Archive for the ‘Spoiler Zone’ Category

Emerald City is the Oz TV series L. Frank Baum would make today

February 3, 2017

Emerald City is the Oz TV series L. Frank Baum would make today

Note: this post is going to compare the current NBC TV series with the original L. Frank Baum book series and the 1939 Judy Garland musical version. There is no way to do that effectively without revealing elements of the three works which would be a surprise the first time someone reads/watches them. Therefore, this is part of our Spoiler Zone category of analysis and this is a

SPOILER ALERT

No doubt, some people watching the

Emerald City TV series on NBC

are shocked and offended that a beloved children’s classic has been turned into a depraved show with sex and violence.

Others are probably delighted that a daring reimagination has taken a namby pamby, bland story and made it into something more mature, relevant, and realistic.

As a long-time Oz fan, my guess is that people of either opinion haven’t read the “famous 14” original L. Frank Baum books in the main series.

The Wonderful Stories of Oz (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Oh, they may have read the first book, perhaps, or seen the 1939 musical with Judy Garland. The most famous book actually doesn’t match the rest of the series very well (for a good in-universe reason) and is one of my least favorites, and the movie was so different that it wasn’t a hit when it was first released (despite what had been a very solid “fanbase”, arguably one of the earliest).

L. Frank Baum himself makes a statement before the first book starts which could lead to the idea of Oz being just all happy:

“Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as “historical” in the children’s library; for the time has come for a series of newer “wonder tales” in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.

Having this thought in mind, the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.”

That last line is simply not true, especially if you continue through the other books.

No nightmares and heartaches? In the first book, there are over 100 deaths (mostly animals hacked to death with an ax by the Tin Woodman). Slavery is common and an ongoing theme in Oz. The Scarecrow is dismembered.

Now, you could argue that the tone is different: that this is “fantasy violence”, like cartoon violence. You might guess that the emotional anguish we see in Emerald City is not like the way people react in the books. Violence is committed against animals and “non-meat” people who can’t be killed anyway (after the big change in Oz). The gun violence in Emerald City would never happen in Baum’s Oz.

You could argue that…but it’s pretty easily refuted.

Take this passage from Rinktink in Oz:

“They found on every hand ruin and desolation. The houses of the people had been pilfered of all valuables and then torn down or burned. Not a boat had been left upon the shore, nor was there a single person, man or woman or child, remaining upon the island, save themselves. The only inhabitants of Pingaree now consisted of a fat little King, a boy and a goat.

Even Rinkitink, merry hearted as he was, found it hard to laugh in the face of this mighty disaster. Even the goat, contrary to its usual habit, refrained from saying anything disagreeable. As for the poor boy whose home was now a wilderness, the tears came often to his eyes as he marked the ruin of his dearly loved island.

When, at nightfall, they reached the lower end of Pingaree and found it swept as bare as the rest, Inga’s grief was almost more than he could bear. Everything had been swept from him—parents, home and country—in so brief a time that his bewilderment was equal to his sorrow.

Since no house remained standing, in which they might sleep, the three wanderers crept beneath the overhanging branches of a cassa tree and curled themselves up as comfortably as possible. So tired and exhausted were they by the day’s anxieties and griefs that their troubles soon faded into the mists of dreamland.”

This was devastation perpetrated by humans on humans, out of a motive of greed. They destroyed everything in wanton violence and enslaved the people. This had a genuine emotional impact on the survivors.

Okay, yes, one of the survivors is a talking goat, but still. 😉

This takes place outside of Oz proper, but is in a nearby land and it is part of the Oz series (and the Land of Oz and characters from it are part of the book).

That is hardly the only part of Oz that deals with “dark” cruelty. Some characters enjoy inflicting pain…here’s an example of torture from The Emerald City of Oz (one of the famous fourteen, not the TV series):

“By this time the jailer had tired of sticking pins in the General, and was amusing himself by carefully pulling the Nome’s whiskers out by the roots, one at a time. This enjoyment was interrupted by the Grand Gallipoot sending for the prisoner.”

