I Wanted Flying Monkeys, Not Flying Baboons: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

Saturday, March 9, 2013

There is no way anyone is going to be able to discuss Disney's epic Oz the Great and Powerful without discussing their childhood memories of The Wizard of Oz, so why should I be any different.

My older sister used to make us watch The Wizard of Oz every year, which always caused the two sides of my adolescent Gemini personality to be at war.  One part was drawn into the magic, fantasy, characters and adventure.  The other part of me enjoyed the music, but was terrified by the whole premise of Dorothy being lost somewhere weird and different. I hated that she wasn't prepared for such an adventure and mission. Judy Garland was so believable at looking lost, confused and frightened; this caused me great anxiety; but nothing scared the bejesus outta me like those damn flying monkeys!

One of the things most talked about as we awaited the release of this "prequel" was the fact that Disney legally could use source material from L. Frank Baum's books, but couldn't use iconic images from MGM's 1939 movie; most notably, The Ruby Slippers. In Baum's original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore Silver Shoes. No one in their right mind would change back to silver now, so instead they just left the shoes out of Oz the Great and Powerful altogether.

I can live with that, but I can't live with how much the flying monkeys have changed.  My childhood fear calls out for those upright walking, bluish gray faced, winged, demonic creatures.  The flying monkeys in this new version are just animated baboons, they lack that creepy ability to keep a small child up at night.

One of the things I like to do immediately before writing about my latest movie going experience is read and/or watch an interview with the director.  A lot of times you'll see that I include excerpts of that interview in my post.  I do this for two reasons - 

1) because I'm truly interested in the behind the scenes and the business and art of movie making.

2) because I like to remind myself that this is somebody's baby. Something they worked tirelessly on, stayed up nights and worried about, eat, slept and breathed, sometimes for years if they are a writer/director. And that it takes an incredibly large and talented team to bring even the smallest film to the screen.

So when I read and watched director Sam Raimi talk about the making of Oz the Great and Powerful, I could feel his sincerity and intensity in how much he wanted to create an unforgettable magical world; his awe in learning 3D technology; his level of creative involvement with the Set Production team headed by Robert Stromberg; he seemed genuinely inspired by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire screenplay; and most importantly, he reveres The Wizard of Oz and wished to honor the original in what ways were possible.

All this makes it so very difficult for me to say... I was bored watching Oz the Great and Powerful.
At one point during the movie, I started thinking about whether or not I had put my mouth guard back into it's case after brushing my teeth that morning.  Now this is not me. 98.9% of the time I am so lost in a movie, the banalities of my everyday life are as far away from me as Oz.  But I could not become emotionally invested in this film. Stunning sets and effects are nothing if the screenplay doesn't work.  It's lackluster.

I tried to do a little script doctoring in my head. And thought what if we knew more about why this land is run by women and why would a land run by women not be a Utopia? I also thought perhaps we need to know more about what is now so wrong with the Land of Oz that everyone would be so desperately looking for the fulfillment of the prophesy of a Great Wizard coming to set everything to rights. Murdered King or not, the people of Emerald City and Oz in general don't seem to be suffering under the leadership of the witches.

Evanora (Rachel Weisz) is incognito evil. Theodora (Mila Kunis) who is terrible! Not witchy terrible, but bad acting terrible.  Kunis would need an actual magic potion to summons up what she needed to give this character. She just doesn't get that she's becoming THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST!  It feels as if Seth MacFarlane wrote a scene of Family Guy where Meg's supposed to play The Wicked Witch. I could picture Peter Griffin jumping into the frame at any moment to say your awful Meg get off the stage.  At any rate, Theodora doesn't become evil until being jilted by "The Wizard", so the people have not been subjugated by her. And Glinda, (Michelle Williams) the only one in the film truly feeling her part, has a right to have a beef with Evanora for killing her father, but otherwise she seems to be content to run her little part of town, so... I could go on and on with this line of troubleshooting.

I was engaged in the final climax, the method used for banishing the witches to the East and the West is clever and pays homage to the original Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, this was too little too late, the bottom line for me, and others I talked to after the screening - the movie lacks that indescribable coming together of all the elements at the right time to create real life magic.

Oh, my critique of James Franco as a huckster, womanizing, con-man, trying to find the greatness inside of him - He's fine, no complaints. However, in 2010 Robert Downey, Jr was purported to play the role, my bias crush aside, I really think he could have brought much more life to the man behind the curtain.

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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