Category Archives: film

Resident Evil and Representation

The Resident Evil series qualifies as a horror series, a sci fi series and an action series. Given the genre, Resident Evil is surprisingly diverse. The main character is female, the supporting cast are a mix of genders and race, men are more likely to die and there’s very little romance throughout the series. Let’s face it, even when a female is the main character in an action film, she’ll inevitably be surrounded by white male companions, one of whom she’ll fall in love with by the end of the film. So the Resident Evil films are surprisingly refreshing, which isn’t what I expected when I first came across the series.

In this post, I’ll be looking at the composition of Alices teams to demonstrate just how diverse the cast is. By Alices team, I mean anyone who Alice joins/fights with over the course of any film (in the Anderson film universe, not the games). This post contains massive spoilers, mostly regarding who dies and who survives, so make sure that you’ve seen the films first if you don’t want to ruin them for yourselves.

Resident Evil (2002)
In the first film, Alices team consists of three women:
• Alice- Caucasian
• Rain Ocampo- Hispanic American (Umbrella special forces commando unit)
• Olga Danilova- Russian (Medic)

And seven men:
• Matt Addison – Caucasian (Activist)
• Spence Parks- Caucasian (Security operative)
• James Shade- African American (Leader of the special forces unit)
• Chad Kaplan- Caucasian (Computer technician of special forces unit)
• JD Salinas- Hispanic (Special forces unit)
• Vance Drew – Caucasian (Special forces unit)
• Alfonso Warner- Caucasian (Special forces unit)

Making this the most masculine group in the series.

Olga, Vance, Alfonso and James are killed by lazers. JD is killed by zombies and Spence is killed by the licker. Chad is then killed by the mutated licker. Despite being bitten shortly after the laser room, Rain is the last to die, being shot by Matt after she turns.

In this film, only Matt and Alice survive, both being taken away to be experimented upon. So it goes from being a masculine dominant group, to an even split.

Apocalypse (2004)
The team in Resident Evil: Apocalypse consists of three women:
• Alice
• Jill Valentine- Caucasian (Police officer)
• Terri Morales- Hispanic (News reporter)

And four men:

• Peyton Wells – African American (Police Officer)
• Carlos Olivera – Caucasian (Played by an Israeli actor) (Umbrella biohazard counter measure force)
• Nicholai Ginovaef – Caucasian (Umbrella biohazard counter measure force)
• LJ (Lloud Jefferson Wayne)- African American (Former Walmart employee)

Alice meets Peyton, Jill and Terri first. LJ then joins the group, followed by Carlos and Nicholai. Another member of Carlos’ team Yuri (Caucasian, male) dies before meeting Alice. Yuri and Peyton both infected early in the film. Yuri is shot by Carlos after he turns. Peyton is killed by Nemisis. Terri is eaten by child zombies and Nicholai is killed by zombie dogs.

Interestingly, Terri and LJ are not special ops and have no combat training. (Although LJ owning customised guns suggests that he knows how to shoot.) Despite being the most inexperienced of the group, Terri dies 3rd (after the police officer and an umbrella operative) and LJ survives the film.

Similar to the last film, despite the fact that there are more men in the team, it ends with an even split of gender. Two men survive; Carlos and LJ go on to join the Nevada team. And two women survive; Jill is kidnapped and although Alice technically dies in this film, she is brought back to life by Umbrella.

Extinction (2007)
The team for Resident Evil: Extinction consists of four women:
• Alice
• Claire Redfield- Caucasian (Leader of the human convoy)
• Betty- African American (Nurse)
• K-mart- Caucasian- (Role unknown. Member of the human convoy)

And five men:
• Carlos – From the last film
• LJ- From the last film
• Mikey- Caucasian- (Electronic operative)
• Chase- Caucasian- (Police sheriff)
• Otto- Caucasian- (Bus driver)

Both Betty and Otto are killed in a raven attack. Mikey and Chase are killed in the Vegas attack, during which LJ is turned and killed. Carlos then sacrifices himself.

This leaves only three women alive: Alice, Claire and Kmart. This is the first instance of one gender completely outliving the other and from this series, it isn’t surprising that it’s the women who manage to survive.

Interestingly, this is the first film to incorporate romance, with LJ and Betty’s date and it being implied that Kmart has a crush on Carlos.