That was pain for pain’s sake, and the General was being tortured.

In the books, the Tin Man becoming the Tin Man is very different from Emerald City, although I liked the way they did it on TV, making it more integral to main character relationships.

In the books, a regular human falls in love with a young woman who lives with a woman who doesn’t want her to marry. The older woman pays a wicked witch to prevent the marriage. The witch enchants the woodchopper’s ax to cut off his leg. It’s replaced with a tin leg, and that doesn’t discourage the chopper. The witch continues the enchantment, and eventually, the woodchopper has had all of his parts replaced with tin ones…which ironically makes him not love the girl any more.

What about guns?

There are many guns in Oz…even a gun-tree where a musket is picked. At one point, someone is instructed to only use a gun as a last resort: “…I do not wish to be cruel or to shed any blood–unless it is absolutely necessary”.

The Wizard in the books, by the way, is much more like the one in the TV series than in the Judy Garland version…he does some very self-serving things, and while he later becomes a member of the “cabinet” of the ruler, he wasn’t an innocent, sweet person in the early stories.

There is one big difference between the Oz books and Emerald City: sex. Sex is a big part of the TV series, and it gets talked about (not explicitly shown) a lot. That doesn’t happen in the Oz books…although there may be an argument for why that is true, besides simply the cultural standards of the time. No one ages in Oz (after a change happens): babies stay babies, and have to be cared for by other people. It’s unclear what would happen if someone became pregnant. People who come to Oz from the outside world do remark on people (and I’m using that term broadly to include supernatural beings) being attractive, but Emerald City’s libido is front and center.

Baum did have “dancing girls” in his stage productions, and I suspect that if he was making a TV series today, it would be as “sexy” as Emerald City is.

My guess is that he would also produce child-friendly versions: in the early 1900s, he was trying a lot of things…silent movies, stage shows, crossovers, tie-in books. Disney had nothing on Baum in multi-platform use of characters.

I’m a fan of the Oz books, and I look forward to and enjoy the episodes of Emerald City. Before criticizing or praising the TV series for being different from the books, you might want to read the books…and then decide. Even if you disagree with me about what Baum would do, you still will have read the books…and that’s a good thing. 😉

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about this by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My takes on Birdman, Interstellar, and Mockingjay

December 3, 2014

My takes on Birdman, Interstellar, and Mockingjay

In a bit of a departure, I’m going to give you both my take (my opinion of it with no spoilers), and then, in a separate section afterwards, do a bit of analysis (which will contain spoilers).

Here is a look a three movies I’ve seen recently, in the order in which I saw them.

Birdman
Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo
Official Site
at IMDb
at Rotten Tomatoes
at MRQE

No question, this is an ambitious movie. It’s not the same old same old: for those of you who complain about “cookie cutter blockbusters”, and argue that there is no originality in Hollywood, well, here’s your answer.

Everything is part of the effort: the jazz soundtrack; the innovative cinematography; and the actors, going full tilt with no breaks.

It’s also all a bit unreal and theatrical, and that won’t appeal to everyone. This is the kind of movie where audiences say, “If I don’t act like I like it, people will know I’m not cool enough to get it.”

That’s not to say you won’t legitimately like it: many of you will. Others may find it pretentious.

At Gold Derby Michael Keaton currently is the odds on favorite (at 23 to 10…2.3 to 1) to go home with the Best Actor Oscar. I don’t see that happening…I don’t think it’s a role that the still relatively conservative Academy is going to embrace (not that he won’t get a nomination), especially when you have Eddie Redmayne in a role that seems tailor made for Oscar, and several others in historical figure parts.

Edward Norton and Emma Stone are amazing in Birdman…but they are amazing actors. What they do is wonderful, every single time, but it isn’t something that makes this particular movie special.

I think there may be several Oscar nominations, and we could see wins in some technical categories in particular. I think it has a good shot at Special Effects: while the Academy has that category, they prefer to give it to more of a mainstream movie when they can.

For more commentary on this movie, see The Spoiler Zone below.

