Thursday, March 14. 2013
Or, perhaps more honestly, Oz - the rather predictable, annoying but with some very nice touches.
It starts in black and white and turns colour when he goes to Oz. Mary, his possible love in Kansas, wears a gingham dress, the cut of which you've seen before. Both excellent touches.
The betrayal of love that forms one of the turning points of the film is very believably set up and played through. The way that foreshadows parts of the Judy Garland movie is not surprising I guess but still nicely handled. Actually it's one of the few really nicely handled bits of significant plot and character development.
And some little things like the creation of the tin men and scarecrows, at least their implicit creation, were well done.
There are moments that play towards the "head trauma and it's all a dream" of Wizard of Oz too, particularly the way that Oz plays nicely to his deepest wants and fantasies although only a few of the characters seem to cross over and there are chances for others to cross over too. Although, of course, we know he stays in Oz to be there when Dorothy comes along in a few decades which makes it harder to take Oz (for both) as anything other than a parallel world.
Then the bad.
I personally wasn't annoyed by this because they have to cast Glinda as a blonde given the other movie, but there did seem to be a reinforcement of the "brunettes are evil, blondes must be good" stereotype. As soon as they saw Glinda, they realised they'd made a terrible mistake and she must be good because... well nothing beyond the fact she was blonde basically. OK, she's also a cross over character so she reminded the wizard of someone else which might have given him pause but his allies at that time were instantly persuaded she was the good one too - despite the accusations of patricide and throwing Oz into chaos. I'm sure it would stand up in court - "I can't be guilty of killing anyone your honour, I'm a blonde" that'll work won't it? Actually, back in Kansas they had the same - he would seduce brunettes for fun, but the woman he loved was a blonde. Adding that realisation makes me more annoyed about the "blondes are good" as portrayed in the film.
I also object to the casting of Glinda. We know what she looks like in the other movie. I'm sure it's hard to cast someone who is her double, but there must be a lot of women who look a lot closer to the original Glinda than this one. Wrong hair colour, wrong shape of face, wrong shape of mouth - bad, bad, bad. Hair colour is surely just a case of dye or a wig too, so that's lazy as well as bad. I thought she acted the role she was given well enough so there's certainly no objection on those grounds, just I couldn't believe the one would grow into the other. The younger wizard I more or less believe could grow up to the older, certainly I did during the film. I also found the appearance of The Wicked Witch of the West worked at the time, although checking later she's not incredibly close in shape of face either.
Then the plot holes. Let us start with the holes around the "real wicked witch" who, it is established early and clearly and several times over, is a schemer, a planner. She's more than content to wait for things to fall into place before executing her plan. Her plan is also working well so she clearly plans well and effectively too. So why, as soon as her plan starts falling into place does she fly off the handle and forget things that make her look stupid and incompetent? I'm not going to list them here, in case you do go see it, but there are several and while one might have been OK, putting so many in there was bad.
They also lay down that blind faith and public opinion will overcome anything. Including a well laid plan and the weight of arms. Tiananmen Square anyone? How well did it work out there? Popular revolutions can work but they tend to rely heavily on more than smoke and mirrors and faith. Why is the land of Oz so different?
And finally on plot holes, prequelitis kicks in. It's always hard with a prequel because you know where you're ending up. Trying to establish tension can be tricky - "OMG are they going to kill Glinda?" Well no, duh - she's in the Judy Garland movie after all. "OMG, is the wiz going to flee like a coward?" Duh... what's the other film called? What do you think?
Then we have the characterisation of the wizard himself. He's a B-grade illusionist and serial seducer with the corniest lines you've ever heard and without the skills to get away cleanly - the circus moving on saves him each time. He desires wealth and greatness above all. This is all well established and played believably by Franco. Unfortunately it makes his transformation into the wizard implausible. He suddenly becomes brave, committed and a good leader. He even has a cunning plan or two up his sleeve. Yes, people can change. But this radically, this quickly, without an obvious trigger? Stretching credulity beyond my personal breaking point.
This film is a nice idea. Some of the problems can't be avoided although better scripting might not attempt to create such big tension around points where you know the answer already. Better scripting would hopefully have toned down the early characterisation of the wizard so his transformation isn't so bad later on and they'd have implanted a good trigger for his change. They wouldn't completely throw out the characterisation of the 'real wicked witch' they'd built up either - the wiz would have to come up with a more cunning plan, yes, but he is portrayed as cunning so that would be OK. They took a battered, rackety old car, slapped some new paint and tyres on and tried to sell it as new. Unfortunately the dents, rust and the like weren't covered nor was the fact that it was missing an engine. Disappointing but pretty.
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