Thu
Mar 14 2013 1:00pm

Filmmaking in Fairyland: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful James Franco Rachel Weisz Mila Kunis Michelle Williams Zach Braff Sam Raimi Review

So by now, you’ve probably either seen or heard about the latest addition to Oz films: Oz the Great and Powerful, released in the U.S. last weekend and reviewed by Tor.com here. The sorta but not exactly prequel to the iconic 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, this new Oz film tells the story of one Oscar Diggs, a carnival showman and magician who takes a balloon through a cyclone from Kansas to Oz. Once there, he finds himself meeting three lovely lovely witches and an overly talkative flying monkey, having conversations about whether or not witches need brooms, fixing little china dolls, facing lions who—conveniently enough—just happen to be cowardly, and alternatively trying to convince people that he is and isn’t a wizard and the prophesized savior of Oz. (Of the country, that is. Even most tolerant viewer probably won’t say he saves the movie.)

It’s bright and colorful (well, once it reaches Oz) with some awesome background details (pay particular attention as Oscar and the monkey leave the Emerald City) and has several fun jokes and laugh out loud moments and horses of many colors (yay!) and delightfully campy gowns (yay!) and a scene where someone dives into gold and never once has a thought about the effects of all that gold on inflation. And a bit of romance. Lots of fun.

But wow, do we need to talk.

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: director Sam Raimi and writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire may claim that they were thinking of the books, not the 1939 movie, but, er. No. It’s not just the multiple visual callbacks to the 1939 movie (I lost track of the rainbows we kept going over), but the film setup: nearly everyone Oscar Diggs meets in the course of his adventure is someone he met in Kansas, just as nearly everyone film Dorothy met in Oz was someone she knew from the Kansas farm. The Munchkins are small people who sing and dance. And of course the shift between the black and white world of Kansas (here definitely black and white to avoid any copyright issues with the sepia tones of the 1939 film) to the wider, colorful look of Oz is taken directly from the 1939 film. Oscar gives out cheesy prizes in the end. And as a definitive note, the Kansas scenes are set in 1905—five years after the publication of The Wonderful World of Oz. I did find myself thinking just how much fun the movie might have had if Oscar had arrived having read the book—or at least knowing about Oz, a conceit the Oz books frequently used. But that would have been just a touch too meta for this film. The conceit of the books—that no one ever ages or dies in Oz—certainly would have worked to allow Oscar to travel to Oz years earlier, but would have made it slightly harder for the filmmakers to cast someone considerably younger.

Anyway. As in the earlier films, Oz drops the occasional hint that this is all in Oscar’s head—we never see Oscar electrocuted or hit on the head, but most of the people Oscar meets in Oz are reflections of some kind or another of people he meets in Kansas, and Oscar’s immediate acceptance of “oooh, magic,” has a dreamlike quality to it. What makes this all mildly annoying is that unlike the 1939 film, which announced firmly that Oz and fantasy in general are nothing more than a dream and that you need to be satisfied with the grimness of life, or the 1985 Return to Oz film, which focused on the thin lines separating reality from insanity and dream, Oz the Great and Powerful abandons that thought, going for “Nope, it’s real.” And yet, it gives us a less convincing Oz than either of the earlier films, partly thanks to the CGI, which, excellent as it is (the main monkey is especially well done), still has an unreal quality to it, in contrast to the bright soundstages with paintings of the 1939 film and the puppets and soundstages of the later film, and partly thanks to lack of any real sense of peril and wonder.

Adding to the problem: by focusing on the 1939 film, Oz ignores all of the potentially rich storylines hinted at in the Baum books: the founding of Oz either by a band of fairies or a line of magical kings, the kidnapping and hiding away of the young princess ruler, the fights of the good witches to overthrow the evil witches, and so on. It also forces Mila Kunis (as Theodora) and Michelle Williams (as Glinda) to try to recreate their predecessors’ iconic roles. Williams does, barely, but Kunis does not.

