Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Oz the Great and Powerful" (2013)

The 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” is arguably one of the most influential, beloved, and greatest films in the history of cinema; so the following thoughts need to be kept in context. That being said, Sam Raimi’s trip into the Land of Oz is a very enjoyable one. The visuals are beautiful. The concepts imaginative. The tie-ins to the original film and the inspiring story are well thought out. The homages are respectful and avoid stepping on MGM’s toes. I would not mind revisiting this vision in further films.

There are some interesting ideas here as well. Maybe not completely insightful, and some may even see some things here as an attack on faith, but that too is a problem some have with the original film.

Here we get to see the origins of the Wizard of Oz, the man. He is a figure foretold—a prophesy fulfilled if you will. Only, much in the same way the prophecies of Scripture play out, the expectations and reality don’t match up exactly. The people of Oz were waiting for a supernatural being to free them from the evil of the witches. Instead they get an ordinary, but resourceful man. In Scripture, the Jews were waiting for a powerful military genius to free them from Roman oppression. Instead they got a Messiah that was more concerned with the universal spiritual condition of humanity and less with regional politics.

In both cases we get a religion established with a sacrificial death. In Oz that is an elaborate con designed to trick the evil power into thinking it is defeated. That is where either (1) the parallels between Oz and Christianity break down or (2) you take offense. For some, faith is less about what you believe and more about the effects that belief has on the believer. A lie is just as good as the truth in that scenario. For a Christian, the faith we hold is meaningless unless it is true. It isn’t just a matter of improving life; it is an understanding of reality that determines every aspect of the way we live our lives. Or that is what it is supposed to be. For a lot of Christians, their faith is quite a lot like the story Oz is offering.

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