Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 3 Stars
Oz the Great and Powerful follows the intertwining fates of three unique women. Glinda, a kind and peaceful witch who protects the people of Oz with pleasant and simple spells. Evanora, the power-hungry Witch of the East who seeks to rule all of Oz. And Theodora, the unwitting victim of a broken heart who becomes the most dangerous and feared of them all. Despite the variety of women in this story, however, not one of them is particularly memorable or inspiring. Each of them has more power and ability than the mysterious wizard with nothing but cheap carnival tricks, and yet they all turn to him to settle their scores with each other and lead Oz out of chaos. Glinda does have enough sense to see his true, selfish, egotistical nature, but still clings to him based on a self-fulfilling prophecy that she doesn’t have the ability to save Oz herself.
Gender Roles - Men: 1.5 Stars
The Wizard begins the film as a trickster and a womanizer and doesn’t change much before the very end. He takes an immediate liking to Theodora based on her sweet, simple demeanor. It’s almost as if he can sense her vulnerability, and then takes advantage of it. He bores of her just as quickly as he charms her, and then moves on to the next woman he meets. He never says goodbye to Theodora. He never offers her an explanation.
As the film progresses, he does show some soft spots, particularly for the young china doll who’s been shattered and lost all of her family. But she seems to be the only character in Oz that brings out this caring side of him. He eventually sees the damage that he’s done to Theodora, and maybe even regrets the role he’s played in her transformation. But we never see him struggle with remorse or apologize to anyone that’s been hurt because of his selfishness. He even manages to make it to the end of the film without Glinda ever learning of his manipulative rendezvous with Theodora.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 1.5 Stars (Spoilers)
All three of the women in this film are given stock and predictable personalities - and as a result, we don't have much to judge them on but their appearances. It’s clear that part of the reason people love and trust Glinda is due to her beauty and her charm. Part of the reason that Evanora hates her is due to her beauty and her charm. And part of the reason that the Wizard becomes taken with her is due to her beauty and her charm. When he arrives in Oz, he is told that Glinda is the wicked witch, but he has only to see her face to be convinced that it’s not true. He never tests Glinda or asks for any confirmation that she truly is the “good” witch. He simply believes her - based on nothing more than her word and her pretty face.
Conversely, Theodora turns green and ugly the same moment she becomes evil. And while Evanora retains her beauty for some time, she also turns old and ugly in the end. The premise is the same as that from the original Wizard of Oz, which told us that only bad witches are ugly. Oz the Great and Powerful maintains the fiction that it’s safe to judge people based on their appearances. That their external beauty, or external ugliness, is a fair indication of what’s inside.
Plot: 3 Stars
Glinda is given a few minor opportunities to be heroic. She rescues the Wizard and his friends by wrapping them in floating bubbles and hiding them in layers of smoke and fog. But her spells are mostly puffery and distraction. The writers take her out of the equation by suggesting that the people of Oz can’t defend themselves because they can't kill. And yet by the end of the film, the Wizard finds a way to take back the Emerald City without killing anyone. This simple fact only highlights the point that Glinda was never meant to be much more than a love interest - to motivate and build up the confidence of Oz’s true hero, a selfish and egotistical stranger who blew in with the wind.
Character Development: 2.5 Stars
The three woman in this film are more caricature than they are substance – one is good, one is bad and one is something in between. Little time is spent developing the details. We know that Glinda is the “good” witch and that she’s following in her father’s footsteps. But she’s never given any real closure over her father’s death. She’s never given the opportunity to expose Evanora to the people of Oz or to bring her to justice. We know that Evanora is evil, but the film never bothers to explain her motivations. We're never told why she’s consumed with this lust for power or what she’s truly after. Theodora is given more dimension than the others, and yet her story is too predictable to be of much value. She falls in love with the Wizard based on nothing but a dance and a kiss in the woods. And yet his betrayal is enough to make her turn against everything she’s ever held dear. It’s truly disappointing that when women turn wicked in movies, a broken heart almost always seems to be the culprit. They’re never after revenge for a slain father, money, religion, politics or any of the reasons that tend to motivate male villains. It’s always a far too fragile heart and a disproportionate reaction to men’s broken promises.
Love: 2 Stars
There is very little build-up to the romance between Glinda and the Wizard - and their shared kiss at the end seems to come out of the blue. Glinda encourages the Wizard to believe in himself and to try to become someone better than he appears to be. But this is hardly an indication that she’s fallen in love with him. The Wizard, for his part, eventually agrees to help Glinda save her father’s kingdom, but this is hardly an indication that he’s fallen in love with her. He never offers Glinda any words of comfort over the loss of her father. Glinda never expresses any interest in the Wizard’s past or whether or not he cares to return to Kansas. In the end, there’s not nearly enough foundation to their relationship to support the idea that they’ve somehow fallen in love. In reality, we have no reason to believe that this “love” is any more sincere or any more permanent than the Wizard’s fleeting feelings for Theodora - or any of the other women who’ve come before her.