To be fair, Kunis has the unenviable job of a role that requires her to first be unbelievably naïve, and next attempt to follow Margaret Hamilton’s iconic performance as the Wicked Witch of the West. Reprising that role was probably doomed from the get-go—as I noted on Twitter immediately afterwards, playing over-the-top evil (complete with Evil Laughter) while still convincing the audience that yes, you really can get that little dog too is extremely difficult. Kunis is not much better in the first half, where the actress simply couldn’t portray that much innocence. I kept assuming—wrongly—that she knew all along that Oscar was a fake, since Kunis frequently has a knowing glint in her eye that suggests yeah, I’m not buying this either, but turns out, not so much. It doesn’t help that for copyright reasons her skin is the wrong shade of green, and that her character motivation, as we’ll get to, can most kindly be called inadequate.

James Franco doesn’t try particularly hard to recreate the character of the Wizard/Professor Marvel, but his performance feels constrained as well. Only Rachel Weisz (as Evanora), with the good fortune to play a character whose characterization in the previous film, such as it wasn’t, consisted of two dead feet, can and does make this role her own.

Choosing to focus on the film, instead of the books, also constrains the overall plot. After all, Oscar is destined to become not a real wizard (as he will in the books) but rather the man behind the curtain. As such, he cannot take a particularly heroic role, much though the film would like him to. This in turn means that the film has to give us all kinds of reasons why Oscar is not a hero—he’s mean to his assistants, lies to women and everyone in Oz, and so on—which in turn makes even Oscar wonder how he’s able to get through Glinda’s “good people only” barrier. He’s, um, good-hearted because Glinda tells him he is, and because he occasionally has his good moments.

It also leaves us with some awkward moments that will presumably be addressed in this film’s sequel: if Oscar is, as this film wants to say at the end, really good, what changed him from the sort of person who protects Dorothy-lookalike china dolls, to the sort of person that sends a girl out to face a Wicked Witch with only a Scarecrow, a clunking Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion for protection? And—the question our entire audience was asking—what about the shoes? (“Copyright attorneys hid them” is just not a great plot device.)

The plot has several other weak or unexplored moments. For instance, Theodora wistfully tells us that no one has ever given her a gift or asked her to dance—a probable callback to Wicked, but also a hint of a deeper storyline here, or at least a better motivation for her later character change than “I was dumped by a man! LET’S GO EVIL!” But it’s left unexplored. Oscar has an entire bottle of glue, but we are never told or shown if he went through China Town looking for other broken dolls. (This lapse was brought to my attention by an upset four year old.) Also, someone—even a child—living in such a fragile environment has never heard of glue? It’s not exactly an American or even a modern invention. And why is Oscar so nonchalant about seeing real magic—and fairies—for the first time? And—ok, this one was just me—does no one in the Emerald City EVER consider security issues? No? Oh well.

Gender issues are a more serious concern. Quite apart from the fact that the Girl Power Oz stories have been turned into a film about a man, midway through the film the china girl indignantly asks (I paraphrase), “You’re just going to leave me to walk on this road to the Emerald City ALONE?” As then proceeds to weep, cry, and cling to Oscar’s leg until she’s allowed to join Oscar and the monkey.

As a critique of the book and film, which show the Munchkins and the Good Witches doing exactly this, it’s amusing and works well. But even as I laughed, I found myself wistful for the story where all of the characters, and particularly the little girl, were convinced that she absolutely could do such a thing, where nobody tells Dorothy that she needs protection, or that she can’t do things, giving Dorothy a wonderful self-confidence.

Few women in this film have that same confidence, and those that do are not necessarily treated well. The carnival assistant in the film’s first few minutes, for instance, has that confidence, apparently convinced that she has found her great breakthrough moment in entertainment and will have an awesome stage career, but the film goes out of its way to show her as naïve, easily tricked, and unable to recall simple instructions: she is hardly even able to play her role as an audience plant. The next woman in the film, Sally, comes to the carnival to ask Oscar—whose life until this point has hardly been a success on any level—what she should do with her life. Yes, she’s also asking for a proposal of marriage, but even though he’s interested, and she’s interested, she backs off when he tells her it won’t work. It’s not a mutual decision; it’s Oscar’s decision, although it’s to her credit that she accepts this without drama. Theodora is easily manipulated by both Oscar and her sister.