Interstellar
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Official Site
at IMDb
at Rotten Tomatoes
at MRQE

I’m surprised at the positive response this is getting: people are saying how scientific it is, how much heart it has, what a surprising plot it is.

I suspect Christopher Nolan may be serving here as somewhat of an ambassador of geekiness to the general population. I think it’s sort of like if you go to the Swedish Embassy, they may serve you Swedish meatballs. That doesn’t necessarily mean Swedish meatballs that natives would love, but they want to introduce you to them in a safe way.

In other words, I think the enthusiasm may be coming from people less familiar with science fiction.

For me, several things which I think were supposed to be big surprises just weren’t. My feeling is that the Nolans were aiming for the transcendent screenwriting of The Twilight Zone, and ended solidly in Outer Limits territory. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Outer Limits, but that show wasn’t usually about taking you places you never expected.

Similarly, the actors, while competent, just weren’t being challenged that much. It largely seemed like the performances each stuck to a pretty limited range.

I said to my Significant Other, “Well, it was pretty,” and it is that. There are some great shots, and a couple of robots I really liked and who join the pantheon of great movie robots (including Robby from Forbidden Planet, and Huey, Louie, and Dewey from Silent Running).

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Official Site
at IMDb
at Rotten Tomatoes
at MRQE

Perhaps surprisingly, this was my favorite of the three movies in this post. I did like the third Hunger Games book the best (which isn’t the case with all fans of the series), but I don’t think it had to with that.

This is clearly now the Katniss show, but that’s appropriate. Jennifer Lawrence brings us a range of emotions, and is really effective in some difficult scenes.

Most other people aren’t given that much to do…or at least, they aren’t given that many different things to do.

I’d say that they’ve improved how integrated Panem looks: it is becoming more believable as the movie series progresses. I think they want us to feel that this could be real, and I believe they succeed.

There may be some criticism that it isn’t as action packed as the previous two movies, and that there aren’t as many scenes about the relationships.

I don’t see those as negatives. This movie, like the book, is in part about coping with what has happened. The sorts of things that Katniss experienced can shake your foundations, and your focus may be on making sense of it all, rather than what happens next.

THE SPOILER ZONE: BEWARE, BEYOND HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Note: this part is going to reveal things about these movies that will include plot details. If you have not yet seen them and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this part until you have seen them.

The Spoiler Zone: Birdman

We see some things here that definitely push the movie into the land of geekiness, and I don’t mean the Birdman character. If all we were dealing with was an actor who had played a superhero (without a suggestion that the superhero had been real), one could argue this was a mainstream drama.

However, Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson, exhibits supernatural powers.

We can’t be clear if what we are seeing is real, or if it is a fantasy of Thomson’s. Certainly, his abilities to levitate and to use telekinesis are presented to us a real, but no one else sees them or reacts to them. They do see the aftermath, but if it’s a delusion of Thomson’s that would fit as well.

There is also a short, amusing fantasy sequence of a “new movie” in the Birdman franchise. The monster in it may remind some geeks of The Giant Claw, a 1957 monster movie with a goofy-looking marionette bird monster.

The Spoiler Zone: Interstellar

I’m sorry, but as soon as the “ghost” thing came up, I had a good idea what would happen. Any geek knows that when an intelligent child (played by Mackenzie Foy, who has become quite the box office player in the past five years) says that they are experiencing ghosts, you listen…not that you expect it to actually be a ghost, necessarily.

I certainly wanted a whole more mystery out of what! I had heard people allude slyly to a surprising appearance at one point in the movie…and the only surprise was the actor. I wanted them to do  a whole more with the time paradox angle, and they could have done it within the movie’s reality. McConaughey’s character could have met up with adult versions of his daughter in other places, without at first realizing it. We’ve seen that in science fiction: the pioneers in interstellar travel are met with their descendants when they arrive, because the later generations have figured out how to get there faster.

Again, I did think the robots were great! The personalities were believable (Bill Irwin was particularly good), and the physical design was unlike what we’ve seen in the past, but appeared to be practical.

