Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sundays through the Seasons: Spring in Oz

The promise of spring is one of bright days, splashes of color, and new beginnings. The hours of daylight are increasing, trees are budding, all sorts of flowers are blooming, lambs are being born, and we get ready to celebrate Easter - the day we commemorate Jesus' resurrection, the sacrifice and triumph that paved the way for a new life of forgiveness and hope.

Last night my parents and I went to see Oz: The Great and Powerful in theaters.  There are many issues I could discuss: how I wasn't impressed with the acting, how the plot was filled with unexplained and ridiculous phenomena, how the movie seemed to be mostly a farce with attempts at depth and seriousness thrown in on occasion. Despite its flaws, though, those attempts at seriousness, coupled with some stunning visuals, struck me. And I liked some of the "springtime" promise that was embedded in the movie.

(Potential spoilers to follow)

The story begins with Oz, a circus magician who has a lot of tricks up his sleeve - but no great payoff, no real wonders, and no meaningful relationships. When his flirting ways get him into trouble, though, he escapes in a hot air balloon that heads right into a tornado. (Of course!) Suddenly everything slows down, and the world goes from an historical-feeling, sepia-toned one to one full of vibrant colors and fantastic landscapes, wildlife, and plants.

I loved this aspect of the movie. Oz is introduced as someone who's full of himself, hoping and praying for a chance to prove his greatness, all the while spurning opportunities to look beyond himself and show love to others. But he's given a second chance - a hope that is shown to the audience through vivid and spectacular imagery, like the bold colors of spring flowers and rainbows. Oz considers this a second chance to make a great name for himself (and to become fabulously wealthy), but on his course to "greatness" he begins to take hold of his second chance at "goodness," at caring for other people.

It's certainly not a perfect picture. I mean, Oz seems to base his trust of people on outward appearances, and he continually longs for his own gain throughout the movie. And yet we all fumble with our second chances and we all struggle with selfishness. So as far as simply offering a glimpse of someone's eyes being opened to a world beyond his own, I appreciate that aspect of the show.

Interestingly, Oz sets up a contrast. Theodora the witch falls in love with Oz and makes all sorts of plans for the two of them. But when he sets off on a quest and joins forces with Glinda, Theodora is heart-broken and chooses to do anything to harden her heart. There's a very overt reference to the Garden of Eden when she bites into an apple her sister gives her and her eyes are "opened" to distinguish between the sides of good and evil in Oz - and she realizes she's chosen the side of evil. Sadly, she embraces the transformation and seeks revenge against "the Wizard," spurning any offers of understanding and forgiveness, and ignoring any comments about her downward spiral. When offered a second chance, she refuses to consider it or to be led anywhere in a "good" direction.

With spring we are reminded of the blessing of renewal, of hope sprouting from repentance and growth, brought about only by the ultimate goodness and grace of God. Let's embrace forgiveness and second chances and healing, and enjoy the springtime colors and celebrations that remind us of the hope that we have!

(Movie poster image from IMDb.com.)

4 comments:

Rissi said...

This film looks visually stunning. Critics say it's "sexist" but I don't know. What movie is perfect?

Amber S. said...

Rissi,

It is that! I mean, there are some bizarre visuals, but in general I was impressed by the colors, the grand scenery, and the animation (for certain aspects of the movie). :)

Hmmm..."sexist"? I can see that, in a sense, as there are these women leaders in Oz but they need a "man" to come and save them...? And the "Wizard's" behavior toward women, especially at the beginning, *is* rather demeaning. But I think that was more just who his character was - self-centered and egotistical. And there is, in general, a contrast between who he starts out as and how he ends up.

Will be curious to hear your thoughts if you see it! :) Thanks for stopping by!

~Amber

Rissi said...

Great to read your unique perspective on this Amber - and WOW! Very well expressed.

Given that the iconic story of Oz has a man at the helm (the Wizard), I suppose that the whole women-needing-a-man thing (to save their world) didn't bother me but then I am not really a loud feminist either. I mean sure I believe we have a right to our own opinions (and was raised as such) who have the right to express them but also have a Biblical perspective on the whole element of men vs. women leading. It was nice to see Oscar (Oz) change. Sometimes that change is so drastic, it's unrealistic however this character didn't seem to suffer that same fate. There was a change, yet he still had a twinkle of mischief in his character, even in the end.

Bottom line: No story is perfect, right!? ;)

Amber Stokes said...

Rissi,

Aww, I can always count on you to for encouragement - thanks so much for taking time to stop by this post a second time and share your thoughts! :D

I liked that aspect, too, of Oz not being perfect. He messes up with his "second chance" in Oz, and he ends up still being a bit of a rogue...very much flawed and human, but not entirely unlikeable. ;)

And yes, there are things you can pick apart in any story! That's the nature of humankind, I suppose...

Appreciate your comment, my friend, and again, I'm happy you liked the movie!

~Amber