That leaves us with Evanora, who by all appearances seems to have done a wonderful job of running the country and tricking everyone into believing that Glinda is the evil witch (Glinda’s habit of hanging out in fog covered, haunted graveyards is not helpful here) all while keeping the treasury glistening and full, demanding bureaucratic work for which she gets a reward of massive aging. Interestingly, the Oz Oscar encounters is generally more prosperous and less perilous than the Oz Dorothy later encounters while Oz is under—sorta—the Wizard’s control. Hmm. And Glinda—who has been told by her father to wait for a man to arrive before she can take her throne.

While I’m on the subject, it’s not at all clear why anyone needs a Wizard at all—the final battle shows that Glinda could always match Evanora; teamed up with Theodora, they easily could have taken down the Wicked Witch. Oh well.

The film does a better job handling disability issues. In the real word, Kansas, Oscar can’t heal a little girl using a wheelchair. He lies to her, guilt written all over his face—and in a nice touch, he’s called out for it, with his assistant noting that the girl deserves to know the truth. Oscar completely evades this point, saying that if he had admitted to being a fraud, he would have lost all of the money made in the show. In Oz, he can heal a little girl made of china by using glue—but it’s made obvious that he can only do this with people who aren’t completely human, and the two background people in wheelchairs remain in wheelchairs. Their presence, a positive inclusion of disability, is somewhat erased by making both of the Wicked Witches hideously ugly by the end of the film, a return of the “ugly” = “evil” motif, but we can’t have everything.

If, as has been suggested, Oz is no more than a wish fulfillment hallucination in Oscar’s mind, perhaps Oscar deliberately created something that he could heal—just as his mind deliberately turned the woman he abandoned quickly into someone evil, to alleviate his guilt, and created a scenario to allow him to be worthy of the woman he loves. This also explains the plot holes—it’s a hallucination, not a well-thought-out story. In which case, it’s somewhat odd that Oscar isn’t able to do more in his own creation to help others—but it seems that only that one girl haunted him.

But I think the real key to the film appears in the opening credits, where the camera moves through the doors of the Disney castle (fake) and in the climax, where Oscar saves Oz through a series of camera tricks and entertainment. (The fireworks show he puts on is suspiciously similar to the one currently running every night at Walt Disney World’s Epcot center, down to the blown out torches and the single white firework that sets off the rest of the show, not to mention the heavy smoke from fire and images projected on a globe-like thing in the center. Half of our Orlando audience missed it; the other half burst out laughing.) It’s both cynical and hopeful message, in one way, emphasizing the fakery of everything we’re seeing, but also hopeful, assuring us that entertainment—provided, of course, by Disney—is the key to ridding the world of deception and evil.

Even when—as in this case—some of that entertainment leads to later deception and evil. Let’s try not to think too hard about what this suggests about Disney.

Or I’m just reading too much into the opening credits. You decide.

On a cheerier note, the special effects are awesome—no wonder Disney thinks special effects can save the world. The movie has several laugh out loud moments, and for all of its focus on the 1939 movie, Oz the Great and Powerful does have a few blink and you will miss it references to a few of the other Baum books (notably Ozma of Oz and Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz), fun for Oz fans. Some early scenes featuring a magic lantern and an elephant can even be taken as an obscure reference to Kabumpo, although this is probably stretching things. (It’s definitely stretching things to read anything into the early appearance of a clown; circuses have clowns.)

It wasn’t the Oz movie I would have wanted, or the Oz movie it could have been, and I don’t see it climbing to cult or beloved status. But as a few hours of entertainment, and a chance to experience some of the brightness of Oz, it mostly works.


Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

23 comments
TheDoctor
1. TheDoctor
I enjoyed it, but yeah, it had some flaws. I wish Glenda and Oz didn't get together in the end. Why couldn't they have just been friends? I'd rather have an independent Glenda.

And the "Evil Laughter". That was cringeworthy.
TheDoctor
2. glorbes
I found this movie mostly devoid of joy, hateful in its depiction of female characters, and overwhelmingly dull in terms of its visuals.

Yes, it is vibrant and colorful, but the original film was as well without the benefit of CGI, and was more convincing.