Afterlife (2010)
The team in Resident Evil: Afterlife consists of three women:
• Alice
• Claire – From last film
• Crystal Waters- Caucasian (Waitress, aspiring actress)

And six men:
• Luther West- African American (Sports personality)
• Angel Ortiz- Hispanic
• Bennet Sinclair- Caucasian (Director)
• Kim Yong- Asian (Bennets assistant)
• Wendell- Caucasian
• Chris Redfield- Caucasian (Soldier)

This is the second most masculine group and is the least trained in combat. Unlike the other teams which have comprised of Umbrella operatives or police officers, Chris is the only one with military training.

Wendell is killed by zombies after attempting to spy on Alice in the shower. Crystal proves to be one of the most useful members of the group, announcing that she is a swimming champion, she is unfortunately killed immediately after she swims to the armory. Angel is killed by Bennet during his escape (I’m still not sure why he had to kill Angel to get to the plane…). Kim is reluctant to go in the sewers and due to his hesitancy, is sliced in half. And Bennett is presumably killed by the bad guy after being locked in.

Similar to the first and second film, despite being a masculine group, two men (Luther and Chris) and two women (Alice and Claire) survive the film.

Retribution (2012)
In (what is currently) the final film in the series, we have an equal split gender wise, with five women and five men. The women consist of:
• Alice
• Suburban clone of Rain- From previous film
• Jill Valentine- From a previous film
• Becky- Caucasian (Child)
• Ada Wong- Asian

And the men are:

• Luthor- From previous film
• Barry Burton- Caucasian
• Leon Kennedy- Caucasian
• Sergei- Caucasian
• Tony Rosato- Hispanic

Despite this being the most even grouping in term of gender, it ends up being the most uneven (in favour of the women). Tony is killed by Plaga Undead in Moscow before meeting Alice. Sergei is then killed by a licker in Moscow. Suburban Rain is also killed by licker. Barry is killed by Carlos’ umbrella clone and Luthor is then killed fighting Rains umbrella clone.

This leaves Leon as the only man standing. Conversely, only one of the women died, meaning that Alice, Jill, Ada and Becky all survive.

This film is similar to Extinction in that it is one of the few that has a (albeit brief) focus on romance- Leon puts his hand on Ada’s knee and is immediately rejected. The focus is more firmly on the friendship between Alice and the members of the team such as Luthor and Jill, as well as her motherly relationship with Becky, her clone’s daughter.

Children in the series
Interestingly, the only children in the film series (ignoring the red and white queens) both look alike, and both have physical defects. Angela Ashford (Angie) has a degenerative condition which would have led to a life in a wheelchair had it not been for the T-virus and Becky was partially deaf. The part of Becky wasn’t interestingly designed to resemble Angie. The part could have easily been a boy as the casting call was for a boy or girl of around 6 years old for a character named either Ben or Becky, dependant on the gender of the actor. Becky also wasn’t designed to be deaf, Aryanna Engineer (who is partially deaf) was simply the best actress for the part, which is incredibly rare for deaf actors.

Bad Guys
The enemies throughout the film series are normally white male. Unlike Alice’s teams, there is far less representation in the Umbrella Corporation. Arguably, this is intentional and is demonstrative of the corruption in business. It also furthers the notion that minorities and women are the underdogs, which encourages you to support them.

All things considered, the Resident Evil movies are fantastic when it comes to representation. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, with little to no emphasis being put on the female characters love lives. The mix of gender and race throughout Alice’s teams are refreshing and it’s great to see a lot more representation in films like this which can get pretty stuck in their traditional tropes. Let me know what you think of the series. Did you notice the difference in representation? Love it? Hate it? Let me know!

Resident Evil: Female Costumes

If you’ve read my post about the costumes worn by female superheroes , then you’ll know that one of my biggest pet peeves is when female characters were overtly sexy and impractical outfits to fight in.

I recently finished the Resident Evil film series and as much as I love the films I found it hard to ignore the completely impractical costumes which the main character and some of the other female characters chose to wear for the zombie apocalypse.

As a quick disclaimer, I’ve never played any of the games, so I don’t know how much of the costumes were designed to resemble the outfits worn by the characters of the game. Everything that I write is relevant only to the Anderson version of Resident Evil, although if the costumes do emulate that of the game then it is still true that the costumes are unnecessarily revealing for combat so the points I’m about to make still stand.

