straw men

Mila Kunis: that ’30s show.

As a warm-up for my grapple with Jack the Giant Slayer and subsequent sacrificing of a pigeon for Bryan Singer, the two hours and change spent with Oz The Great and Powerful were not unbearably horrid; it’s a mark of where we are with fantasy cinema that poster quotes like that will have to do, even while lovers of The Wizard of Oz rummage for their pitchforks. My affection for The Gift is undying and I blame the Spider-Man franchise for the damage done since then to the vigour of the old-model Sam Raimi, but that gentleman’s endearingly messy love of the movie-making tool box crops up in Oz intermittently. A nostalgia for Technicolor and zoetropes breathes behind Oz’s opening ten minutes of Academy-ratio sepia, a prologue that feels like the work of a man directing from an armchair. Plus there’s the sight of the broom-propelled Wicked Witch given a black smoke trail of the purest diesel, the kind of thing Raimi’s earlier demons could have sported while putting the wind up Bruce Campbell.

The rest occupies that dodgy ground where parody and market-forces coincide. Old Oz was about home and childhood and parents and innocence, even if you don’t subscribe to any of the thousand theories concerning cinema and politics and Jung and the Universe. Modern cinema has no truck with all that, so New Oz is stuck with the Hero’s Journey template in its thirty-something form, the one about angst and parentage and the kind of atonement which barely atones for anything. It’s about getting the thirty-something blonde and withstanding the wrath of the brunettes, and it’s conspicuously about never ever going home again. It’s about itself and its own potency; Onan the great and powerful.

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