The Horror Honeys: Oz, the Massive Pain in the Ass

Oz, the Massive Pain in the Ass

Grab hold of the big powerful man!
A Revenge Honey "Witch Month" Review with Linnie

Oz, the "Great" and "Powerful" (quotations are Linnie's) (2013)

I'm sure it comes as a surprise that I am reviewing this particular film at all. My disdain for James Franco and his film-ruining smugness is almost as well-known as my love for pictures of puppies dressed like tiny little hipsters. But I also happen to be a life-long fan of L. Frank Baum's "Oz" series of books, having drawn great inspiration from his strong female characters when I was but a wee Honey Bee. You see, Baum was a die-hard feminist and a champion of suffrage, so each of his books was carefully plotted to make sure his female leads (always females) were powerful, clever, and above all else, independent. (You can read a fabulous article on Baum here, which will also address some of my own points).

That is why Sam Raimi's Oz, the Great and Powerful is such a crushing disappointment. It not only fails at achieving an accurate representation of everything Baum tried to do with his life's work, but it's also just a plainly bad, narratively messy, poorly-cast movie.

Sometimes, "pretty" just isn't enough to save a shit movie.
The Story: Oscar Diggs, a con man/liar/serial womanizer, gets swept up in a tornado and dropped in a magical land where he meets three witch sisters, each way too good for him. When he discovers that a prophecy foretold of a wizard coming to save the land of Oz, and that the job comes with a Scrooge McDuck vault full of gold, he lies about his skills and begins macking on the witches, in hopes of scamming the people of Oz into believing that he's the Wizard they've been hoping for. Despite the fact that all three witches are beyond-capable sorceresses, with their own magical powers, Oscar saves the day and scores himself a witch of his own. And there was much rejoicing in Oz that day, as three magical women watched from the sidelines, their stories relegated to but a footnote in a man's boring quest for ego-stroking on an epic level.

Oh, but where to begin. Despite the fact that the Disney-produced Oz, the Great and Powerful was prevented from using any of the MGM-established Oz mythology and could only rely on the Baum books, I find it damn-near impossible to believe that anyone involved with this project bothered to actually read the source material. If they had, they never would have released a film in which three powerful women are robbed of their agency and scammed by a liar and a cheat who is never punished for his reprehensible behavior.

Further, the development of The Wicked Witch of the West is beyond insulting, not just to Baum's memory but to the glorious representations of her in popular culture up until now. The Wicked Witch of the West was never named in her sole Oz outing in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," and in fact, was always a secondary villain to the infamous Nome King. This allowed for MGM to craft their own version of The Wicked Witch of the West in their MGM classic, portrayed brilliantly by Margaret Hamilton, and then later, for Gregory Maguire to make her "Elphaba," a sympathetic character in his novel, "Wicked." Baum never made mention of the Witch's skin color, so again, that was an MGM invention. Thus, imagine my disgust/shock when The Wicked Witch of the West in Oz, the Great and Powerful is Theodora, a powerful witch turned green by her jealousy over the arrival of con man who danced with her, and then began plying his trade on her sisters.

Nothing says, "I am a powerful witch" like tons of cleavage & jealousy
So rather than take the slightest bit of inspiration from Margaret Hamilton or Idina Menzel (the original Elphaba in the musical version of Wicked), Sam Raimi and his screenwriters chose to debase the character by turning her into a cliche of what women are at their worst: jealous, petty, spiteful, and so mean-spirited, they would rather destroy an entire population of people than move on with their lives after a broken heart. Really fucking classy.

Additional Bitter Note: On top of pissing all over the memory of L. Frank Baum's work, a huge portion of Oz, the Great and Powerful is spent deifying Thomas Edison. Excuse me, but this movie was made in 2013. We have known for DECADES that Thomas Edison was a rotten, pet murdering, thieving bastard who not only stole his ideas from Nikolas Tesla, but from dozens of other employees who worked for him, and then passed them off as his own. But I suppose it makes sense, that a sleazy con man with questionable morals would worship another sleazy con man with questionable morals.

Let's move on from the ethics of the movie though, shall we? Sure, Oz, the Great and Powerful is pretty. In fact, it's fucking gorgeous. But that's not enough to hide the fact that it is so unbelivably miscast, that it's utterly distracting. Even removing my feelings about James Franco, he could not have been a worse choice for this part. There is nothing charming about him; when he smiles, he looks downright deranged. And I found it impossible to believe that three powerful witches would fall for one spoonful of his snake oil.

Joey King as the China Girl... The ONLY character I liked.
It doesn't help that the witches are so slight and so underdeveloped, they could practically blow away in a stiff wind. They are collections of cliches: Glinda (Michelle Williams) is so treacly, she will give you diabetes; Theodora (Mila Kunis) is nothing, until she is overcome by jealousy, and then she just screams for an hour; Evanora (Rachel Wesiz) seems like she got lost on her way to the set of a different Disney movie, which is only confirmed by the ridiculous way she is dispatched at the end. The most convincing characters are the ones created by computers, if that's telling you anything.

Her. I liked her. Give HER a movie. Water Fairy, the Great and Powerful
If I haven't made it clear, Oz, the Great and Powerful is a stain on everything L. Frank Baum created over a hundred years ago. Literally, do anything but watch this movie. Read the books. Watch The Wizard of Oz. Buy tickets to Wicked. Watching frigging Return to Oz. ANYTHING else. Just don't. Watch. This. Movie.

Revenge Honey Witch Month Rating: 0 powerful women crafted despite having a 14 book series for inspiration

Don't give Disney money for this movie. Go see The Force Awakens again instead.

Did you grow up on Oz too?
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