The Spoiler Zone: Mockingjay Part 1

In some ways, I think that Suzanne Collins’ adaptation (Peter Craig and Danny Strong are credited for the screenplay) improves upon her own book.

I liked it a lot better having Effie be a somewhat reluctant part of the rebellion. She, at least, brought a little humor to it, but not as a false note.

I thought President Snow was even more evil and better defined. I had some discussion with my adult kid about Snow’s thinking. I believe that Snow had excellent strategy in allowing a brainwashed Peeta to get to Katniss in the “rebel base”…not because he expected Peeta to kill Katniss (a martyred Mockingjay is worse than a live one), but because he expected it to break Katniss (which is how to break the rebellion). Imagine if Katniss had been forced to kill Peeta, or even if a rebel had killed him protecting her. Would she go forward in her role as Mockingjay with that guilt on her?

We have to believe she might…but Snow might not think she would.

I’ll grant you: it’s an incomplete story, but we knew that going into it. I think it would build anticipation for the next movie. Even though Part 1 may not have as good a Rotten Tomato average as The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, I still expect it to do very well…and for Part 2 to be a huge blockbuster.

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

END SPOILER ZONE

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

Shootin’ simians: are guns new to the Planet of the Apes?

July 31, 2014

Shootin’ simians: are guns new to the Planet of the Apes?

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the original five Planet of the Apes movies, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet seen them and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have seen them.

As a long-time Planet of the Apes fan, it’s been amusing to me to see media coverage of the newest movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’ve seen a number of articles suggesting that the author thinks it is an evolution (so to speak) from the original five movies. Not only in special effects, but, gosh, it has social relevance! Why, they are implying things about gun control and our modern world! How times have changed!

Times may have changed, but the movies have always been socially relevant…and in them, apes have always used guns.

In fact, I’d say the earlier movies are much more daring and blatantly obvious in their social criticism.

There are really three time periods in the first five movies.

The first two, Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, take place (and again, in case you missed the italics, SPOILER ALERT) about two thousand years in the future (and follow one right after the other). Status quo: apes rule and have an organized civilization. They speak, have a city, scientists, warriors…and  bureaucracy. Most of the humans appear to be hunter/gatherers, and do not speak. There is a remnant population of mutated humans underground who generally do not speak…but it is because they are telepathic. They are able to verbalize, but essentially find it distasteful.

The next two movies, Escape and Conquest, take place in relatively modern times for the audience (somewhat in the future, but not wildly so). Time does pass between the two movies, but they can be placed in the same context. Status quo: humans rule, and live in cities which resemble our modern cities. Apes do not speak, as a rule…unless they are time travelers from the future, or of that genetic line. They are servants to humans.

The fifth movie, Battle, takes place in-between those two timeframes, although the series makes the repeated point that there might be parallel time streams (they won’t necessarily end up where the first movie started). Status quo: both humans and apes speak, and they live together…but not in perfect harmony. Humans are in an inferior social position, and are actively distrusted by some apes. There is also a remnant human population in the ruins, at first unaware of the ape/human group.

 We encounter shootin’ simians in the very first movie, and it continues on through the fifth.

The

Internet Movie Firearms Database

which I ran across while researching this question, identifies the rifle wielded by the gorillas as a modified M1 Carbine. In this society, gorillas are typically warriors, chimpanzees are scientists and intellectuals, and orangutans are bureaucrats and represent religion (although they can also be scientists).

While the gorillas are the most skilled with firearms, Lucius, Zira’s rebellious teenaged (chimpanzee) nephew, is also capable.

When Taylor asks Cornelius if they have any weapons, the relatively pacifistic ape replies that they have the best (guns).

It would be hard to argue that this movie favors gun control, but featuring gun use by apes? Absolutely.

In Beneath, the apes not only have the rifles from the first movie, but at least one submachine gun and pistols.

