Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abair, L. Frank Baum
Circus con man Oscar Diggs finds himself in a strange world after his hot air balloon gets caught in a storm. Upon hearing that a prophecy has named him the future king, Oz, as he calls himself, believes that his fortune is made. Unfortunately, however, he first has to defeat a wicked witch.
I began watching this film pessimistically, remembering that I had read negative reviews when it first came out, and believing it belonged to the category of films like Snow White and the Huntsman or Alice in Wonderland–heavy on the visuals but light on actual plot. My suspicions were largely confirmed after viewing, but the movie was even worse than I had assumed. The visuals are rather garish CGI (at least on my screen), so they could not save the movie from a bad story. The story itself is so terrible that I am amazed anyone approved it.
In short, the plot goes as follows: con man Oz arrives in the land of Oz to be told that he is the long-awaited savior who will defeat a wicked witch and become king. Because of this prophecy, two powerful witches fawn all over him and constantly defer to him and wait for him to save them from all perils, even though they both possess actual strong magic and at least one of them is at least his equal in intelligence. (Fortunately the wicked witch avoids this sickening display of deference, thereby ironically becoming my favorite character.) Despite the fact that Oz continually demonstrates himself to be morally weak, ineffectual at saving anyone, and completely uninterested in anything except gold, the women continue to praise him and act like he’s the best thing that has ever happened to them. In fact, all women fall in love with him despite these flaws (and the obvious fact that he’s also a womanizer and has no real interest in any of them except to stoke his own ego). This is the classic example of a story where the women should be the heroes, but instead are used to prop up the male protagonist and convince him that he’s the real hero.
(I’d also like to add here that there is absolutely no good reason why the throne should pass to a random con man who’s not even from Oz instead of to the late king’s daughter who is completely competent and caring (unless the throne doesn’t work that way in Oz?), but everyone accepts this because some dead guy uttered it.)
With a story this repugnant, no amount of vibrant flowers or random allusions to the original MGM film could save it. I even found much of the acting to be unconvincing. If there is a sequel, I won’t be watching it.