Sunday, April 14, 2013

DISABILITY IN THE MOVIES: A REVIEW OF OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL


OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL:

Oz: "I might not actually be a wizard..."

Glinda: "Yes, but they don't know that."



Oscar Diggs is a bombastic carnival magician in 1905 in the midst of a levitation trick. He woos the audience by cutting down visible wires and yet his assistant still “floats”. When suddenly, a little girl in a wheelchair has a request: “Make me walk.” But, the once-proud magician is flummoxed. He’s a fraud. He can’t do it. Close curtain. He then goes back to being a selfish womanizer backstage, despite the fact that he really does want to be a good man. A GREAT MAN.

    His opportunity comes when he is whisked off via tornado while escaping the wrath of a jealous carnival strongman to the Land of Oz, where he’s greeted by a charming witch, told where he is, and to beware the flying monkeys and river faeries. He’s a bit na├»ve, so he’s promptly attacked by both. And then, he’s betrayed by the witch, who thinks the Good witch is the bad witch. Yes, he does it all for money even though he knows he’s not a real wizard.

The interesting part for me, is the friends he makes along the way.  The rest seems straight out of World of Warcraft. See, he saves a good flying monkey named Flynn. As in The Wizard of Oz, each companion I believe symbolizes a real world companion and Oz is it’s psychological counterpart in the imagination. So, Finley is actually Frank, his stagehand and assistant, who he never respected, but here he becomes good friends with. When their adventure leads them to China Town (Where everything and everyone is made of fragile China.) he encounters the seemingly David Bowie-inspired Little China Girl who lost her legs when the flying primates attacked. She’s the little girl in the wheelchair.

   It’d be easy for me to be offended when Oscar/Oz glues her legs back on, but this is his adventure. He wanted to help the girl in the wheelchair, but he couldn’t so in his mind he made her the Little China Girl. That’s part of his quest to discover he’s a great man. In fact, it’s the China Girl who later asks if there are any real wizards where he comes from, and he responds Thomas Alva Edison; which gives him the idea to become Oz The Great And Powerful. True, there is an element of pity in the depiction of disability, but it is the disabled characters that inspire him to use technology to defeat the witches, overcome his own limits, and become great.

As I said, the rest of the movie seems straight out of World of Warcraft with Oz and munchkins using fireworks and a steam machine to make him appear as The Wizard of Oz. I kept waiting for James Franco to say: “I am Oz! The great and powerful!” but it never happens, so instead we get: “It is I, the great and powerful Wizard of Oz!” and I had to think, “Does MGM have that phrase copyrighted?” I mean, the title is Oz the Great and Powerful, so it would’ve fit perfect in just that way. But, it never comes. For shame!

    There are some great homages to the original 1939 Wizard of Oz, such as the black and white film beginning in Kansas (But, never once do we hear that he’s not in Kansas anymore!) or the Poppy Fields being an important battleground. But overall, it reminds me of Oz-cum-World of Warcraft, with Mila Kunis’s green-skinned witch standing in for an orc, and munchkins for gnomish tinkers.

Entertaining and heavy on the “anything’s possible theme”, but also nice to see some disabled main characters, and side characters as well. (The Powerchair Munchkin Tinker!) Cheesy, yes, but sometimes we need to believe in ourselves to become great! Or just have flying monkey battles! Whichever you prefer…like an old-time carnival attraction, it’s got a little something for everyone!

    "Make me walk."    
                               

"I want to come with you!"

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Chris. Don’t expect to see the classic in top-form, just expect to see something like it, be happy, click your ruby slippers three times, and have a grand time. That’s what happened to me.

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