Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful

Yay, catch up week. Nothing new is going on with me. I'm still working my temporary job, and things are going as well as they could be. I finally watched "Oz the Great and Powerful" the other night. I was hesitant to see it since I'd heard so many negative things about it, and I'm sad to say I wasn't wrong in my expectations. I wanted to post my review of it because there are just some movies that are made that make me wonder how anyone could have thought they'd had a good storyline.

The main problem with Oz the Great and Powerful is the main character (Oscar, or Oz for short) is ultimately unlikable. We are introduced to him as a con-artist. He works as a magician and takes more than his fair share of the proceeds, is flippant with his helpers, and is constantly winning over women in ways that are just insulting to the intelligence of women.

SLIGHT DEVIATING RANT

Every single girl he comes across is given the identical music box and is told it was the possession of his deceased grandmother who fought in a painfully obvious made-up battle in a war that took place when women weren't allowed to fight. Really, due? This works for you? Where do you find these brain-dead women?

There were reviews that claimed this movie as incredibly sexist, mostly because the three most powerful women in Oz are looking for a man to save them. While I have no desire to jump on that bandwagon, Oscar's come-ons make it hard for me not to question the mindset of the writer. 

Oscar's plays shouldn't work, but they do. And the fact that these women actually believe such ridiculous and obvious lies makes me wonder. Did the writer think this would be funny? Because it's not. It just makes me want to gag myself. I was jumping up and down in my seat when Glinda finally entered the picture because she's the only woman he puts the moves on who doesn't fall for it.

SLIGHT DEVIATING RANT OVER

Oscar gets a little credit when his long-term sweetheart appears. Turns out she's been offered a proposal in marriage, and she came to get his thoughts on the matter. He tells her to accept the proposal on the grounds that she deserves better than him. But this otherwise applaudable moment is brought down with the girl's insistence that she believes he could be better if he wanted to be. The fact that she knows all of his dirty secrets and still wants him because she believes he could be better is just too reminiscent of women in abusive relationships. I want that girl to run out of there and never look back.
Due to Oscar's nature with women, an unhappy boyfriend appears with the intent to rip him limb from limb, and Oscar escapes by getting into a hot air balloon that is sucked into a tornado that takes him to Oz. Once there, he discovers there was a prophecy about a wizard coming to Oz from a far away land who will save the kingdom from the wicked witch. Naturally, everyone believes Oscar is this man.

Obviously this is supposed to be a redemption story, but one of the flaws is the redemption takes too long. Oscar starts his journey in the land of Oz with the same greedy, womanizing nature he's had the whole beginning of the movie, fully taking advantage of whom the people believe him to be. As a viewer, I don't like him, I don't like his actions, and I cannot enjoy a movie where I want to slap the main character every five seconds.
About halfway through the movie Oscar finally meets up with Glinda who is the only person in Oz who sees him for exactly who he is and isn't afraid to let him know it. Glinda knows he's a fraud, but she also knows the people believe in him, and she knows that belief can go a long way. She convinces Oscar to help her rally the people so they can be led against the wicked witch to take back the throne.

(This is why the sexism argument doesn't work for me. It's Glinda's quick thinking and ingenuity that saves Oz. Though she needed Oscar's training in illusion and misdirection to do it, and just because she steps into the background and let's Oscar take all the credit, does not mean that she wasn't the one pulling all the strings all along. Oscar never could have been motivated to save Oz without Glinda's guidance, and there's no way he could have faced the wicked witch one on one and cast her out as Glinda does. The way I see it, Glinda is the real savior here, Oscar's just a tool.)

Glinda and Oscar work together, and when he has the chance to chicken out he sticks it through, and he even manages to make some friends. Things turn around for him, and this is the place where his character-changing redemption should come through, but ultimately the redemption story falls flat because of a certain wicked witch.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT

When Oscar arrives in Oz, he meets a young witch named Theodora. She believes him to be the prophesized wizard and is excited to take him to Emerald City. On the way, Oscar wins her over and, according to some online speculation, may even sleep with her. After one night of meeting this man, Theodora is convinced the two of them are going to spend the rest of their lives together. This is very awkward for Oscar since of course he wasn’t intending on anything but playing her. He does nothing to disillusion her however, and brushes the whole thing off with the notion that she’ll forget all about him once he gets as far away from her as possible.
Later, Theodora's sister, Evanora (and current caretaker of Emerald City), lies to Theodora and alludes that Oscar had spent that night with her. Theodora is crushed, and in a moment of anguish, Evanora convinces Theodora to curse herself so that all the pain she is feeling (along with all the goodness in her) will go away. Theodora agrees, and as her heart is "withered away," she becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.

It is hinted that Theodora had some wickedness in her to begin with, but all we see of it is one instance where she gets angry and lets a fire ball lose. This does not exemplify wickedness, just a girl who has trouble controlling her emotions. Ultimately, Theodora is characterized in near complete innocence. Her transformation can be seen as pure manipulation on the part of Oscar and Evanora. And that's why the redemption story doesn't work.

Theodora's transformation from an innocent young woman to the wickedest witch there ever lived does not endear me Oscar in the slightest. Regardless of any other factors, he is at least in part responsible for what happened to her. He chose to play with the delicate feelings of a na├»ve girl and then cast them aside as though they meant nothing to him (as he has done with countless other women), and he never owns up to this fact. The movie may end with him making friends and becoming a generally more likable person, but the fact that he puts the moves on Glinda at the end of the movie just reinforces the sinking feeling that he ultimately changed very little from his time in Oz.

SPOILERS OVER: IT IS SAFE TO CONTINUE

The movie completely neglects to do the frame story where Oscar would wake up and realize he had been dreaming and that all the key people in his life had been in the dream. I think if the movie had done this, a lot could have been accomplished in the way of his redemption. Perhaps he goes after his sweetheart (whose double is Glinda in Oz), or apologizes to his working partner (who doubles as the monkey he befriends) for treating him so horribly. He could even own up to the women he's been manipulating, which would show at least some understanding of how his womanizing actions were wrong and could make up at least a little for what happened to Theodora.

The movie does have elements of a dream, such as him putting the china girl doll back together being reminiscent of the cripple girl who saw his magic show and asked him to make her walk. But without the frame story where we see how his ordinary life changes, we don't ultimately see him learn from his experience in Oz. He changes, yes, and grows. But has he truly become a different man, one the audience can like? Does he truly embody "goodness" as Glinda claims? Does he become the "great man" the people of Oz were looking for and the audience was expecting by the end of the movie?
The ultimate answer is no. The movie does have some good elements, but the redemption story is too week for those elements to follow through. And that's why the movie falls on its face. Its namesake simply doesn’t hold.

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