An interesting point in terms of relevance for the series: youth anti-war protesters, carrying signs, are confronted by soldiers in the street. The Kent State shootings occurred on May 4th of 1970…Beneath the Planet of the Apes was released on May 26th of that year. Obviously, the producers were unaware that the Ohio National Guard would shoot youthful anti-war protesters when they were filming the scene, but it does show an awareness of and commentary on current happenings.

Escape is the one of the movies where the apes are the least violent: only Zira and Cornelius, who have time traveled back, are around, and neither one of them is in favor of the use of force (although not completely opposed). Cornelius does use a handgun.

In Conquest, Zira and Cornelius’ son has been raised by a human, and seems to have much more human sensibilities, having been deprived of chimpanzee culture. That includes the use of firearms, which he does quite dramatically. When they are plotting revolution, Caesar manipulates an order which a non-speaking ape is to carry out for its owner to include ammunition for a gun…you don’t need more bullets if you don’t intend to fire.

Finally, in Battle, there is a clear reference to gun control. The apes have an armory, but even the leader, Caesar, has to ask permission (and provide justification) for using them. Mandemus, an orangutan, is “the conscience of Caesar”, and judges requests.

At one point in the movie, there is one of the largest exchanges of gunfire I’ve ever seen in a movie. The apes (led by Caesar, who certainly is using a firearm) shoot it out with humans from the city. This scene seems to go on for some time, with more bullets flying than I’ve seen in any World War II movie.

So guns, and gun control are not new to the Planet of the Apes series, which tackled such topics as animal rights’ groups, abortion, women’s rights, youthful rebellion, and what we would now consider to be the religious right.

Since that’s the case, why do so many writers seem to think that it was all silly fun and games?

Perhaps they were influenced by watching the live action TV series or the animated series…they may not even remember that, but they were both less provocative than the first five movies.

While the Lawgiver may have said that apes shall never kill apes, he never said that apes shall never shoot guns…

For more information on the Planet of the Apes series, see

http://planetoftheapes.wikia.com/wiki/Planet_of_the_Apes_Wiki

At the time of writing, all five movies can also be seen as part of Amazon’s Prime movies, meaning that eligible Prime members can watch them at no additional cost.

Search for Planet of the Apes movies at Amazon (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Note: that search will have results which are not includes in Prime, incluing the Tim Burton/Mark Wahlberg version.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of Steel

June 24, 2013

The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of Steel

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the current Superman movie, Man of Steel, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet seen the movie and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have seen it.

While Man of Steel clearly knows a lot about Superman, there is something about it that is still bothering me more than a week after seeing it. Yes, they have allusions to other versions of Superman. That’s particularly apparent in the casting of actors that have appeared in Smallville and the Christopher Reeve movies, and names from the comics.

There’s nothing wrong, as far as I’m concerned, with not sticking exactly to previous continuity. That openness has brought us some of the most iconic things about Superman (flight, Kryptonite) as I noted about three years ago in

When Superman wasn’t so super

However, Man of Steel does much more than just add a new ability or weakness. What it does changes the nature of Superman…and of its universe’s connection to him as the inevitable sequels are released.

Superman kills.

On purpose.

Now, we could get into an argument here about when or whether killing somebody is justified, but that’s honestly beyond this discussion of a superhero’s own ethos.

Superman has killed (rarely) in earlier incarnations, but there is a really significant difference here…the impact it has on him.

In Man of Steel, Superman is struggling to stop General Zod from frying some people with his heat vision. They are locked together, with Superman basically having Zod in a chokehold.

Superman pleads with Zod, and appears to be clear to Kal-El that killing Zod is an option.

He snaps the General’s neck, and then he screams about it.

How does he feel about it later, though?

Doesn’t seem to faze him at all.

It’s after this that we see him considering how he can continue the work. We see (for the first time) him showing up at The Daily Planet with his Clark Kent glasses on.

If anything, it seems to end a period of uncertainty for him…it’s almost like it is a relief to have that over with, to have killed somebody.

That’s really worrisome, to me and to the future movies.

Let’s be honest here: a fifth grade writing class could have come up with a dozen other things Superman could have done to end that stand-off. He could fly up. He could smash down. He could use his own heat vision to cut an escape path for the cowering people (this whole process is slow). He could point Zod’s head towards the ceiling, to give them time to get away…that has got to be easier than snapping his neck. Instead, what happened?