Resident Evil (2002)

In the first film, Alice wears the iconic red evening dress. I can see why Alice’s choice of outfit was impractical for this film. With no memory, Alice had no idea of what she was walking into. Therefore, she can’t really be blamed for picking the red dress which was laid out on her bed. (Although a quick search in the wardrobes would have resulted in more practical clothes. She even opens a few drawers and finds white shirts before she finds the guns.) At least she thought to wear boots instead of heels which would normally be worn with a dress such as this. Most female characters would be given heels that are difficult to walk in, never mind running for your life.

RE1

Alice does take Spence’s jacket due to the cold in the hive and wears it fully zipped up for a portion of the movie. And she is wearing clothing under the dress, however under it is a small black mini skirt which is revealed when the dress is ripped. She also wears no bra, which has got to be one of the worst ways to fight.

In regards to the other main female character in this film, as a member of the Special Forces Commando Unit, Rain wears combat ready attire including a black shirt, heavy duty black jacket, black combat pants and big black boots. Her hair is also tied up in a ponytail, although there is still hair in her face which would obscure her vision.

Overall, this film isn’t so bad. Given the timeframe, there’s no cause for the characters to change outfits, therefore it does make sense that Alice remains in the red dress that she chose before she knew where she was being taken.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

When Alice awakes after the events from the previous film, she is completely naked apart from two very thin sheets used to cover her. Maybe the scientists wanted to preserve her modesty but still have the opportunity to ogle? Anyway, Alice finds herself a lab coat to wear until she finds a store and can find herself some clothes. In this film, Alice wears a cropped tank top over which she wears a mesh shirt. She also wears black jeans and dark cowboy boots.

RE2

According to IMDB, it was Milla Jovovich’s idea for there to be a heat wave in Raccoon City which explains why both Alice and Jill Valentine wear very skimpy clothing. However, since the film is set almost entirely at night-time anyway, the temperature would have dropped. At least Alice doesn’t have to worry about protecting her skin from the zombies, as she is already infected and wouldn’t fear being bitten. Jill however, has no such excuse.

RE3

Jill Valentine essentially looks like Lara Croft in this movie, wearing a blue strapless shirt and a short black skirt. As a former police officer, Jill should really know how to dress in a crisis.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Extinction beings with one of Alice’s clones, wearing the same red dress which she wore in the first film. I can see why the Umbrella Corp would utilise the same outfits in an attempt to trigger her memories. I just find it pretty funny to think that they probably have a department dedicated to generating copies of that dress. Interestingly, all of Alice’s clones have the blonde hair which she had at the beginning of the series. According the Resident Evil wiki Milla Jovovich justified Alice’s changing hair colour throughout the series by saying that Alice started with dyed blonde hair, which grew out, returning her hair to its original black. Now forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that if you grow clones of someone, then those clones would have the original hair colour, not the dyed one. They also wouldn’t have the exact same haircut, their hair should be long as it would grow at the same rate as the rest of their bodies. Maybe the Umbrella Corp styles their hair before they wake them up?

According to IMDB , Alice’s outfit in this film was designed by Milla Jovovich’s clothing line Jovovich-Hawk. I do think this is one of the more functional outfits. As they’re in the desert, the skimpier outfits for all the women are more justified. The film being set during the day does make the heat a lot more believable. However, as well as skimpy clothing, Alice also wears an overcoat and a scarf. Both of which are utilised to keep her warm during the night and to protect from the sand.

RE4

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Afterlife opening with a group of Alice’s clones invading the Umbrella Corps base. In a surprising twist, they are all wearing combat ready clothes. They even have their hair slicked back in a ponytail in a way which doesn’t leave hair all over their face (unlike Rain from the first movie). I was pretty impressed with this, until it’s revealed that the real Alice still have short hair which she leaves down.

RE5

Alice later wears a large green jacket, lined with fur to keep her warm during her trip to Antarctica. All in all, most of the characters seems to wear clothing appropriate to their situation. Crystal is wearing a vest top, but so is Luther. Which contrasts to Apocalypse where most of the male characters were wearing full body armour whilst the girls worn strappy/strapless shirts.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

For the most part, Alice is combat ready in this film. She didn’t choose her own outfit, after waking up naked (covered by two small sheets of paper again) Alice finds her outfit in her cell after the security systems are hacked. Rains suburban clone does refer to this outfit as an “S and M get up” and I have to agree, but I do prefer it to some of the other outfits Alice has worn.

