Last week I had the happy opportunity of watching Disney’s new Oz the Great and Powerful. I had to turn around a review that night for World Magazine–CLICK HERE to read that review. (Or see my radio review at TW&E.) I had expected a mediocre movie based on reviews I read beforehand, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I consider this to be one of the best family movies I’ve seen in a while for older kids (not the young ones, though!)–and almost nothing like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland that this movie is being compared to.
But at only 350 words, I wasn’t able to address much in terms of thematic issues the movie raises in my World review. So, here are a few discussion questions I thought Christian families might want to consider should they watch it:
1. One good way to start is with a summary question. You can’t analyze the particulars of a movie until you have the big picture in mind. So, what did you think the movie was about? Can you describe the beginning, middle, and end? What was the main problem that got solved? (Here’s a hint–try to figure out the climax, or the big showdown at the end. If you can name who was involved and what they gained or lost, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the story.)
2. Who was your favorite character? Why? Did he or she (or it!) change at all through the story? (Here’s another hint–the most important and interesting characters will often undergo the most change.)
3. If you had been the movie-maker, would you have done anything differently? Did you like the Land of Oz as it was created by the filmmaker? Could he have done anything to make it better? (One of the best tools you can give your child in terms of understanding media is to play the “what if” game. What if the Emerald City had been the Ruby City? What if the flying monkey had been an elephant? Would anything have been lost or gained? By seeing alternatives to what is there, you can really help them see the significance of what the filmmaker chose to do.)
4. Can you think of any reasons Christians might not want to watch this movie? Is it too violent? Does God say anything in His word about witches and wizards? (While your family may have one opinion on this subject, you may want to help them think through why others might disagree. Best of all, this question might send them into the Scriptures to wrestle with the issue themselves. And I actually read an article on that subject HERE just today written by a young Christian. Teens might like to read it and discuss.)
5. One reviewer I read said that the theme of the original Wizard of Oz books and movie is “the goodness is within you.” Do you think that was one of the lessons of this movie? How does that compare to the Christian doctrine of original sin? (This is the quintessential alternative gospel of kids’ books and movies. Steel your kids against it early and often. I think it’s possibly to appreciate that this is fantasy, and as such, we don’t expect Jesus to appear. In fact, Shakespeare used “false gods” in his writing in order to avoid using the Lord’s name in vain. But in American culture, this kind of you-can-do-it spirit is certainly peddled as another gospel.)
Bonus Question for older kids: One of the main plot elements was that Oscar was a con-man. He couldn’t do any real magic, like the witches of the story. How does this reflect postmodern ideas about who we are and what gives our life meaning? (Remember, in the postmodern construct, because there is no ultimate Truth, people have to create/define themselves and reality.) Does Oscar’s change in the end critique postmodernism in any way?
I wish I had more time to plumb the depths here, but hopefully this will spark some conversation. For those of you who see it, may the Lord use this movie to strengthen both your child’s faith and your relationship!
Do any of you have any thoughts or questions you’d like to add? I’ve love to hear what some of you thought of the movie! Oh, and if you’re interested in more of my thoughts, see my interview for World’s radio program. You can “like” our Facebook page to get updates about that recording, as well as all our posts and free book alerts.