There are some really great things about Oz the Great and Powerful and some really bad things, but at the very least, it’s not the forgettable trifle I expected it to be.
I liked Oz the Great and Powerful, and I mean that only in the most defensive-sounding way possible. It’s hard to even write this review without coming off a huge Sam Raimi apologist. Raimi has this highly-saturated, schlocky aesthetic that’s a little melodramatic and not quite realistic, but never quite camp, which a lot of people understandably hate. Whereas Tarantino almost always puts clear signposts to indicate when he’s being serious and when he’s being tongue-in-cheek, Sam Raimi’s scenes are always sort of breakdancing on the line between the two. To me this approach has always seemed a bit rock n’ roll, a way to say “yeah, this is silly but I’m doing it anyway because it’s fun.” He seems so blasé about whether you think his films are “Important” or not, and it’s refreshing.
Oz the Great and Powerful is not a great movie, but I don’t think anyone set out to make a “great movie.” I usually hate when critics use this excuse to give a movie a pass. Just because you made a bad movie on purpose I’m supposed to ignore that it’s bad? But if I look at any “comparable” title – Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Snow White and the Huntsman – Oz is just much better. Even the simple idea that “Oz” might all be a figment of James Franco’s character’s imagination gives it a subtextual richness that the aforementioned films all lacked. All of them, Oz included, are essentially about magical faeries punching each other. But Oz at least hints at the idea that it’s not just about magical faeries punching each other.