RE6

The functionality of Alices outfit is justified by the ridiculous nature of Adas. As an agent, Ada had advanced knowledge of the mission, including where she would be going and what she would be fighting. Despite knowing that she would be fighting throughout the mission, Ava chose to wear a skimpy red dress (which emulates the dress which Alice wore in the first film). She also wears heels and a black choker with dangling ends which makes it terrible for fights as it can be easily pulled (which would ironically chock her with her choker).

The other main female wears a purple body suit which is unzipped to reveal her chest. I’m guessing that Jill had no say in this outfit as she was brainwashed at the time. I can see why the outfit is so revealing, as this is the only way that the brain-washing spider can be seen all of the time, however, the same didn’t happen when Claire was brainwashed, and the audience still knew what was happening, so it wasn’t exactly necessary.

Towards the end, the action takes part on a frozen tundra in Russia. Alice is dressed appropriately for the cold, wearing a winter coat which she uses to keep both herself and Becky warm. The other female characters don’t have the same luxury. Despite the cold, Jill’s chest, the umbrella Rain clone’s arms and Adas… everything are exposed to the cold. Considering Ada knew where she would be surfacing, you’d think she would have dressed more appropriately. Even when they’re being rescued, she still has no other protection from the cold other than her flimsy dress.

Alice’s Time Naked

Throughout the film, our heroine is naked in pretty much every film. Which, although realistic at times, is a bit unnecessary.

In the opening of Resident Evil, Alice wakes up in the shower, mostly covered by a shower curtain. The film both opens and ends with Alice naked, ending with her covered by two flimsy pieces of paper after being experimented on. Apocalypse follows from the end of the second film, Alice soon dresses herself in a lab coat. Apocalypse ends with Alice naked in the water tank. In Extinction a clone of Alice wakes up in the shower, the same way Alice did in the first film. There are also countless clones in the water bubbles, they are all naked but most conveniently have their arms covering their chest. Interesting, Alice doesn’t appear naked in Afterlife despite the pretty clear opportunity to have her naked in the first shower scene (when Wendell is spying on her). And in the final film Retribution, Alice wakes up in the Umbrella facility, covered by two thin sheets of paper again.

This probably wouldn’t have been as bad if it wasn’t for the fact that is only ever Alice who is naked. We never seen the male characters naked so it seems a bit unbalanced.

Makeup

One thing I hate about any apocalypse movie is that despite having limited access to supplies, the women always seem to have access to make up and shaving equipment. This is definitely true of this film, as all of the women are perfectly made up despite how bad the circumstances get.

That’s all I have to say on Resident Evil for now. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of the costuming throughout the Resident Evil series. I’d love to hear if there’s anything that I overlooked, whether it’s from the games (which I’ve never played) or the movies (which I’ve only seen twice each). I’d love to get other opinions on the costumes designs for the series.

Harry Potter: House Symbolism and Rivalry

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, when I went to Durham University I took a class about Harry Potter. In this class, the students are sorted into one of the four houses and earn house points based on how well they do in essays. I unfortunately missed the sorting ceremony but I was sorted later in class. And naturally, I was sorted into… Hufflepuf :I

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t see anything wrong with being a Hufflepuff. But I’ve always identified as more of a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw. I’m a Gryffindor on pottermore though, so at least that’s some kind of consolation. Besides, Hufflepuff have won the Durham house cup since the class started. So there are some perks to being a Hufflepuff.

The four houses are incredibly important to the world created by JK Rowling and in the class, we talked extensively on the prejudice and discrimination that comes from having a house system. And I do find this to be a pretty interesting area of the Harry Potter world, so I figured why not write about it.

Most people are aware about the different colours and the animals which represent the houses. So I’m not going to go into that. I will say that the films change a lot about Ravenclaws symbolism, their house colours change from blue and bronze to blue and silver and their eagle was changed to a raven, possibly because it makes more sense to have their mascot be the same as their namesake. It seems to be that this choice to change the colours and symbol was mainly aesthetic on the part of the film crew.

The four houses each correspond to one of the four elements. Gryffindor’s colour is red and its students have a fiery nature, so naturally they represent fire. Hufflepuff’s mascot is a badger and the students tend to succeed in Herbology, so they represent earth. Ravenclaws emblem is a bird, which related to the element of air, and Slytherins dorms are situated underneath the black lake, meaning that they represent water.

