Like many of you, I saw Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend. While there was a great deal that I enjoyed about it, I felt there was one plot point that could have used a little finessing - the moment where Theodora becomes the Wicked Witch of the West that we know from all the other incarnations.
Up until that point in the movie, Theodora is played very naive. She's got an almost child-like innocence about her and is instantly taken with the Wizard. It's a little like watching a schoolgirl get her first crush on the bad boy. Because of this, her heart is easily broken when she learns that Oz now seems to have moved on to wooing Glinda. She's so deeply hurt that she accepts her sister's offer of an apple that will remove her heartache, basically by snuffing out any capacity for goodness in her.
This triggers not only an emotional transformation, but a physical one which turns her skin green and makes her features more hideous. From that moment on, the good-hearted Theodora is now a cackling, vengeful hag who's pretty much devoted to evil.
Here's my problem with this: the Wicked Witch is one of the most iconic villains in film history and the origin we get for her is basically that she was tricked into becoming evil. That doesn't sit well with me. She doesn't make a choice to go bad, nor is her becoming evil the end result of a descent down that path. Instead, the transition from good to evil is about as instantaneous as flipping a light switch. Perhaps the creators' intent was that there'd be sort of a tragedy to this outcome, but the thing is - we don't WANT to feel sorry for the Wicked Witch.
I remember some people had similar issues with Anakin Skywalker's descent into evil in the final Star Wars prequel. The idea that one of the Jedi's best and brightest could crossover to the Dark Side is a compelling one, but it demands a compelling execution. Several people came away with the sense that Anakin had been so manipulated along the way to the Dark Side that the choice was taken out of his hands, and thus, was less compelling.
In that case, I see where those critics are coming from - but at least there, Anakin is presented with a clear moment where he has to make a choice between his Jedi compatriots and Palpatine. When it comes down to it, he cuts off Mace Windu's hand in order to defend the future Emperor, betraying everything he stands for. True, Palpatine has stacked the deck a little by misleading Anakin into believing he needs the power of the Sith to save Padme, but Anakin dives in willingly and with little hesitation.
Unfortunately, Theodora isn't even that responsible for her own transformation and it undercuts what should have been one of the bigger moments of the film. I think there are a lot of things the movie does right (in particular I really enjoyed the third act), but if there is a sequel, I hope the creators use the opportunity to give the Wicked Witch a little more agency on her own path to the Dark Side.
2 weeks ago