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*CONTAINS SPOILERS, IN CASE YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO GO SEE THIS ATROCITY*
As a hardcore Wicked fan, I have been dreading this movie. I couldn’t help but feel, from the time I found out that it was in production, that this was the Disney/ABC empire’s way of trying to capitalize on all the success that Wicked has seen over the past several years. After shelling out the cash to go see Oz yesterday, I can say that it is not the horrific rip-off of my beloved musical that I expected. However, it is complete offense to Baum’s vision of Oz, to storytelling in general, and to women everywhere. Let me break it down.
- The animation sequence for the opening credits. This was amazing. It was so seriously charming and Ozian that I actually had some hope for the movie.
- The tornado. Okay, so I’m a severe weather geek in the worst way. (My fascination with tornadoes began, ironically enough, with an animated version of The Wizard of Oz that I used to watch as a child.) I’ve read accounts of people who have actually been picked up by the funnel of a tornado and set back down unharmed, and they describe it as a completely otherworldly, almost peaceful experience. At first, there’s all kinds of debris flying at Oz’s balloon, then there’s a moment when it all stops. He stands up, looks around, and he’s still inside the vortex. For a few moments, there’s an eerie calm. Then a circus trailer comes flying at the balloon and it’s back to mortal peril. I really appreciated how that was done.
- Little China Doll. Seriously, she is the most adorable character ever and I just want to pick her up and cuddle her senseless. Though I wish she actually had a name, because everyone in her village was made of China. I’m sure her family called her something before they were destroyed.
- One dimensional characters. Not a single player in the story had any kind of depth to them. The film was meant to be carried entirely by spectacle. Our supposed protagonist has absolutely NO character development. He might show brief moments of compassion, when we are supposed to believe that he’s changed for the better, but it’s entirely unconvincing and at the end of the movie, he is still very much the same selfish bastard he started out as.
- The acting. The cast may not have been given much to work with, but it seems like they didn’t even TRY.
- The CGI. For such a high budget movie, there were far too many times when the use of a green screen was obvious. The characters did not seem to blend into their surroundings.
- First of all: Patriarchal Oz like whoa. Before the Wizard came, there was not an Ozma or Ozma Regent, but a noble king who was Glinda’s father. Of course, the Witches needed a new king to put things back in order, because we all know that a bunch of silly women can’t rule a country on their own. Glinda admits that she KNOWS Oz is a self-centered phony from the time that she meets him - and unlike him, she has real, legit power - yet she somehow still needs him to rally her people and save Oz from the Wicked Witches. And so, a sorry excuse of a man is still a better leader than a woman who is more than qualified for the job.
- The transformation of the Wicked Witch of the West, known as Theodora. When we first meet her, she is a Good Witch, blissfully ignorant of her own sister’s evil. She genuinely believes that Oz has come to fulfill a prophecy and be the salvation of her people. And then Oz does the same thing that he did with all the women he knew back in Kansas: he totally plays her.
Theodora is heartbroken, and so her power-hungry sister Evanora (the Wicked Witch of the East) gives her an enchanted apple which is supposed to take the pain away. Whilst draining Theodora of any of her goodness, it turns her into the green atrocity we know from the original WOO. She feels nothing but anger and spite at the man who spurned her and cares for nothing but revenge.
At the end of the movie when Theodora is fleeing the Emerald City, Oz briefly acknowledges his fault, telling Theodora that she is welcome to return to Oz if she ever rediscovers the goodness in her heart. She shouts “NEVER!” and flies off cackling, therefore relieving Oz of any responsibility for his womanizing ways. And immediately thereafter, he is womanizing Glinda.
The moral of the story, obviously, is that women are weak and singularly motivated by love.
- The movie, despite the number of female characters, DOES NOT pass the Bechdel test. The test can be summed up by three questions. 1. Is there more than one named female character? 2. Do these female characters speak to each other? 3. Is the subject of the conversation something other than a man?
- The Munchkins, particularly Nook, who is the most prevalent Munchkin in the story. Nook is also black. We only ever see Nook from the perspective of being above him — looking down through the camera. Psychologically, this creates the perception that his character is inferior. Nook and the rest of the Munchkins are used only for comic relief. Yes, that’s the way it was in the original WOO as well, but this is 2013… not 1930.
- In her final face-off with Evanora, Glinda transforms her to be just as ugly has her sister (albeit, not green.) Continuation of the trope that good people are beautiful and bad people are ugly.
- At one point Oz is tucking China Doll into bed and talking to her about Thomas Edison, how he created the electric light, and how he aspires to be “that kind of Wizard.” We notice, immediately, the seemingly-electric lamp plugged in on the nightstand.
- Evanora has an accent. Theodora doesn’t. They’re sisters.
- “I will defy you!” The one bizarre nod to Wicked, shouted at Oz by Theodora during the final battle. Only, Elphaba was defying a corrupt and oppressive leader. Theodora is just defying some guy that hurt her feelings.
- “It’s really tight in here.” Glinda’s comment when Oz has her step inside his booth, which is laced with ALL the innuendo in the world. Cue riotous, inappropriate laughter from me, my girlfriend and our two friends. Five seconds later, we realize we are the only people in the theater who are laughing, and everyone is looking at us. AWKWARD.
- The fact that the majority of the people at the movie clapped at the end. I don’t expect everyone to know their Oz cannon as well as I do, but I do wish they’d be a bit more critical of what they’re watching.