The regalia for each house are significant, particularly in terms of Voldemorts horcuxes, but they’re also symbolic of the traits of each house. For example, Godric Gryffindors sword represents bravery and the ability to fight for what you believe in. Helga Hufflepuffs cup may be symbolic of her houses hospitable nature. Rowena Ravenclaws diadem places emphasis on the head and therefore knowledge. And Salazar Slytherins locket could be indicative of the houses vanity and obsession with wealth and status.

As a boarding school, Hogwarts removes you from your real family and replaces it with another. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll be in the same house as your relatives. For example, Sirius Black was unusual in his family for being sorted into Gryffindor and the Patil twins were separate (another fact which the movies conveniently ignored).

This house system creates a sense of unity and comradery but it also insights discrimination. In the epilogue, Ron threatens to disinherit his children if they’re not in Gryffindor. And in the beginning, when Harry is just learning about the house system, Hagrid regards to Hufflepuff as a “lot o’ duffers” but makes a point of saying that that’s not the worst you could be and that Slytherin is the house were all evil wizards come from. Interestingly at this point, Hagrid would be aware that Sirius has been blamed for betraying Lily and James, which would therefore make him a bad wizard from Gryffindor, but it’s likely that Hagrid remained loyal to his friends, and didn’t believe that Sirius was capable of betraying James.

Anyway, Harry had gone his whole life without hearing about the houses. But he’s suddenly been told by both Hagrid, and Ron, that Slytherin are the bad guys. This leads to him begging the hat to sort him anywhere else. It would be interesting to see where Harry would have ended up if it hadn’t had these preconceptions, particularly since he has a part of Voldemorts soul is attached to him, so he would have had a greater chance of being in Slytherin instead, which may have entirely changed the perceptions of the novel.

There are also a number of issues with the process of sorting. Dumbledore himself says “sometimes I think we sort too soon.” At the age of eleven, the kids haven’t fully developed their personalities and it may be that the house that they’re in develops them instead. So instead of being born brave, you have the capability of bravery, which is fostered by the Gryffindor environment. And the same goes for the other houses.

This leads to the phenomenon where not all Gryffindors are good, not all Slytherins are sneaky, not all Ravenclaws are intellectual and not all Hufflepuffs should just be seen as ‘and the rest’. For example, Dumbledore and Pettigrew are two Gryffindors with very questionable morals. But everyone seems willing to just brush over the fact that Dumbledore once planned to rule all muggles, because deep down, we will always see him as the good guy. Likewise, it’s very easy to argue that Draco isn’t all bad as well as Snape who at the end he (kinda) earns his redemption. There’s also Slughorn, who just appears to be a genuinely nice guy despite his fondness for the Slytherin house. Luna is an example of unconventional wisdom and she doesn’t exactly fit into the Ravenclaw stereotype. Similarly, the ditzy, superficial Lockheart was also a Ravenclaw at his time in Hogwarts. Hufflepuffs have a reputation for not really doing a lot but Cedric was incredibly brave up till his death and Tonks is the biggest bamf I have ever seen. (Upon reflection, I do feel a little better about being sorted into Hufflepuff.)

The ultimate point is that their houses do not define these characters. They may be influenced by peer pressure to conform to house standards and develop the house traits, but these are only external influences which don’t fully create an individual’s personality.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you agree that the house traits are nurture over nature? What house do you most identify with? I’d love to hear from you guys.

Toy Story of Terror: Review

I wanted to post a review of the latest installment of the Toy Story series over Halloween, but life got a little hectic. So here’s a no longer seasonally appropriate review of Toy Story of Terror.

Toy Story of Terror is an episode length feature with a running time of approximately 21 minutes. The film follows on from Toy Story 3, with the toys belonging to Bonnie instead of Andy (I’m still not over that ending and I never will be). The film opens with the toys watching a classic horror film, each giving their own opinion about what the heroine should do in the situation. Very quickly they find themselves in a similar position and Jessie takes the role of our horror story heroine.

Early on Jessie gets trapped in a toolbox for about a minute and has a panic attack. When Trixie the dinosaur asks “What’s the matter with Jessie?” Mr Potato-Head explains that “She was abandoned in a box for years”. A deliberate reference to the other most heat breaking moment in the Toy Story universe; Jessie’s abandonment . Jessie’s panic attacks don’t really match up with her introduction where she was content to be shipped off with Woody and the gang, but I don’t particularly mind the lapse in continuity because its actually pretty impressive character development, especially for a kids film.

