Summary: Today Locke Peterseim reviews the latest revisit to Oz, as Hollywood continues not so much reinvent stories for each generation as strip-mine our cultural reserves. Modern marketing tools make quality unnecessary. “The House of Mouse learned long ago that it’s far too risky to try and give the people what they want … it’s much better off telling the people what they want and then selling it to them.” Watch it to see in microcosm what our corporate machinery does to America.
Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful is neither an unwatchable, awful film, nor is it anything that anyone not dragged to the theater by coat-tugging children has any need to see.
I’m not a hard-core fan of the original Victor Fleming/Judy Garland film (though I certainly don’t dislike or disparage it), and I’ve never read any of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz books. I’d guess devotees of the former will find this Oz prequel a mildly entertaining, harmless diversion, while those dedicated to Baum’s books will come away disgusted by the new film’s obvious efforts to spin literary delights into eye-popping lucre.
I’ve also had friends ask me if Oz is worth seeing from an aesthetic angle. They want to know if directer Sam Raimi — one-time genre daredevil turned blockbuster manager by the first Spider-Man franchise — has somehow managed to turn a movie created solely in the Disney Franchise Labs into something weird and wonderful, perhaps a phantasmagorical delight in the vein of Terry Gilliam. But of course he hasn’t.
Oz the Great and Powerful is Disney and producer Joe Roth’s blatant, “not even worth denying” attempt to replicate the billion-dollar worldwide box-office haul they scored with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland three springs ago, and just as Alice absorbed, assimilated, and co-opted whatever stylistic juice Burton still has left while amplifying the director’s laziest, sloppiest tendencies, so Oz uses Raimi.