with an interesting point of view and was curious to see how he would imagine this world.
There were a lot of things I thought this movie did well, and some that didn't quite work. I absolutely loved the final showdown in the Emerald City. I thought the scarecrow army was amazing, and the China Girl was fantastic. I also enjoyed the silly jokes and even the simplification of motives, especially between the witches. I think these all worked in creating a children's movie that children would enjoy. As an adult, you look at this movie differently, comparing it with the magic you felt watching The Wizard of Oz on television while wrapped up in a sleeping blanket on the living room floor. But that isn't a fair comparison. Neither is it fair to compare it with the brilliant Return to Oz which is a much darker film. That's why I really went into this movie trying to let it stand on its own, and for the most part, it does.
I really liked James Franco's Oz. I thought he had the right touch of ego and charm. I did think some of his dialogue could have been written better. Actually, that's true for a lot of the film. It seemed like so much attention was being paid to the visuals, and probably not quite enough to the story telling. Which brings me to my other problem with this film....it just looked so much like I was watching a video game. I've never been a fan of CGI created worlds. It's a tool that should be used to enhance, not to create. There was absolutely no weight to any of the CGI created elements. A perfect example of this is when anyone had to pick up the China Girl, it seemed they were holding a hologram.
There was such a huge difference in the film when an actual set was used, like in the final scene, or when Oz meets the China Girl. Sets and scenery pull a viewer into the world more than any actor in front of a green screen ever will. And seriously, when will the movie industry get past these 3D gimmicks. I don't go to the movies to pretend I'm on a roller coaster, I go to see a story that moves me, not a trick of the camera.
All of that aside, I thought it was an enjoyable movie. It wasn't without flaws, and sure my expectations were probably too high, but there was fun to be found in the movie. And had I been five years old, watching it for the first time, I very well may have loved it...likewise, I'm sure if I watched Wizard of Oz for the first time now, my review might be considerable worse.