The toys find themselves in a series of horror movie clichés: the car breaks down and they end up spending the night at a motel during a thunderstorm, all of which are pointed out by Mr Prickle-Pants. The group spilt up, leaving Jessie alone in an enclosed space, where she has another mini panic attack. Jessie is later separated by the group again and a lot of the screen time is dedicated to her acting like a typical horror heroine, running from some unknown danger, which turns out to be an iguana which collects toys which his the manager of the motel sells online (another call back to the second film and Jessies introduction to the series).

The toys are reunited when the manager places Jessie in the same cabinet in which the other toys are being stored whilst the manager attempts to sell them online. Someone pays two thousand dollars for woody and Jessie is similarly sold for a large amount of money. (Interestingly the address on the shipping label is Al’s Toy Barn, another reference to a previous film). Jessie is told to get in one of the boxes in order to save Woody and she has to face her fears in order to save both herself and Woody from confinement.

All in all, its not really that much of a Halloween story, just the few moments of horror parody at the beginning. However, it is a great depiction of fears and panic/ anxiety attacks and it is good to see Jessie as our lead instead of the usual focus on Buzz and Woody. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the Toy Story of Terror, especially the way in which the main plot is Jessie battling her anxieties.

The Muppets Wizard of Oz Film Review

The 2005 Muppets adaption of the Wizard of Oz is pretty much what you’d expect from the Muppets. Our human actress plays Dorothy while the most famous of the Muppets are cast in the other main roles. So Kermit, Gonzo and Fozzie play the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. In an odd twist, Toto is played by Pepe the Prawn (because they have similar names?)

Miss Piggy plays all of the witches (who oddly used to be a girl band together…okay). Interestingly the Witch of the West isn’t green (probably because it would be harder to make a new Miss Piggy Muppet out of green material), one of her sidekicks has green skin to make up for it though. Instead the flying monkeys, we have a biker gang of Muppets who are ruled by whoever wears a special hat. I’m not sure where that plot point came from but why not?

The film is pretty predictably, after all they couldn’t deviate that much from their source material. The main difference is that, in the real world, Dorothy wants to audition to tour with the Muppets so instead of wanting to go home, Dorothy’s main motivation is to become a famous singer which she naturally manages to achieve by the end of the film.

At first glance this film is pretty tame. But it did receive a lot of criticism for being far too raunchy for a kid’s film. Take a look at some of the proclaimed infractions:

• Dorothy says the shoes make her feel “sexy”.
• Pepe the Prawns problem (akin to the scarecrow having no brain) is “I’m so gosh darn sexy it hurts.”
• Pepe fiddles with knobs on Gonzos chest. Gonzo then says they’re his nipples and Pepe promptly runs away saying “I feel dirty.”
• There are references to the Girls Gone Wild series, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypse Now, and Kill Bill: Volume 1.
• “What happens in Oz stays in Oz” is mentioned. Which has obvious sleazy connotations with the famous Las Vegas phrase.
• Dorothy goes to the “makeover machine” and comes out in a skimpy dress. In addition, a wolf whistle is heard as she steps out. Unlike the original Wizard of Oz, only Dorothy gets a makeover, which is pretty unfair.
• The poppy fields is represented as a night club. Which is interesting given the connotations of poppies with opium. But not really stuff for a kid’s film.
• The Wizard appears as a seductress when appearing to Gonzo.
• It’s implied that the Glinda Miss Piggy pinched Kermits ass while Dorothy was saying goodbye to the biker gang.

You can make up your own mind as to whether or not the Muppets film went too far in their desire to appeal to an adult audience as well as their children one. I will say that a lot of the more adult jokes went completely over my head when as was a kid, as they were designed to.

I’d recommend this film if you’re a fan of the Muppets franchise, it has a similar formula to their other films and does a pretty good job at working with the Oz mythology. I’ll leave you with the best joke in the film:

The Top Three Prequels to the Wizard of Oz

I’ve always loved the story of the Wizard of Oz. The original film was a constant in my home when I was growing up, so I’m pretty familiar with both the world of the original and the subsequent adaptions. So I thought I’d make a handy guide to my favorite prequels to the Wizard of Oz.

