NOT COMICS :: An Impassioned Review of OZ: The Great and Powerful

March 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm By:

ALL HAIL (a FILM without) DOROTHY

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,  and those opinions are valid, but let me be crystal clear here… in the case of OZ, the Great and Powerful, those great and powerful movie critics are (for the most part) wrong, wrong, wrong.  This is a film that delivers pure movie magic and provides some much needed myth-remaking for the next generation of film aficionados.

Now there is not a snowballs chance in the Impassable Desert that anyone over a certain age can watch the film without comparing it to the 1939 classic musical, The Wizard of Oz.  Instead of creating a pastiche or homage to that Technicolor treasure, director Sam Raimi and his writers take Victor Fleming’s vision of L. Frank Baum’s magical world and infuse it with a new vitality.  Apparently, there are many viewers out there who believe strongly that there are some things that should never be tampered with.

And here is where I disagree.  I grew up watching the WoO and loving it, but the older I got, the weirder the experience became.  The Munchkins made me extremely uncomfortable. The poppies/snow business was always more than a bit strange.  Dorothy was not a little girl no matter how hard MGM tried to corset the great Judy Garland down to size.  What gave Dorothy the right to the ruby slippers?  Did the Wicked witch of the East die intestate?  And Glinda—what was her deal—and the helium she used to float her bubble really affected her speaking voice.  A classic is a classic, but times change.  To younger eyes the MGM Oz looks old fashioned and really fake.  My daughter feigned any interest in the original and today, whenever I catch the film,  I see the tragic fate of Judy Garland unfold in front of our eyes.

I can’t help thinking that most critics did not give the new movie a fair shake for the following reasons…

  • There is no Judy Garland
  • You pretty much know how the film will end
  • OZ is a really dangerous, not particularly likeable place.
  • There were no great songs by Arlen and Harburg
  • Instead of the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and tin Man, we get two characters that were CGI.
  • In order for OZ to become great and powerful, he has to be somewhat disreputable to start
  • They hate the idea of Disney getting a piece of yet another archetype.
  • And of course there is no Judy Garland singing the great songs of Arlen and Harburg
  • Did I mention the lack of Judy Garland?

HOWEVER, Oz the Great Powerful does provide

  • A truly fleshed out imaginary world; there are no badly painted phony back-drops.
  • Flying simians that are given a really scary upgrade.
  • Respect for the little people. In fact, we even get a few Munchkin heroes.
  • The beautiful and talented Michelle Williams who replaces the annoying, cloying Billie Burke—(however, Miss William’s version of Glinda the Good is every bit as manipulative as the MGM Original.)

We comic book fans are used to re-boots.  I am a firm believer that all the classic tales require a re-imagination every generation or so.  Sometimes it works and sometimes you get another mediocre Robin Hood or another un-watchable Three Musketeers. But time marches on—seasons change, Empires strike back and we just can’t expect our kids to feel the same nostalgia we feel when there is are tales to be told and CGI to manipulate our senses.

Everyone in the Heroes camp loves a good origin story– especially when the story pulls out that old superhero chestnut of the protagonist being responsible for the creation of his own arch enemy. But there is quite a bit more– this prequel  delivers a number of clever teasers:   hints of the back-story for the Scarecrow, The Tin Man, the Lion and even back in Sepia, Kansas, Dorothy Gale herself

Now, to be fair, the film is not perfect.  I don’t care for most 3D effects with the exceptions of HUGO and AVATAR…and OZ is not another exception.  But, the 3D shenanigans did not detract from the film and the audience I was with seemed to enjoy the effects immensely.

I am known for reading a lot (some have the audacity to suggest—way too much) into genre fiction, so I will keep this brief and stay on point.  But if anyone is interested to hear my theories about the OZ movies and feminism (something else I feel most critics got wrong as well)  I will be happy to discuss it at length with any takers.

But here is the bottom line…go and see OZ the Great and Powerful, take your kids and enjoy it.  It doesn’t undermine the 1939 classic, it helps expand and solidify the old gem.  And it is a delight.

 

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