|James Franco as Oz|
Remember that The Wizard of Oz prequel, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, that was released in theaters a few months ago and was subsequently lambasted by many feminist critics? I recently saw it on DVD and....I kinda liked it.
Note, it's not one of those movies that rocked my world or even made me want to re-watch it. But I did enjoy the time I spent on it. It's gorgeously shot and the story moves fast enough for you to quite literally get swept up in it.
But, from what I gather, folks were hypercritical about the concept of the somewhat doofy male character, Oz (James Franco), being the only one who could rescue a fairyland filled with female witches (of both the good and bad variety). That without him, they were nothing.
That last bit is a slightly hyperbolic sentiment of an already fantastical premise. If you remember from the original film, Oz was always regarded as the savior of man(and creature)kind, the one who can heal them of straw brains and oil-less tin men. If anything, the character could be criticized as being too Christlike. But calling him a misogynist? That just seems unjustified. He certainly thinks he could seduce any woman with his crooked smile and makeshift hocus pocus, but he soon learns that it takes much more than that to gain even false respect.
|(L to R) Evanora and Theodora (Rachel Weisz and MIla Kunis)|
Even Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams), while at times disgustingly pure and precious, is not lacking in wits. Franco pretty much epitomizes the mystical oaf, and Glinda sees right through it and decides to still find something good within him. It's a family movie, like its inspiration. What more can you expect from it?
What I got from the film is its idea of the gap between magic and our beliefs, what is truly good versus what is truly evil. Themes that are borrowed from the 1939 classic that are diluted but still present in this film.
This isn't to say that OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is on the same level as The Wizard of Oz, of course. But it is fascinating to compare how some of the same morals have been adapted for a new audience.
|Glinda (Michelle Williams)|
It's no secret that films of yesteryear often depicted the unjust values we still fight to overcome today. So the idea of, say, a woman in an inferior position looking to a man for help or even validation didn't cause as much of an uprising as it would today. But in 2013? It becomes a real bra-burning moment.
While a mediocre film in and of itself, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL at least does a fair job interpreting its female characters. They are all stand alone interesting to watch, even if none are thoroughly developed. Ultimately, they are all wiser than the shady male protagonist, even when he thinks he's one-upped them (once they open their eyes, they all know better than than that). By the latter half of the film, they all come off capable and think for themselves, which is a lot more than some romantic comedies today can claim.
But the title of the movie should suggest that it's really not about them anyway. It was about the rather elusive wizard who we knew little about in the original film. It illuminates his story, for better or worse.
OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is now on DVD and Blu-Ray.