Great Movies #3: Return to Oz


I look forward to doing lots more of these. It seems like a really healthy outlet. Expressing my opinion, reliving happy memories. Trying to break things down, constantly thinking and pondering. Hopefully I’m actually getting better at it. Feedback is welcome. Preferably constructive 🙂 I have been Chris Reid and this has been the introduction.

Return to Oz

Okay, this is in some ways more of a childhood favourite. But it has stood the test of time in ways other movies haven’t. Few have given it serious attention or consideration, but I think it has many enduring qualities. Trivia: it came out 46 years after The Wizard of Oz, the longest gap between a movie and its sequel (1939 to 1985). It’s apparently much closer to the books. Walter Murch used to be an editor and this was one of the few movies he ever directed. I think he did a pretty good job!

The score is one of the best ever in my humble opinion. I’m a David Shire fan just based on this movie. He also did The Conversation, All the President’s Men, Big and Short Circuit to name the main other ones I know of. The first two of those are quite “minimalist”. As in mostly just piano and lots of silent gaps. Whereas this film’s score is far more grand and whimsical. Point being, he’s an excellent and very versatile composer. I love basically every little part of the music. It’s from another world.

The special effects are totally cool, they enhance the story and make everything come alive (literally). They are the kind that will still be awesome even ages from now. Not just a whole bunch of cgi, but rather a combination of different elements and techniques. No pointless showing off or lack of substance. Most of the time you are distracted from realising you’re watching special effects in the first place. The nuance (lol) is stunning. Seriously, puppets are often mesmerising in their expressive capabilities. Well, all the effects in this movie have that quality. They seem to have a lot of work put into them.

The acting is cool. Fairuza Balk carries the movie extremely well for a child. She’s realistic and independent and strong. She’s always very practical and steadfast in her beliefs. She can get angry or tired or scared but she focuses on what she needs to do. Doesn’t judge anyone. The evil witch lady is pretty crazy and creepy in an effective way. Some of the imagery is rather haunting. It’s original and understated like the rest of the movie. The Gnome King is disturbing in his faux kindness and substantial transformations. All of the acting seems well directed. It works for the movie. It’s all stylistically consistent.

It’s very memorable. All the strange details and situations. Places, colours, faces. Structures, mirrors, creatures, weird rules (like the one about chickens). Even the sounds which are often unique (like the wheelers). The chicken’s voice is engaging all the way through. Like an adult’s sensible, conservative point of view to complement Dorothy’s more outgoing attitude. Tik Tok is hilarious and charming. Jack is touchingingly soft spoken and clumsy.

The story has many of the best aspects of fairytales. The simple but powerful morals and interesting characters. Actions have consequences. All the players have stories. Their surroundings reflect their nature. There is darkness and ambiguity. Is it real or all imagined? What does it all mean, did Dorothy learn something in particular? It’s similar to E.T. in terms of a child in need of a friend, an adventure. Some kind of meaning to their life. How much more profound can you be than that? Don’t we all long for something more?

I consider this possibly the best fantasy film of all time. The Lord of the Rings movies are fine and dandy, but deeply flawed in terms of their imagination. They skip so many details, assume we know what hobbits, elves, dwarves and orcs are. Clearly they’re just humans with tweaks. There is no depth to their existence. Elves talk slowly and have long ears. That’s it. There should be things about them that I can scarcely imagine or understand. But it doesn’t go there. On the other hand, Emerald City looks like an amazing, wonderful place. A true utopia. Its citizens are kind, elegant and mysterious. We wonder what they are. What their lives are like. We aren’t given all the answers. We see things from a distance. From a little girl’s point of view. She’s incorruptible. Unintimidated by all the challenges she faces. Perhaps the message is about the triumph of innocence. Help your friends and avoid temptation.

This is one of my secret favourite movies. It’s a shame it isn’t recognised yet. But that means I can have it all to myself. It was dismissed because kids found it too scary and complex, not a musical like the first one, and adults had no patience for it because their souls had already been destroyed by the drudgery of work and modern society or some such. Critics don’t seem to fault it technically, only in terms of purpose and story. It isn’t just nostalgia because other movies have fallen in my eyes. But this one stands tall. A forgotten, unexpected masterpiece.


About karnok

A legendary ninja.
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