Much of the humor just fell flat for me...there was something off about the pace...the film had no energy or momentum (despite some of Raimi's trademark rapid, angled cuts).

And ohmygod the female characters were weirdly passive, directed and defined only by their relationship with Oz...in many respects, this film seemed more like an ancient relic of the past in terms of how the female characters were written. Kunis's character would have made a LOT more impact and sense if, as you say, she was actually in on Oz being a fraud (her performance suggested this at first, until you realize that's Kunis just giving a really terrible performance). When she becomes the transformed witch...she's hateful and screechy in the most irritating way possible (and wears a cleavage exposing outfit!). The other wicthes are all weird, dopey, and kind of moronic in their behavior. Again, there is something just slightly askew about the performances...I wish I could out my finger on it.

I did like the Oz-head projection sequence...that really was a fun climax for the film. The rest...well, I have no interest in seeing this movie again. And judging from Raimi's lack of interest in doing another one, I suspect he feels less than enthused about his latest effort (as well he should).
TheDoctor
3. Hyaroo
So I wasn't the only one to watch the movie and, when the clown appeared, immediately think of Notta Bit More! (Yeah, it's probably a coincidence, since this movie doesn't have much to do with the books, and besides this clown didn't try to put on a disguise even once, but still.)

In any case... I didn't really think it was a very good movie at all. I didn't really find any of the creativity that the Oz books and to a lesser extent the MGM movie and even Return to Oz displayed); all that was left was a frustratingly generic and cliched by-the-numbers story about some great Chosen One who's Destined To Save Us All, because Prophecy. Seriously, prophecy? That's just lazy writing, especially when the prophecy is so vague as it is presented in this movie.

I know I'm not the only one who's reacted to producer Joe Roth's claim that he decided to pick this up because he had noticed a lack of fairytales with a "strong male protagonist," and this was apparently a grand and unique example of one.

Leaving aside the question of whether Joe Roth has ever bothered to actually read many fairytales (male protagonists are not exactly in short supply there either), the problem is not only that Oz (where women tend to rule and the biggest heroes tend to be the unlikely ones, the ones who in other fantasy stories would at best be the comedy relief or the hapless victims) seems the wrong franchise for the stereotypical Strong Male Protagonist, but the fact that this particular Strong Male Protagonist dominates so completely that the movie keeps harping on how he is the Most Important Person In The World.

Seriously, with the possible exeption of Evanora, who's a bit of a villain-without-a-cause (what exactly was her goals? I have no idea!), nobody in this movie has any sort of goal or agenda or even life of their own; they all exist pretty much just to pander to, fawn over, or otherwise react to Oscar. The "it's all a dream" interpretation would of course explain all this (they have no life outside him because they literally don't exist outside his head), but as you point out, the movie does seem to go out of its way to paint Oz as a real place, so that doesn't work either.

To add insult to injury... the Strong Male Protagonist in this case just isn't likeable. I read that they originally wanted Robert Downey Jr for the role, and I can see why: Oscar Diggs, in this movie, is pretty much Tony Stark. A Tony Stark who's a struggling con man rather than a multi-billionaire, mind, and also a Tony Stark who's had almost all his redeeming qualities surgically removed, so that any "good" moments feel tacked on and the redemption ark was unconvincing. The result was that with Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie, I was cheering for the guy to redeem himself and become a better person. With Oscar Diggs, I was actively wishing death on him after twenty minutes of movie-time.

I exited this movie lamenting that it hadn't been about that flying monkey, or the grouchy herald, or even the China Girl. Her characterization was all over the place -- the movie couldn't decide whether she was a coward or suicidally brave, childish and demanding or wise and mature, earnest and sincerely naive or crafty and manipulative, and so she skips between all these extremes at the bat of an eye -- and she was pretty much forced into the role of "frail little girl who needs the Strong Male Protagonist to protect her"... but she was still more likeable and interesting than Oscar Diggs. I think a movie starring her, the monkey and the herald would have been a lot more fun.
Azara microphylla
4. Azara
Does it pass the Bechdel test? I've only seen the trailer, and the emphasis on "We're waiting for a Man to save us!" was rather offputting.
Peter Tijger
5. Peter-Tijger
All this negativity just makes me even more curious! I want to see this. A movie where the ladies are not forcibly strong characters who really don't need a man to rescue them or whatever. A male protagonist who's very unlikable.....and cleavage-exposing outfits??? You don't say......I really have to see this movie, even if the only reason is it's offensive to a lot of people. I'll have a verdict after I've seen it, but reading these sort of comments, really make me want to go to a cinema.
TheDoctor
6. Thomas Cardew
@Bakema-NL

