Thursday, 11 April 2013

Movie review: Oz the Great and Powerful

I've been meaning to review this movie for some time now, and it's been out a while and kind of old, but as usual I was too busy to be timely about it. But, on the Interwebs, it is never too late!

This movie is an attempt to revisit the L. Frank Baum Wizard of Oz story as a prequel, focusing on the initial arrival of the Wizard---presented as a circus magic show charlatan, womanizer, and swindler---by balloon. The basic thematic arc of the story focuses on the Wizard's self-realization that he is hollow inside and his subsequent to redeem himself by becoming the champion of the people of Oz against the despotic Wicked Witches of West and East---all the while still being a charlatan, incapable of real magic. (Because, you know, the real magic? It is inside! In the Human Spirit! *places hand on heart* Have you not watched enough Disney cartoons to have known that?)

So, it was visually very pretty, yet another triumph of CGI and artwork. No, it really is. Worth the price of admission, actually. I can't say much about the acting, because I saw it dubbed in another language. The dubbers were pretty good, though.

But here is my problem: I am a totally corrupted, unreliable reviewer for this movie. Reason why? Because I can't help but watch it through the prism of Gregory Maguire's excellent take on the Oz phenomenon, WICKED: the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I have read this book twice and seen the famous musical twice also, and dBO knows that I can't say enough good things about it. WICKED, for those who don't know the book, portrays the Wicked Witch of the West as a frustrated social reformer, trying to maintain her integrity in the face of a genocidal power politics played in large part by a despotic, Hitleriffic-yet-banal Wizard.

And because I have read WICKED, I really wanted to see this movie. How well would an Oz movie from the perspective of the Wizard fit a hypothetical propaganda film of the despot in WICKED? And the truth is, quite well. Change the names a little bit, and this is very nearly exactly the film I would have made if I were Maguire's Wizard, to excuse my own failings and scapegoat the Witches. This movie deploys the sexist tropes of Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned in explaining the righteous anger of the Witch of the West, Only A Man Can Restore Balance By Ascending The Throne to explain why the Wizard is necessary in Oz at all, and last of all, BEAUTY Catfight to explain the conflict between the Good Witch Glinda and the Wicked Witches. The people of Oz are portrayed as goofy, hapless, incapable in the face of the Wizard's heroic hypercompetence. So yeah, the Wizard is an interloper from another world, and not a good man either, but...people can change, right? They just need to be put in charge and allowed to do their thing. I mean, the Wizard's personal failings are the same qualities that Oz needs in a leader, nay, they are exactly what a leader of Oz needs to dispel the beautiful nymphomaniacs who rule it unjustly, and his rakish James Franco handsomeness? Glinda is falling all over herself for that, her years of apparent resistance merely a placeholder...

So yeah. Much of this is merely the danger of "Arriving Prophecied Ruler" fantasies. Tolkien avoided this by making the primary perspective the little people. Putting it from the perspective of said arriving ruler leads to all kinds of problems.

And anyway, I was a little too jaded to accept this movie, as I said. It also looks, *sigh*, very sequelly, especially since the Wizard generously offers the unreasonable Wicked Witch of the West the opportunity to redeem herself and come back to him (as part of his wizardly seraglio or something?), and she spitefully flies off rejecting it, like Dr. Claw telling Inspector Gadget and the end of every episode, "I'll get you NEXT TIME Gadget, NEXT TIME!" as he flies off in a stream of polluting black smoke. (Stroking his Evil Cat, for those of you who know this Saturday morning cartoon reference.)

Since we just had Les Misérables movified, I suppose it's too soon for a big-screen WICKED, but it would be a welcome antidote.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Nice review, Mandos!

Good to see you around the interwebs again.

deBeauxOs said...

Wicked is wicked! I loved, loved it. And I read it upon your recommendation, Mandos.

Here's a link to the movie reviewed: Oz the Great and Powerful

Námo Mandos said...

Thunderous One: I've been around, just spread a little thinly :)

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