Superman panicked.

He panicked, and he responded emotionally and violently.

From what we see in this movie, he behaved like a Kryptonian. These aliens seem to have serious impulse control issues…and yes, I’d include Jor-El and Lara in that group.

Kryptonians are the anti-Vulcans.

It’s possible that, if Krypton hadn’t exploded (arguably ironically appropriate for how the Kryptonians themselves behave), a Surak would have eventually arisen that led them to non-violence (as was related as having happened on Vulcan in the past on Star Trek).

Certainly, that was a problem on Krypton…but on Earth, it’s a crisis of, well, super-proportions.

We have to assume that, unless Superman made an effort to cover up what he did,  the U.S. military knows that Superman killed Zod. This was happening in a public transportation terminal: it’s very likely there was security video. While autopsying a Kryptonian might be difficult (does the invulnerability survive beyond life? Can you create conditions where cutting into the skin is possible?), snapping a neck is probably morphologically evident without invasive examination.

So, going forward, the military is dealing with a possibly unstoppable superbeing, who isn’t smart enough or self-controlled enough to find a non-lethal solution to a problem when emotionally stressed.

That is not a good thing.

I have to say that I would expect there to be very serious discussions within the government about asking Superman to leave Earth and never return. Otherwise, it’s like having a nuclear bomb walking around…with the emotionally maturity of your typical  chihuahua (no insult to chihuahuas is intended). Our society could become like the old Twilight Zone episode, It’s a Good Life, with everybody walking on eggshells around Superman as they did with Billy Mumy’s six-year old Anthony Fremont in that classic Jerome Bixby adaptation. Whatever you do, don’t get Superman upset…to paraphrase another superhero show, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Do I think they’ll deal with that in “Man of Steel 2”? Probably not…they’ll probably ignore Superman’s emotional reaction to killing somebody with his bare hands. We’ll probably see him smiling and joking like nothing ever happened…but it did…and it should matter.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

The Spoiler Zone: the real character of the Wizard of Oz

March 3, 2013

The Spoiler Zone: the real character of the Wizard of Oz

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the character of The Wizard of Oz from the L. Frank Baum books, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet read those books and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have read them.

Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful opens in the USA on March 8th. As has been the fashion with some movies, it suggests that it sticks closer to the original material than the more famous versions we know already.

As a big fan of Oz, I can tell you that there is an interesting arc for the Wizard that was not at all evident in the wonderful 1939 Judy Garland version, but I’ll actually be surprised if we see much of it here (based partially on the trailers).

Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (he dropped everything except the Oz, because the rest of it spells out “PINHEAD”) was not only pretending to be a powerful wizard, he started out as a bad person.

How bad?

After taking over the throne from the rightful ruler (King Pastoria), Oz hid the king’s daughter away, so she could not threaten his power.

“Her name is Ozma,” answered Glinda. “But where she is I have tried in vain to discover. For the Wizard of Oz, when he stole the throne from Ozma’s father, hid the girl in some secret place; and by means of a magical trick with which I am not familiar he also managed to prevent her being discovered—even by so experienced a Sorceress as myself.”

Simply hiding her away would be one thing, but what he did is beyond what you would expect from a kind, lovable con man.

He gave her to Mombi, a truly evil character.

Glinda eventually forces Mombi to reveal the truth…by threatening to kill her.

“The Wizard brought to me the girl Ozma, who was then no more than a baby, and begged me to conceal the child.”

The Wizard and Mombi met three times: this was a conspiracy, not a spur of the moment action.

The Wizard had stolen a throne, kidnapped an infant, and essentially guaranteed that child a life of servitude with a dreadful master…so he could retain his ill-gotten rule.

Eventually, the character does reform (and L. Frank Baum sort of retcons away the kidnapping…we don’t hear much about it after it is revealed). This is certainly due in part to the benevolent leadership of Ozma, who makes the Wizard part of her inner circle…and even allows him to learn real magic.