My advice would be don't bother. I didn't find it particularly offensive. It was just a badly made CGI fluff movie with bad acting and bad writing. I'd compare it to Pandora, though not as good. It has several long gratiously pretty scenes which are merely "LOOK AT WHAT WE CAN DO". The plot has several glaring gaint holes that are readily apparent as you watch the movie. (I can forgive plot holes that pop up after you've seen the movie, at least it was crafted well enough to be immersive but when you see them during the movie that's just a bad sign all the way around.) Franco is completely unconvincing as con man, he lacks any real flair or showmanship for the vast majority of the movie. Kunis's acting is appalling. The movie isn't offensive as much as it is a collection of bad writing, stereotypes, tropes, and bad acting all tossed together and shaken to see what falls out. I'd could go on but I'd rather not waste any more time on the movie.
TheDoctor
7. oliveramy
I too found the story and characters lacking. I expected a lot more from James Franco. His performance was just simply not. I really wanted to like the film. As I type, I'm still trying to make excuses for it. But I can't convince myself of any scenario where I can bring myself to like the movie.
All the characters seem to lack heart, consistency, and conviction. The only two characters I liked were Evanora, for her wonderful acting and the flying monkey who seemed to be pretty genuine, but only really reacting versus acting, as you mentioned.

Hyroo @3 Even if Disney managed to snag Robert Downey Jr to play a Tony Stark type role as Oscar, as you mentioned, the character development still wouldn’t work, (as much as I adore RDJ and all his characters.) Even Tony Stark, with all his self-absorbed, witty comments, has conviction. Oscar's, who is not a good person, only conviction is "I want to be great and I want my riches to reflect how great I am so I will lie, cheat, and steal to get it."

This story line just didn't do it for me.
I won’t be running out to see this movie a second time, nor will I be first in line to purchase it on Blu-ray when it comes out, even if the graphics were pretty great.

Overall, it was just a disappointment.
Nick Rogers
8. BookGoblin
@Azara #4

It does, but in a way that almost seemed designed to subvert the Bechdel Test's purpose. There's extended discussion between sisters about the inherent "wickedness" of one of them. This discussion is outside the context of discussing a male character, but only just.

It passes - by some measure of passes - but the whole conversation was off-putting. It was disheartening both as an Oz enthusiast, and as fan of several of the actresses.

It's not a BAD movie, and it wobbles around some redeeming moments, but it certainly doesn't stick the landing either.
Mari Ness
9. MariCats
@TheDoctor -- I think that after setting up Oscar as the flirtatious sort and the hero, they had to get him together with somebody, and Glinda was the only one available. I didn't think much of their romance, but I could see why it was there.

I think they thought they had to have Evil Laughter because the 1939 film did, but Evil Laughter is REALLY hard to pull off well and it was not pulled off well here.

@glorbes -- I think the performances suffered because the writing wasn't great and because two of the actresses were trying to do younger versions of iconic characters, always tricky.

@Hyaroo -- I'm certain the clown was a coincidence but it gave me a bad moment or two. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tolerate a clown in connection with Oz again!

I don't mind prophecy at all -- and it's been used frequently in the Oz books -- but as you said, this one was vague and unsatisfying.

@Azara -- As BookGoblin notes, it...sorta passes the Bechtel test when the two sisters are talking about wickedness, but since the reason for all this wickedness is a guy, it's not exactly the best example.

@Bakina-NL -- What's strange is, the women DON'T need a man to rescue them, and yet, there they are, waiting for a man to rescue them. It's just like, uh, what? Not offensive so much as bewildering.

