Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) Dir. Sam Raimi
Don’t get fooled. It is far from the story of Dorothy and Toto. It is hardly a story of the origins of Oz either. Under the covers of a well-known tale lurks a mock rom-com. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
Oz (James Franco) is a typical smooth-talker. He goes by the book (the book being How to be a Jerk and Break Girls’ Hearts). He gives away empty promises and unfulfilled hopes like candy. He uses his awkward charm and piercing, penetrating sight to make girls fall for him. Once he conquers their hearts, he loses interest. His main issue is dodging responsibility like Neo dodged bullets in “The Matrix.” He never thinks of the consequences of his actions. It seems fun and games for him. He is an usurper, pretending to be a real magician, a genuine lover, a true wizard. Ironically, by usurping all those positions, he sets into motion a chain of events that lead to the creation (or rather, transition) of the land of Oz as we know it.
Following the footsteps of Don Juan and other libertines and smooth-talkers, he lures into his trap three women: Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams). Theodora is a sweet, innocent witch, whose gullibility is bigger than her red hat. She becomes an easy prey. A look into her doe eyes and one dance is all it takes. She falls in love with Oz and, as a natural consequence of that, she expresses her hopes and expectations for them to be together. He never corrects her. That moment when they dance (her first dance) symbolizes losing her innocence. The movie proves to us that being so naïve and giving away you virtue results in turning into a bitter, scorned witch (could green possibly stand for the girl’s gullibility?).
Evanora is a different case. She poses as an innocent woman, whereas she is cunning and sees through Oz and his cheap tricks. Her impurity and immorality turns out toxic and contagious to people around her, especially her fallen sister, Theodora. In the end, she becomes fooled by Oz’s illusion and gets punished for killing Glinda’s father (yet another man) in a brutal way: her youth and beauty are taken away.
Finally, there is Glinda. She symbolizes goodness and benevolence. Yet, she is also clever, using her charm and innocent looks to work her own agenda. She is also patient and supportive. She believes in Oz though she knows he is not the real wizard. These traits get her the man. The pure, blond, patient girl wins. The dark haired, evil, obnoxious witches lose. Could the message be so crude? It’s almost vulgar to send this kind of message: the guy gets away with the murder, but you, girl, you need to be punished cause you’ve given up your chastity.
The story itself finds a way of presenting the origins of each character. All pieces fall into a nice picture. We buy it why Oz or the Wicked Witch are the way they are. We believe their motives and behavior because they make sense now. However, the ending brings little satisfaction. It feels bland and dull. It doesn’t give us excitement and hibbie jibbies at the thought of Dorothy coming. If you expect magic, be warned. It is only an illusion.
Long days, pleasant nights,