All text ©2013 Mike Pascale. Visuals ©2013 their respective owner(s).
For the record, I have a personal connection to this movie. Although they don’t know each other, my brother went to high school with director Sam Raimi and two local actors (one of whom he does know). I took a TV production class in high school with the director’s brother (Ted Raimi). The class—my favorite of my entire 13-year public school stint—was taught by Jim Moll, who also had a small part in the film. (Mr. Moll also went on to become principal of my old junior high where I mentored for several years.) And of course, the film was shot in my hometown of metro Detroit.
HOWEVER, I won’t let that color my review (pardon the pun). If it sucked, I’d say so, albeit in a very nice, diplomatic way. Actually, I’d just ignore it and not say anything.
Happily that wasn’t the case!
–I’ve never read a Baum book so for me it was all new and a great story. No idea what was faithful to the books or not.
–Visually stunning. Right from the opening credits. Starts off in b/w like the old Judy Garland WIZARD OF OZ and goes to gorgeous color once James Franco gets to Oz.
–Genuine scares and startles at the right places. Still a Disney flick, so no gore, cursing or sex.
–Acting was superb, especially Mila Kunis (before and after—no spoilers). Though Johnny Depp was the first choice for Oz, Franco brings a “realness” that Depp couldn’t have pulled off as believably. Franco was the perfect “likeable scoundrel” who achieves redemption.
–The China Doll character was effing brilliant! Design, rendering and execution was perfect. She looked amazing on the trailer and didn’t disappoint.
–Nice plot twists; being unfamiliar with the source material, I was genuinely surprised (despite ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s unlabelled spoilers).
–Some genuine “LOL” moments.
–River fairies were cool (but underused).
–Surprise appearance (in non-speaking form) by one of Dorothy’s companions. Look for him!
–Creative inventiveness of both story and characterization. (The characters came up with some cool ideas as well as the writers.)
–Bruce Campbell in heavy makeup (as a military officer) is still BRUCE!
–Superlative cinematography and lovely landscapes.
–Though I don’t know if any of it was shot in 3D, the effects worked very well, throughout the film. Unlike most, I didn’t forget I was watching 3D halfway through.
–Danny Elfman music (of course!)
–”Pure Michigan” logo at the end. Nice to see some GOOD publicity for Motown.
–No outtakes/button during/after the credits.
–I didn’t recognize Ted’s part and it was too small (he plays a skeptic in the audience towards the beginning).
–Glinda could’ve been more powerful. Just ’cause she’s good doesn’t mean she has to be easily overpowered.
–As amazing as the China Doll was, the interaction with the live actors wasn’t always perfect. When someone picked her up, it just didn’t look as believable sometimes. (Being picky—but only because everything else was A plus.)
–Some scenes too intense for real little kids (though hopefully not as nightmare-inducing as the 30s version, the scariest horror film I’ve ever seen).
–No ruby slippers! (Disney’s lawyers had their tables turned. Ironically, they were the ones afraid of being sued, so everything had to be “different enough” from the MGM version. The slippers were axed.)
My rating: definitely SEE IT. In the theater. Even if you don’t want to pay for 3D, 3D-IMAX (which would look amazing) DFX or D-BOX, follow the yellow-brick-road and go off to see the wizard on the big screen! And let me know if you enjoyed it.
(Now if I could just get Sam to let me do some boards for his next film…)
P.S.: Although I don’t represent the Lollipop Guild, I’m happy to draw any of the characters (or you or your friends/family as the characters) in a “wicked” commission for a “good” price. My pal Dave Gutierrez has already drawn a killer Oz commission too. Just ask Craig for yours here!