Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Final thoughts on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Anne Hathaway and I finished the book last week, so here are a dozen more observations with some SPOILERS if you haven't read it yet:

  • Hathaway's voice for the Scarecrow made see why Movie Dorothy said she'd miss him most of all, but some of Hathaway's other choices are really odd. One of the two, main Emerald City guards sounded like Sylvester the cat and the other talked in a monotone that I imagine was meant to sound military, but was more robotic. She also gave some other characters strange accents that didn't have a lot to do with their personalities or other character traits. She does some excellent voices too; it just seemed like she was running out of good ones by the end.
  • The Wizard's voice is especially off-putting. He has a Southern drawl that - combined with Hathaway's feminine voice - makes him sound like Dallas Royce on Suburgatory.
  • Still, in all other respects, Hathaway's a wonderful reader and I highly recommend her reading of the story.
  • The flying monkeys are handled a lot differently than the movie and are even more cool. I didn't think that was possible since they were always my favorite part of the film.
  • Related: the way the Wicked Witch of the West captures Dorothy is so much more awesome in the book. Yes, the monkeys come into play, but as a last resort after a few less-successful attempts in which Dorothy's companions prove how badass they really are.
  • I don't accept the Wizard's assertion that he's actually a good man, but just not a very good wizard. He's used deception to enslave his subjects, force them to build the Emerald City, and then serve him in fear. He never repents of this or comes clean to anyone who doesn't figure it out on her own. Nor does he allow those people to tell anyone else. He's a class-A jerk; just like in the movie.
  • The Wizard's gifts vary a little from the film and what he gives the lion is especially entertaining. Instead of a medal, he pours liquid into a bowl and tells the lion it's courage. Baum never explicitly refers to it this way, but that makes the substance "liquid courage," which is pretty awesome. Almost redeems the Wizard for me.
  • The book continues for a few chapters after the Wizard accidentally abandons Dorothy in Oz. The main quartet of characters (quintet, if you count Toto) travel South to visit Glenda the Good and see if she can get Dorothy home. It's an episodic part of the book as they have random adventures along the way, but a couple of characters' stories get tied up, so it's worthwhile. And as with all the adventures in the book, they're fun and interesting.
  • Glenda isn't the same witch who met Dorothy in Munchkinland at the beginning. This is vital, because it fixes one of my biggest complaints about the movie: that Glenda knew the magic slippers could take Dorothy home the whole time and kept it from her. In the film, Glenda just appears occasionally to move the plot along without any believable motivation. In the book, she tells Dorothy how to get home as soon as she meets her. She's much more Good.
  • My biggest problem with the film version though is that it's all a dream. That isn't the case in the novel. Oz is a real place with real borders; it's just surrounded by impassable desert, so no one knows where it is or can get to it without flying (which was much more difficult to do when Baum wrote the story).
  • That leaves open a lot of possibilities for future stories, which of course Baum used. I'm definitely going to keep going, but I haven't decided yet whether that's via book, audiobook, or comics adaptations. I'm getting the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young comics either way, so I'll probably start there and then decide later whether or not to read the original text.
  • The first of those comics should show up any day now.
(Image via Freaking News)

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