So I've seen a quote going around by Joe Roth, producer of Oz The Great And Powerful, about how Disney has been looking for a "boys' fairy tale" and said movie fits the criteria. Naturally, this has given tumblr opportunity to do the two things it loves best: observing that life isn't fair, and complaining about it. However! I have actually been reading a book on this very subject, so let me explain you a few things.( Read more... )
But enough about all that. How is Oz The Great And Powerful, the movie itself? Well, that's more of a mixed bag. While I completely support Sam Raimi's decision to make a movie about a white male huckster WHO MANAGED TO MAKE HIMSELF GOD OF A MAGICAL KINGDOM, since that's slightly interesting (and c'mon, there've been how many 'feminist reimaginings' of everything under the sun? It cuts both ways), the actual product is hamstrung by having to be Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland Part 2: How Can You BE SURE Johnny Depp Isn't Under Make-Up Somewhere? for the Disney Overlords and not Sam Raimi Presents: Charming Douches And A-Team Inventions.
So there has to be some lip service epic fantasy bullshit, like a prophecy foretelling James Franco doing stuff. To its credit, the movie never shoves his character into armor and demands an epic CGI battle scene, instead having a finale where the hero—gosh!—uses his wits and cunning to defeat the bad guys instead of just carving them up with a big honking sword. But it also tries to have it both ways, which renders the movie almost meaningless. I'm going to get into some spoiler territory, because this has to do with the Wicked Witch of the West.
Alright, so in the opening it's made clear that James Franco is a poonhound, so you'd think this would end up being considered a character flaw, cause trouble for him, and he'd learn his lesson. And it… really doesn't. Instead, this happens.
Franco: Man oh man, do I love pussy.
Mila Kunis: Hello, I am an innocent and emotionally callow young woman who is into you.
Franco: Man, I'm such a man-slut, I am going to… use a lame pick-up line on you!
Franco: Would you like to dance?
Mila Kunis: Yes, I would like to GET MARRIED AND HAVE YOUR BABIES AND GROW OLD WITH YOU AND THEN WHICHEVER ONE OF US DIES FIRST WILL HAVE THE OTHER BURIED WITH THEM.
Franco: Ho shit, LEVEL FIVE CLINGER!
Audience: Ah, I see, he's going to cheat on her and that's going to make her turn into the Wicked Witch.
Franco: Actually, I'm a hundred percent faithful to her.
Rachel Weisz: And I'm just going to lie about James Franco being a giant cock-ho, even though he is, to get Mila Kunis to turn evil.
Mila Kunis: James Franco cheated on me? Quick, give me the apple that turns me irredeemably evil!
Rachel Weisz: Here ya go, sis.
Mila Kunis: Thanks, WAIT A MINUTE, NOW THAT I'M EVIL, I REALIZE YOU'VE BEEN LYING TO ME ALL ALONG.
Rachel Weisz: Yeah. In this movie, good is literally equated with dumb. So, now that you know James Franco really didn't do anything wrong--
Mila Kunis: I HATE HIM WITH THE FORCE OF A THOUSAND SUNS! I WILL BATHE IN HIS BLOOD! I WILL PUNCH HIM IN THE DICK UNTIL HE FINALLY EXPLAINS WHAT IS UP WITH ALL THE HOMOEROTICISM!
Sidenote—I know Robert Downey Jr. was up for the same role Franco got, but I'm pretty glad they didn't go that route. It'd be hard to see fifty-something RTD seduce a specifically young and impressionable Mila Kunis and not get real uncomfortable.
It's the same problem with Once Upon A Time, another Disney product, where they want the villain to be sympathetic and have an understandable position, but they don't want them to have actually been wronged by the hero, since that would mean the hero did something WRONG. Just like in Super 8, where the guy that Kyle Chandler blames for killing his wife did nothing more than call in sick to work. I guess it's meant to make the heroes more sympathetic, but if we're expected to feel sympathy for the villains despite the MANY HORRIBLE, EVIL THINGS THEY DO, you think we could be trusted to feel sympathy for a hero even if he or she makes a mistake or does something wrong, then tries to make amends.
By the way, considering how insane Disney is about copyright, how hypocritical is it that they're basically doing a fan film prequel to an entirely different company's Wizard of Oz? I doubt they'd be so understanding if, fifty years from now, someone made 'Captain Jack Sparrow' about how a charming huckster became captain of a pirate ship BASED ENTIRELY OFF THE ACTUAL PIRATES WHO COMMITED CRIMES IN THE CARIBBEAN SEA with some coincidental similarities to previous cinematic portrayals of said pirates.
There is some hinky sexual politics, which is to be expected of Raimi, since that dude confuses the shit out of me. Okay, you make Drag Me To Hell, all about how a woman deserves to be condemned to hell for a mistake she was pressured to make and acknowledges is wrong, then you make twenty movies about men who make far worse mistakes and get happy endings? Then you also make a bunch of TV shows about badass women with agency and ass-kicking and sisterhood? Damnit, can you either be misogynistic or feminist? Just pick one!
But, just to point out how fickle this can be, I think most of the criticism would go away if the (never seen and rarely mentioned) king who prophesized Franco showing up had instead been a queen. You could make the change entirely in ADR and all the "loaded symbolism" would just disappear. Besides which, Franco actually ends up a figurehead to Glinda's government.
Hmm… a charming but inexperienced 'ruler' who has no real aptitude except for a nebulous ability to inspire 'hope', which is to say he's just not the wicked witch that is the only other option. Wonder if there's meant to be a political subtext there.
Now I'm just going to note that when the trailers came out, I wrote a fanfic where Evanora was domming the hell out of Theodora, despite the fact that they're sisters, under the impression that of course a Disney movie would never have something that perverted. And, uh… somehow that fic got transported back in time to Rachel Weisz's copy of the script, because she absolutely plays the entire movie like she's enormously gay for her sisters. Not even kidding a little.
Rachel Weisz on Theodora: Eat this delicious apple and you can be queen at my side. Then I'll lick it after you take a bite of it. SUBTEXT MOTHERFUCKER.
Rachel Weisz on Glinda: I will take all of your light and replace it with my darkness. My big, black, vibrating darkness with the ridged head that feels so good.
Rachel Weisz on James Franco: EWW BOY-COOTIES THEODORA WHAT DO YOU SEE IN HIM HE IS SO GROSS WHY AREN'T WE SNUGGLING RIGHT NOW?
I'm serious now. Evanora's entire motivation is power, to the extent that she's willing to kill her father and sister to be king of the hill—except for her other sister, Theodora, who she specifically asks to rule at her side. It basically took my ridiculously perverted hopes for how femslashy a children's movie could be and said "No, no. GAYER.
" So if you see this movie, I'm expecting you to write fic where the ladies give each other quick magical makeovers and then broom sex. And possibly dub-conned Glinda.
Really, literally her first thought when Theodora turns green is "OH NO YOU ARE NOT PRETTY ANYMORE. I MUST RESTORE THE PRETTY. OTHERWISE HOW CAN WE GAZE AT EACH OTHER WITH THE LUST OF A THOUSAND HARLEQUIN ROMANCES?"
Anyway, I have to do a stupid online defensive driving course (that baby swerved in front of ME, everyone saw it), so if you want to hit me up to discuss Evanora's incredible gayness, I'm at Sirius12xxln on AIM.