@Thomas Cardew -- Yes, this, although, honestly, Mila Kunis had a really difficult job.

@oliveramy -- You bring up a good point here: Oscar's lack of conviction, which does seem to spread through the entire movie and make it unconvincing.

@BookGoblin -- This, yes.
Peter Tijger
10. Peter-Tijger
Ok, some comments better put I guess by a few people above.... Movie seems to be ok, but no more than that. Still I want to see it, just because I really really like Oz. I'll hold further judgment until I've seen the movie myself :). And @MariCats, it's not Bakina-NL!!! You make it sound like I'm a damsel in distress type who needs to be rescued by a man, but who's very capable of rescuing herself.......eeeeerrr, himself....aaah, never mind. Bakema-NL....guy, hairy big guy :D. I guess a lot of people really wanted this to be a great movie......I'm one of them.
Mari Ness
11. MariCats
@Bakema-NL -- So sorry! Put it down to a sugar crash -- the caffeine I had earlier in the day is totally gone.

And like you I really wanted this to be a great movie! They spent enough money on it, after all. Grr.
TheDoctor
12. Nik_the_Heratik
They needed more time with Oscar and Theo in order to sell the romance or even to make sense plot-wise. But then if they had spent more time together, she would have figured out how untrustworthy he is on her own. So it was really just a dumb plot idea.

And that's what the problem with this movie is: they play it safe, instead of interesting or subversive, and they make a large number of dumb choices. Turning it into some kind of love triangle, or quadrilateral or some other goofy shape was the big dumb thing they did, and failing to give any of the characters besides Glinda and (maybe) Oscar some motivation is the lesser dumb thing.

Still it was safe, fluffy, and the big scene at the end was fun. They could have cut the ending back and maybe cut the witch fight completely and added more character and exposition stuff at the beginning of his trip to Oz and it would have been better.
Alan Brown
13. AlanBrown
Gee, I enjoyed this movie, even though it is now clear to me that I wasn't supposed to. The man was in the center of the action, but then again, he was the main character. Perhaps one of the witches or another female character will be front and center the next side around (since it now appears a sequel might be in the making). I especially would like to see more of Theodora, who was a rather tragic figure, taken for granted by Oz, and then manipulated and used a cat's paw by her sister.
I liked how Oz used the turn-of-the-century science to win the day--becoming a scientific wizard instead of a magical one. There were a few loose ends in the script, and a few places where the characters didn't quite gel like they should have, but in general I though it hung together pretty well.
And I very much enjoyed the special effects. I look forward to seeing it again to look for all the details, especially in the Emerald City, that I missed the first time around.
TheDoctor
14. ozfan
Oz the Great and Powerful is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz explaining how the Wizard got to the land of Oz and dealt with the witches, and has already been ok'd for a sequel, and for those who don't know, the broadway musical Wicked is going to be made into a movie as well which is a prequel of the early lives of the witches, so get ready for the wonderful world of Oz again (and again) within a couple of years. I for one can't wait for these movies.
TheDoctor
15. Hyaroo
So I wasn't the only one to watch the movie and, when the clown appeared, immediately think of Notta Bit More! (Yeah, it's probably a coincidence, since this movie doesn't have much to do with the books, and besides this clown didn't try to put on a disguise even once, but still.)

In any case... I didn't really think it was a very good movie at all. I didn't really find any of the creativity that the Oz books and to a lesser extent the MGM movie and even Return to Oz displayed); all that was left was a frustratingly generic and cliched by-the-numbers story about some great Chosen One who's Destined To Save Us All, because Prophecy. Seriously, prophecy? That's just lazy writing, especially when the prophecy is so vague as it is presented in this movie.

I know I'm not the only one who's reacted to producer Joe Roth's claim that he decided to pick this up because he had noticed a lack of fairytales with a "strong male protagonist," and this was apparently a grand and unique example of one.

Leaving aside the question of whether Joe Roth has ever bothered to actually read many fairytales (male protagonists are not exactly in short supply there either), the problem is not only that Oz (where women tend to rule and the biggest heroes tend to be the unlikely ones, the ones who in other fantasy stories would at best be the comedy relief or the hapless victims) seems the wrong franchise for the stereotypical Strong Male Protagonist, but the fact that this particular Strong Male Protagonist dominates so completely that the movie keeps harping on how he is the Most Important Person In The World.