1. Wicked

As far as I’m concerned the musical ‘Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz’ is, hands down, the best adaptation of the Wizard of Oz out there.

The musical is based on a series of novels by Gregory Maguire; Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Amongst Men and Out of Oz. The musical very loosely follows the plot of the first book but a lot of it is adapted to make the characters more likeable. The biggest example of this is the relationship between Elphaba and Fiyero. In the musical, Fiyero has a sort-of relationship with Glinda, so when he falls in love with Elphaba it’s more like the drama you would see in a high school sit com (which admittedly, makes sense in the highschool setting). Whereas, in the book, Fiyero is married with three children, so it’s more of an affair and it’s a bit harder to cheer on him and Elphabas relationship.

The story predominantly deals with the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West, the antagonist of the source material, during her time at school. But it also includes the back story of all of the other Oz characters. So we see Nessarose (Elphaba’s younger sister) becoming the Wicked witch of the East. Glinda fulfilling her role as the good witch. The Cowardly Lion appears as a cub who is saved by Elphaba. Fiyero (Elphaba’s boyfriend) becomes the scarecrow. And Boq is turned into the tin man by Nessarose.

Unlike other adaptions of the story, Wicked has a strong focus on the political, social, and ethical issues with Oz. The characters are fully developed and a lot more human than they are in the source material. One of the most feared villain in the fairy-tale world becomes the heroine. The Wicked Witch isn’t just evil for the sake of being evil, she was driven to it after trying to do everything she could to be good but failing, which isn’t a twist you expect when you watch the original film.

The musical does, unfortunately, leave out a lot of the commentary of race which appeared in the novel. For example Fiyero is an Arjikis and as such, he is dark-skinned and tattooed with blue diamonds, which you never see in the musical. In fact, they rarely get the ‘dark skinned’ part right. I’m all for racially-blind casting, but at least give him his diamonds.

Fiyeros character is designed to introduce a whole other culture to the Oz mythology, which is unfortunately ignored in the musical adaption. However, there is the oppression of the munchkin people by the dictator Nessarose (which we see in the original Wicked of Oz) and Elphaba remains a brilliant metaphor for racism and a symbol for how prejudice can harm an individual.

The music of Wicked is also a gorgeous addition to the story and if you get the chance to see the musical, you should definitely take it!

2. Lion of Oz (2000)

The Lion of Oz is a children’s animated film which deal primarily with the backstory of the Cowardly Lion and the Wizard. The film is based on the book “Lion of Oz and the Badge of Courage” which was written by Roger S. Baum, the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum.

In the opening sequence, the lion lives in a circus where Oscar Diggs (who later becomes the wizard) works. Both the Lion and Oscar were taken to Oz. during a tornado (just like Dorothy, tornados are clearly the only way to get into Oz) after the wizard stupidly decides that a hot air balloon trip with a lion is a brilliant idea. The main antagonist of this film is the Wicked Witch of the East, who claims to have kidnapped Oscar. She explains that she will release him when the lion brings her the “flower of Oz”. It’s essentially the same set up as the original film. The Lion is given a quest by a witch and collects his companions along the way. On his travels, the Lion is sent to a girl named Wimsik (Get it? Because she’s whimsical) who knows all about flowers. Wimsik is an eternally cheerful child with the most ridiculous fake accent you will ever hear. Interestingly, no-one seems to find it weird odd when Wimsik can magically grow flowers or perform magic just by singing. It’s not really much of a surprise when it transpires that Wimsik was the flower all along.

The Lion’s characterisation in this film is pretty odd. He thinks that his bravery is intrinsically linked to the badge Oscar gave him at the start of the film. The Witch of the East steals it during the climax and he supposedly learns that he doesn’t need the medal to be brave. But he then decides to go on a new quest to find his medal and Oscar (who he’s been told arrived at emerald city in his balloon). The film ends with the lion landing on the yellow brick road and coming across Dorothy and co. Because of the Lions new motivation, the film doesn’t really work as a prequel. If we’re to assume that this is immediately followed by the events in Wizard of Oz, then the lion quickly loses track of his goal of finding Oscar, doesn’t recognise his friend when they do meet again and instead asks if the wizard can just give him courage.

Overall, the animation in this film is what you’d expect from something designed solely for children and the storytelling is pretty cheesy. The songs are also painfully cheesy in comparison to Wicked but you can put that down to their production budget and their primary audience. This is probably best exemplified by the first song in which the wizard sings about how he and the lion have the “courage to be friends”.

3. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

Oz the Great and Powerful deals with the back stories of the Wizard and the Witches. Basically, somebody saw Wicked and thought that it was a good idea so appropriated the concept and turned it into a film. I’m not saying that Gregory Maguire has the monopoly on Oz back stories, I’m just saying that he did it a lot better.

Most of the film is spent mimicking the classic Wizard of Oz film. The black and white beginning is interesting but it drags on for far too long. The transition doesn’t have the impact that it did in the first film because it’s not a surprise. Literally everyone was expecting it. It worked so well back in 1939 because the technology was new, now it’s common place and not nearly as special as it was back then.

Like the Lion of Oz, this film mimics the plot of Wizard of Oz. Our hero is given a quest by a witch (that quest being to kill the witch), and collects companions along the way. These companions represent people he knows in real life. Finley the flying monkey represents his assistant from the Circus and the China Doll symbolises the little girl who asked him to help her walk.

The film is set up to trick you into thinking that Evanora is the bad witch (she wears a green dress, what more evidence do you need). There’s also a different character referred to as the ‘Wicked Witch’ which turns out to be their Glinda. I didn’t mind the twist of the wicked witch being Theodora, but I was disappointed that the cause of all of her evil was a boy. Yes, in Wicked Fiyero partly caused Elphaba’s path into wickedness, but that’s only a small part of it. Wicked is more of a political commentary and Elphaba is represented as being the hero whilst the Wizard is the truly wicked one. In Oz the Great and Powerful, Theodora’s heart is broken and she chooses to remain green simply to ‘punish the wizard’. Seems legit.

In this film, the wizard is presented as being a good sympathetic character. But he’s just plain awful. Like Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, the wizard tricks and manipulates women into (presumably) sleeping with him, and yet he’s still our good guy. The Wizards lose morals are far better represented in Wicked, where the Wizards misdeeds begin with him drugging Elphaba’s mother to sleep with him.

Overall, I wasn’t particularly impressed by Oz the Great and Powerful.

So that’s all for now. I was considering doing a post about the prequels to Wizard of Oz, but to be honest all I would be able to talk about is how much those Wheelers creeped me out. Those things were awful.

Let me know what you guys think. Do you love these prequels? Hate them? Were there any that I missed out? Leave me a message to let me know.

The Power of Fanfiction

In the class ‘Harry Potter: The Age of Illusion’ at Durham University, I learnt a lot about the ‘potter-verse’ and all of the different aspects which go into creating the fictional universe, for example; the books, the films, interviews with JK Rowling etc. And the main thing that I took away from the class with this; fanction isn’t all that bad. In fact, our first piece of homework was to read one of our lecturers favourite fanfictions (which can be found here if anyone is interested: Hogwarts Houses Divided). We also looked at ‘drapple’ in class, but that’s another story…

There are a lot of arguments against fanfiction which largely really on the legal standpoint of copyright infringement. But on the whole fanfiction is a pretty great phenomenon because it expands the fictional universe. Let’s face it, we don’t really know a lot about the marauders school days because Rowling didn’t write a great deal about then. But through fanfictions, headcanons, fanart etc we all have a shared idea of what the era was like. (The only large disputes over the era which I’ve seen are about the characterisations of teenage Peter and Snape which, given their actions later in life, is understandable).

Fans are able to pick up a universe and expand it as a community, which is something that even Rowling advocates. And this is why I think that it’s a shame when authors expressly ban fanfiction of their work. Fanfiction.net gives a list of all of the authors who have banned fanfiction which includes;
• Anne Rice
• P. N. Elrod
• Archie Comics
• Dennis L. McKiernan
• Irene Radford
• J.R. Ward
• Laurell K. Hamilton
• Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
• Raymond Feist
• Robin Hobb
• Robin McKinley
• Terry Goodkind

This is always disappointing because fictional worlds such as that created by Anne Rice through the Vampire Chronicles are perfect for fan expansion. I want to see more interview with the vampire head canons. I want more fan castings (we need them after the terrible castings of the movies of both Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned). I want as many au’s as humanely possible. But alas, the restrictions mean that it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

Let me know what you think about fanfiction in the comments. Like me, do you get a bit disheartened when the author limits the potential for fan expansion of their universes or do you think that it’s their choice?