There’s nothing I can say about The Wizard of Oz that hasn’t already been said — thousands of times. But after seeing it, I had to talk about it anyway. I thought about writing a different review and making up a conspiracy about how Toto was actually the antagonist of the story (he’s actually an evil wizard that cleverly and indirectly ruins Dorothy’s plans throughout the whole film), but honestly, it would have taken a lot more work that I didn’t have time to devote to it. So here’s just a basic review, with some fun stuff at the end.
It’s easy to see how Wizard of Oz (1939) became an instant classic in the film industry. It does a lot of things amazingly well, and I was genuinely surprised at how well the story telling holds up in the modern world, structure wise. Its use of parallels and symbolism, I feel, finally start to bridge the gap, and we start to see the true potential of what the cinema is capable of in a way an audience never has before.
We see that Dorothy is not satisfied with her life on the farm, for a number of reasons. (Interestingly enough, the cliche “This place is holding me back” actually isn’t one of them.) The whole set of the farm is colored a dirty brown. It’s gritty and messy, and Dorothy looks out of place here, as she’s pretty much the only clean thing here. She also sings, which brings a breath of color in the world, which is also out of place, since no color of expression really belongs here.
When she gets to the land of Oz, the world is now filled with color. What’s more, the munchkins and Glynda accept her here, with the implication being that she finds a sense of belonging here that she hadn’t felt at home. People sing here, like she did, and there’s tones of exploration and wonder that suit young Dorothy’s heart.
The whole form of this film, obviously, is the hero’s journey. The young hero(ine) accepts the call to adventure and finds themselves in the belly of the whale, adventuring a new world and gaining a crucial knowledge before returning home more wizened. Lots of stories follow this theme, and Dorothy’s eventual acceptance of her lot in life (living her days on the farm) shows a growth that she might never have learned had she not gone on her adventures in Oz.
Oz is colorful, musical, and most importantly, it isn’t real. Dorothy loves it, but the longer she is there, the more she misses and worries about her aunt. This place is wonderful, but she knows her purpose — she must find her way back home. Were she more childish, and not ready for life in the real world, she might have tried to spend her days in the land of Oz, forgetting her troubles and responsibilities. (With this in mind, we can also consider the function of Toto as a metaphor for staying young — he’s what spurred her to adventure to begin with, and he tried his best to make her stay in Oz once they were there, too.)
The content of the film is all about the contrast of color and wonder versus gritty realism. It’s a coming of age story about how Dorothy comes to accept who she is supposed to be. Her three companions on the way to the Emerald City were all characterized about what they lacked — a heart, a brain, and courage — but Dorothy didn’t lack anything. She was characterized by wanting to go home, right?
Well, in a way, yes. But even though Oz was discovered to be a sham, the three companions all got what they wanted, even if they expected some sort of magic to do it for them. In this way, Dorothy, too, got what she lacked — acceptance in two forms. She found that her family on the farm loved her, and that even if she wasn’t entirely satisfied with her situation on the farm, she could accept it and be happy there.
Anyways, this movie has some serious plot holes. What was the place called before Oz got there? “The land of He-Who-Is-Yet-to-Come?” Where was the Witch of the South, and why was she never even mentioned? What did the ruby slippers do, teleport you to Kansas? That sounds awful, and honestly, Dorothy should have given them up if that was the case. Sure, her family might have been killed by an evil witch, but the entire land of Oz would have been free of tyranny, and Dorothy wouldn’t have had to live with the knowledge that she was a murderer — twice over — I mean, that’s got to be traumatic.
Also, is Glynda really a good witch? She must have known Oz was a sham, and yet she let the entire populace live in ignorance, ruled by a fraud when she had real power at her disposal. Even Gandalf exposed the corrupt rulers of Men, I mean come on. She has to be guilty by negligence.