Seriously, with the possible exeption of Evanora, who's a bit of a villain-without-a-cause (what exactly was her goals? I have no idea!), nobody in this movie has any sort of goal or agenda or even life of their own; they all exist pretty much just to pander to, fawn over, or otherwise react to Oscar. The "it's all a dream" interpretation would of course explain all this (they have no life outside him because they literally don't exist outside his head), but as you point out, the movie does seem to go out of its way to paint Oz as a real place, so that doesn't work either.

To add insult to injury... the Strong Male Protagonist in this case just isn't likeable. I read that they originally wanted Robert Downey Jr for the role, and I can see why: Oscar Diggs, in this movie, is pretty much Tony Stark. A Tony Stark who's a struggling con man rather than a multi-billionaire, mind, and also a Tony Stark who's had almost all his redeeming qualities surgically removed, so that any "good" moments feel tacked on and the redemption ark was unconvincing. The result was that with Tony Stark in the first Iron Man movie, I was cheering for the guy to redeem himself and become a better person. With Oscar Diggs, I was actively wishing death on him after twenty minutes of movie-time.

I exited this movie lamenting that it hadn't been about that flying monkey, or the grouchy herald, or even the China Girl. Her characterization was all over the place -- the movie couldn't decide whether she was a coward or suicidally brave, childish and demanding or wise and mature, earnest and sincerely naive or crafty and manipulative, and so she skips between all these extremes at the bat of an eye -- and she was pretty much forced into the role of "frail little girl who needs the Strong Male Protagonist to protect her"... but she was still more likeable and interesting than Oscar Diggs. I think a movie starring her, the monkey and the herald would have been a lot more fun.
TheDoctor
16. Hyaroo
Huh?! How did that happen? I didn't mean to repost my earlier comment at all.... sorry about that.

What I was going to say was:

@AlanBrown: Nobody's saying you're not allowed/supposed to enjoy the movie... we're just explaining why we didn't.
Azara microphylla
17. Azara
@Hyaroo:
Nobody's saying you're not allowed/supposed to enjoy the movie... we're just explaining why we didn't.

Or in my case, why I'm not interested in going to see the film in a cinema. More than 70 years since Dorothy managed to save hereslf, with the help of her friends, and now we have three female characters who should be perfectly competent to sort things out themselves swooning over a faker instead. Not exactly progress from my point of view.
TheDoctor
18. wei
I don't understand the unhappiness the movie seems to have engendered amongst a lot of reviewers. I mean, it's not The Best Movie In The Universe, but I didn't feel cheated of my money, walking out of it. About the only problem I really have with the movie was that throughout much of it, I kept thinking "Oh Mila Kunis, you're so fine, what on earth are you doing with Ashton Kutcher?!?!" (yes I read the tabloids)
Alan Brown
20. AlanBrown
I will admit to one quibble that both my wife and I had with the movie, and that was those extremely tight leather pants that Mila Kunis wore in the beginning. I understand that she looked pretty in them, but it seemed a bit gratuitous to us--we both thought that a skirt would have been more appropriate. And if you argue that pants are more practical in exploring in the wild, then I would like an explaination of those high heeled boots!
TheDoctor
21. Nathan DeHoff
Don't forget that Notta's father was also a clown. But no, I don't think that was an intentional reference, or that anyone would have wanted to make that reference even if any of them HAD read Cowardly Lion.

Did anyone ever actually recite the complete prophecy? I don't think they did, which I'd say it is a pretty big oversight. Either that or an indication that the prophecy never existed in the first place.
TheDoctor
22. Owen W
So many words for such a completely inane movie.
TheDoctor
23. Maac
I left the film feeling terrible for all the actors -- all of whom, I think, gave it their best shot. I hate it when actors are blamed for an unsalvageable plot and script.
TheDoctor
24. Maac
There are certain lines in certain contexts that, just, no one sounds plausible delivering.

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