The Wonderful Land of Oz

I went to see Oz the Great and Powerful over the weekend, and instead of doing a review of the movie, which was decent, I thought I’d geek out a bit and discuss the lore of the land of Oz. It was pretty clear that the filmmakers had no idea of the actual lore behind the land of Oz, and they were just writing the movie bearing in mind that the audience had seen  The Wizard of Oz. This is a shame, because the books by L. Frank Baum are incredibly rich with a lore and history of their own, and I think the filmmakers could have done better to try to research that and incorporate the books. Now, I may seem all over the place with my topics here, and I am, but there is a lot I’d like to discuss regarding the land of Oz versus how it’s presented in the movies, so bear with me.

Ruby SlippersThe Ruby Slippers In the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”, they were interested in taking full advantage of the new Technicolor process, so they changed the color of the slippers Dorothy gets in the story from Silver to Ruby. These shoes are supposed to hold immense power, and the story line in the movie pretty much holds true to the mythology of the shoes in the books. Dorothy uses them to get home at the end of the first book, and presumably they fall off her feet during the flight back to Kansas, and end up in the Deadly Desert. Since anyone that steps foot in the desert instantly dies the shoes are never found again, although they are mentioned in some of the other books.

Flying MonkeysThe Flying Monkeys The flying monkeys were cursed by a sorceress long ago to serve the wielder of the Golden Cap. The hat allowed it’s wielder to call upon the service of the flying monkeys on three occasions, and then it would be no more use to that particular person. Over time it somehow ended up in the possession of the Wicked Witch of the West. She first used it to conquer the Winkie territory, which is the land that her castle stands on in the original movie. She then used it to fight off the Great Oz, which is likely why Oz sends Dorothy after the Witch instead of going after her himself. Her last use of the hat is to assault and capture Dorothy and some of her friends.

The first movie does a good job of portraying the monkeys as true to the book, even going so far as to show the Witch fetch the Golden Cap in a scene that was eventually deleted from the movie. In “Oz the Great and Powerful”, however, they appear to have given the Wicked Witch the ability to summon the monkeys at will. I imagine this is because the people that wrote the newer movie only ever watched the original film, and since the hat was cut out of that story they probably just thought it would be bad ass if the Witch could summon monkeys at will. I was disappointed.

OzThe Wizard of Oz Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, or Oz for short, was not a young man when he came to Oz. He was a circus performer, and did arrive from the sky in a hot air balloon. He was made the leader of Oz, taking the throne from the rightful king. Prophecy stated the wizard would arrive from the heavens, and since he did come out of the sky he was assumed to be the wizard. He united most the races in the central lands, and then built the Emerald City. He was scared to death of the witches in each of the 4 corners of the world, as he had no magical ability himself, so he shut himself away and rarely granted audiences. Most feared him because of the prophecy, so between parlor tricks and intimidation he kept most of his people in line.

The events of the 1939 movie pretty much outline exactly what happened with the wizard in the books, although he doesn’t remain in Kansas for long after he returns. He is featured in several of the follow up books, and eventually Glinda teaches him magic beyond his tricks and illusions.

The Wicked Witches Wicked Witch of the WestThere were two “Wicked Witches” in the first book, associated with the West and the East. In later books the Princess Ozma (heir to the original king of Oz) explains that there were Wicked Witches in all 4 directions at one point, until Glinda killed one, and the Good Witch of the North killed another. The Wicked Witch of the West was one of the worst, and she was ever so powerful.

The Wicked Witch of the West ruled over the Winkie territory as I discussed above. She had only one eye, but could apparently see everywhere with it. In addition to the Golden Cap, she also possessed a magic whistle that could summon swarms of wolves, crows, and bees to assault her enemies. She ruled over the land in the West until her death at the hands of Dorothy Gale, and when she was slain the Winkies asked the Tinman if he would be their new emperor.

The newest movie features something of the witches storyline, but it’s noticeable how bland it is, and also the CGI on the Wicked Witch of the West looks awful. They would’ve done much better to have put her in makeup, rather than doing what they did. The original Wicked Witch from 1939 look so much better, and is so much scarier in my opinion, then what they managed to produce in “Oz the Great and Powerful”.

I could likely go on a bit more, but I think you get the drift. I feel like the 1939 movie got a lot closer, and was a lot more faithful, to the original book series than “Oz the Great and Powerful”. Ultimately, I think it made the classic film a much better movie for it. The newer movie is enjoyable, but so much of it just feels hackneyed and random, and while the land of Oz is a bit random, it seems like they were just throwing in whatever weird stuff they could think of in the writer’s room just because they could.

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Posted in Books, Movies
2 comments on “The Wonderful Land of Oz
  1. This is awesome. A great reminder of some things even I’d forgotten. There are a lot of wins and loses in book to movie conversions, and you’ve highlighted the best and the worst.

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