Disney may not be the first place you’d go to when looking for an empowering female character, but Oz The Great And The Powerful shafts any progress it may have made with Brave right off the yellow brick road.
It’s a shame that the 1939 version of Wizard Of Oz, with its main female lead refreshingly uninterested in angling for male approval, has been reduced to this repressive state in 2013. Bar her bad sense of direction and love of ridiculous shoes, the original lead, Dorothy, was portrayed with minimal stereotype. Dot strengthened a female franchise of leading ladies that existed beyond the shadows of the male cast . She’s the centre of the story even on a crowded stage of inspired characters crafted from tin, straw and lion fur.
Does he tell the truth about his mediocre talents or, with the promise of gold and a shag, does he thrust his magic wand higher in the air?
Alas, Dorothy has been relegated from the focus of Oz. Now it’s a sleazy fake wizard that seemingly flogs this film better than a lonely girl with a vivid dream.
Granted this prequel is not a rendition of the original. The wizard (James Franco) isn’t actually a wizard. He’s a magician called Oscar Diggs who tries to fool the world (and the ladies) that he can do magic. When this ‘magic’ is needed for something more useful than plucking a bouquet of flowers from a hat, he meets a moral junction. Does he tell the truth about his mediocre talents or, with the promise of gold and a shag, does he continue to thrust his magic wand? We all know it’s the latter.
As he realises his lies could lead to more treasure than he can shove in his hot air balloon, along with the affections of numerous beautiful women, the reward for his deviances shine bright. But we know all that glitters is not gold…
The next two hours show the great and powerful wizard, sorry Oscar, grinning through fake smiles and delivering platitudes to the poor souls he’s managed to cast under his spell. The blinky Theodora (Mila Kunis) is spellbound by his beady eyes and dimply grin. Once she is inevitably scorned, she becomes a creepy old witch in a Hollywood lesson that says – Ladies, don’t mistake your magicians for wizards and gents, careful of turning a woman to a witch.
– Spoiler alert –
The only one to see past the smoke and mirrors is Glenda (Michelle Williams). Yet just when you think she’s in a great position to wring his white rabbit after a bumpy ride of bullsh.. and hot air, she disregards the sleaze and chooses to embrace his humane side, as scarce as that is. Cue smooch.
The obvious lesson Disney is serving up is that the truth is the most powerful force you possess. It’s a shame it comes with the grim subtext that perhaps women need to believe lies and ‘put up, keep up and shut up’ in order to believe in the magic of love.