Film Face-off: Oz the Great and Powerful vs. Gandalf from 'Lord of the Rings'

Film Face-off: Oz the Great and Powerful vs. Gandalf from 'Lord of the Rings'

Mar 08, 2013

We've heard things about this Oz (James Franco) character. In fact, we hear he's a wonderful wizard. Word on the street is he's also great and powerful. Sounds like a good combination. So let's go off to see how this wizard of Oz would fare against another character who wields a powerful stick. We're not talking about The Sorcerer's Apprentice, nor are we going with Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore or anyone else from the Harry Potter world. For this Film Face-off, we are pitting Oz vs. Gandalf (Ian McKellen). It's our first ever wizard-off. Sounds magical, doesn't it?

 

Actor Behind the Role

34-year-old James Franco has done it all, though that's not always a compliment. He has franchise success with Spider-Man, an Oscar nomination with 127 Hours, and he's somehow affiliated through teaching or degrees with every single college in America. He also failed as an Oscar cohost, and oddly starred on General Hospital.

The 73-year-old actor is a Sir. Sure, we could stop right there with Ian McKellen, but there's more. For a while it seemed you had to have him in your film if you wanted a franchise (X-MenLord of the Rings). He has two Oscar nominations, and a Tony win. McKellen has also been a champion for the LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

Winner: Oz. I find Franco's career path fascinating to follow. While I didn't enjoy his hosting, and didn't pay attention to his soap opera stint, he's constantly willing to take career risks in an industry where barely anyone does. Plus, he's directed a really good documentary (Saturday Night) about Saturday Night Live following John Malkovich through a week at the famous show.

 

Style

Oz

The suit is nice, even if it is in constant need of mending. That goatee on the other hand is awful. What is Oz thinking? He's a man who literally has a trick up his sleeve, and something under his hat.

Gandalf

When he's feeling grey, Gandalf is downright dirty. His wide-brimmed hat, tattered cloak, and filthy beard don't impress. Luckily he dies. When white, the old wizard cleans up really nicely.

Winner: Gandalf. For a second I was worried Oz would jump out to a 2-0 lead. Thank goodness for Gandalf the White. More importantly, no one can look at Oz and think that goatee is a good idea.

 

Power

Oz

Oz is all smoke and mirrors, and has a thing for fireworks. He's a trickster, a hustler, a no-good two-bit conniver. But here's the thing, it's been foretold that Oz would come and rescue the land of Oz. So when everyone thinks you're amazing, that still counts for something.

Gandalf

Gandalf also has a thing for fireworks, but there's more. Gandalf and his staff have defeated many orcs, but his two biggest battles are against Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Balrog. He can also summons eagles, though if you mention that last power around Tolkien fanatics, be prepared for a long, boring conversation.

Winner: Gandalf. The wizard is lucky the category is "Power" and not "Creative Power." Gandalf seems to vary the use of power based on the situation to an absolutely insane degree. Wouldn't eagles help in every situation? Oz at least uses every ounce of creative thought in his final battle against a couple of witches.

 

Dependability

Oz

Oz doesn't want to be a good man, he wants to be a great one. So what does he do when he drops in the land of Oz and is finally given the opportunity? He hems and haws. Yup, he does both. It takes a Scrooge McDuck-sized gold treasure to finally motivate the man, and even after that he's on the fence.

Gandalf

Gandalf is a big picture thinker. That means there will be many times when he has to go off on his own and you won't understand why. Yes, this has to be frustrating, but can you name how many times he hasn't saved the day? My count is at zero.

Winner: Gandalf. It should be noted that it's gotten to a comical point with this wizard. If I were a hobbit on an adventure with Gandalf, I would not let him leave my sight. Either that, or I would just sit there drinking a pint as a thousand orcs come crashing down. It may be annoying when he leaves, but Gandalf is dependable to save the day.

 

Friends

Oz

When in Kansas, Oz's only friend is Frank (Zach Braff), not that he wants him. When in the land of Oz, he seduces the naive witch Theodora (Mila Kunis). Finely the flying monkey (voiced by Braff), China Girl (Zoey King) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) attempt to befriend Oz, who puts up a good fight.

Gandalf

There is talk of him being a friend of Bilbo's grandfather on the Took side. That just means he's old. Bilbo (Martin Freeman and Ian Holm), Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Aragon (Viggo Mortensen) would all call him a friend, while almost all respect him. Sometimes he can be too friendly, like with Saruman.

Winner: Gandalf. He's the kind of guy who shows up to the party and just makes it better. Gandalf could mingle with the best of them going from elves to dwarves, or just puff on his pipe in the corner. Oz's schtick would get old pretty quickly.

 

OVERALL WINNER: Gandalf defeats Oz, four to one. Oz talks a big game, but talking is his biggest weapon. Gandalf is a wizard of action. Both Middle-earth and Oz look beautiful on the big screen, but once you get into these movie worlds, Gandalf is the wizard we want, no matter what color.

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