There are fascinating politics at work here.

It goes beyond simple forgiveness, because the Wizard (along with Glinda) under Ozma is one of the most well-known and powerful people in the complicated land of Oz.

Part of it may be that the people of the Emerald City respected their Wizard, in addition to fearing him. Making him part of the “cabinet” may have made the transition easier.

That would be a really interesting story to see on screen. How this employee of “Bailum & Barney’s Great Consolidated Shows” (as is stated in the books) ended up in a land and took power, faced the wicked witches, behaved wickedly himself, and eventually became a power figure again under the person he had betrayed and robbed of her destiny…and more importantly, found a way to behave (and believe?) in a positive way.

I suspect, though, there may be more special effects than politics in this version…but I’m willing to wait and see.

END SPOILER

You can get the books for free online, but you typically have to download each of the “famous fourteen” individually to do that. If you are willing to spend ninety-five cents (at the time of writing), this one collects all fourteen in one download:

The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection (With Active Table of Contents)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

March 26, 2012

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

I’ve already given you my overall take on The Hunger Games movie, but I wanted to comment a bit more on some of the significant changes from the book to the movie. To do that, I’ll have to “spoil” parts of the movie…if you haven’t seen it yet and haven’t read the book, you may want to wait to read this post until you do.

These are just going to be some random thoughts, and I may add to them. I just want to get them down while it is still fresh.

SPOILER ALERT

Haymitch is made more charming, more sympathetic. The line “Congratulations, you just killed a placemat” is not in the original book, and it makes us smile. We see Haymitch actually working the Capital for sponsors. We know that’s happening in the book (well, we find out it must have), but it’s different to see it. Haymitch talking to the Gamemaker to propose the “young love” storyline? Definitely makes the “mentor” more likeable. We also see Haymitch refusing or not taking a drink…that seems sooner than in the books. However, it makes sense to me: Haymitch’s advice to win is to “make friends”…the Haymitch in the book doesn’t seem to know how do to that. It’s not unusual for people to give advice they don’t follow, but I understand them doing this in a movie…and casting Woody Harrelson to bring a mischievous grin to the part.

Katniss is significantly weakened by taking away drugging Peeta to enable Katniss to go to the feast against Peeta’s wishes. It’s very different for Katniss to have simply snuck away than to have actively knocked Peeta out with sleep syrup. It also, again, makes Haymitch more sympathetic, because the mentor doesn’t give Katniss the necessary drugs to ensure that the choice isn’t Peeta’s to make.

The exchange between President Snow and Seneca Crane (the Gamemaker) about “containing” the spark that is Katniss? Not in the book, although we know those considerations probably happened. This moves Snow more forward…and gives us more of a motivation for Crane’s fate later on.

There were things in the movie that could have been much flashier, and it was interesting that they didn’t do that. In the book, I conceived as the outfits in the tribute parade as engulfing Katniss and Peeta in flames, and in the movie, it was much more subtle than that. The same thing was true with the mutts (mutants) at the end of the movie…honestly, they were quite plain looking. I think that was wise on the part of the moviemakers.

The tracker jacker sequence was also moderated, with the hallucinations not being as pronounced. Again, I think that focuses the movie more on the characters…that works.

We didn’t see much of the prep team, but that was okay with me…we will later, I presume. I was okay with the switch on how the mockingjay pin gets to Katniss.  While the character who originally gives it in the novel becomes more important later, I can see how we can work without it.

Oh, and I was particularly impressed that when we see Rue’s father, he is short. That was a good sign of attention to detail. Rue isn’t just young: she probably looks younger than she is, and having her father be short makes sense.

So, what did you notice? Feel free to let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to my reader agrazalvaro for pointing out that I had confused mockingjays and jabberjays. In the movie, I expected the birds within the game to mock human words, but that was just my mistake. The book says:

“One they didn’t die off. Instead the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds, creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a child’s high-pitched warble to a man’s deep tones.”

Thanks, agrazalvaro!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


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