Saturday, March 15, 2014


Though I sometimes explore gender issues in my film-criticism, I wasn't moved to do so in my review of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. 

However, such was not the case with some contemporary reviewers, as can be seen in this review.  In this review Elisabeth Rappe takes issue with the Sam Raimi flick, arguing that GREAT AND POWERFUL is a "major step back" from the Oz books of originator L. Frank Baum.  Rappe says of Baum:

Though Baum brushed off claims that Oz was at all political, he made a decided choice to make women front and center of the series. They’re princesses, ordinary farmgirls, witches (both good and bad), rag dolls, generals, pastry chefs, and problem-solving faeries. They have adventures, lead search parties, rescue one another, solve difficulties, and challenge the Nome King in combat.
She contrasts this to the Raimi take on Oz:

 With such a rich tapestry on and off the Oz page, it’s depressing that 2013 finds our return to Oz burdened with a reluctant hero (the dominant kind in the 21st century), and not one of Baum’s plucky young heroines. In a bitter reversal of Baum’s stories, “Great and Powerful” casts the women as the sidekicks, standing by to aid the Wizard should he need it. No longer instigators of action, the witches Glinda, Theodora, and Evanora now clasp their hands at arrival, thrilled the prophesied hero has arrived (“Aren’t you the great man we’ve been waiting for?” asks Theodora, voice trembling. Actually, all the female dialogue seems to be on the wobbly verge of tears). 
As my review should make clear, the movie in question has far more problems with it than gender issues.  I don't think Rappe's ideological argument is adequate: it's tantamount to saying that ideology must inform even our wildest fantasies.  Though I don't think Raimi's film is very good, I think it fails because of a lack of imagination first and foremost.  It may be argued that he shouldn't have aided in the concoction of a script that goes against the originator's sensibilities, but in the world of mainstream Hollywood, fidelity to an original writer is neither probable nor necessarily feasible.  His "gender issues" may just come down to his having nothing memorable to say about feminine empowerment in this particular film-- though of course elsewhere in his career he did wield a certain amount of positive effect in producing the fantasy teleseries XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS.

On the other hand, I also came across a comment on another forum in which one viewer of the film expressed complete distaste with making any interpretations of fantasy-entertainment.  For this viewer, any interpretation spoiled the experience.

I wouldn't go quite that far either.  As viewers of any entertainment-- or even creators of same-- we can't avoid some ideological extrapolations.  It's part and parcel of identifying ourselves with our limited situations in life.  However, ideology as such should never be a motive force in the making of fiction, fantastic or otherwise.  In the end the desire for ideological conformity creates more problems than it ever solves.

No comments:

Post a Comment