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(Warning: the following post contains spoilers for Oz the Great and Powerful and Army of Darkness. If you haven’t seen Oz yet, and plan to do so, give us a bookmark and come back once you’ve been entertained and/or disappointed by that film-going experience. If you haven’t seen Army of Darkness yet…than I don’t even know who you are anymore.)

I didn’t really seek it out, but somehow I found myself at the theater, opening weekend, for a screening of Oz the Great and Powerful. I’ve never been much of a The Wizard of Oz fan. I was always more of a Labyrinth guy (though, ironically, they both share a very similar plot line and structure). And yet there I was. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing the film, but about halfway through it hit me — Sam Raimi has remade Army of Darkness. Army of Darkness was my first exposure to Sam and Bruce Campbell and the dead that I quickly learned were most evil. I then experienced the rest of the trilogy exactly backwards. I really enjoyed Evil Dead 2; and Evil Dead 1…well, it’s cute that they tried. But Army of Darkness was truly my first love, and as such, I’d recognize it anywhere; and I very much recognized it here. Surely Sam knows what he’s done. But did this happen as an amusing accident? Or did he knowingly and deliberately make what amounts to a $215 million, family friendly, 130 minute long wink at Evil Dead fans?

Maybe you think I’m reaching. Maybe you think this new Oz movie merely contains a few coincidental echoes of Sam Raimi’s previous work. Maybe you think there’s no such thing as a massive underground conspiracy keeping the REAL truth about cats and dogs a secret (that Thurman, Garofalo flick was a cover up). Well you’d be wrong. I have evidence. Behold — a spoiler filled list of thirteen tropes and plot points that both movies share:

Key:

    1. Army of Darkness
    2. Oz the Great and Powerful
  1. An extreme time and/or fantasy world displacement for the protagonist (à la A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court).

    1. Ash is transported to a fantastical medieval age complete with demons, magic, and a wizard.
    2. Oz poses as a wizard after being transported to the Wonderful Land of Oz, which possesses witches, magic, and a colorfully overproduced aesthetic.
  2. The protagonist is a self-absorbed, cowardly, selfish, womanizing prick who occasionally demonstrates he has something akin to “heart of gold”-like tendencies.
    1. Ash’s selfishness mostly manifests with his self-preservation at all costs mentality.
    2. Oz’s selfishness is displayed mostly with his lust for gold, as well as a few sociopathic tendencies.

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The protagonist sets off on a quest to save the realm.
Ash is sent to acquire the necronomicon which will help them to defeat the deadites.
Oz is sent to kill the Wicked Witch.

The protagonist seduces an extremely impressionable/gullible innocent woman under the false pretense that he is the chosen one spoken of in a prophesy and has come to save them.
Exhibit A: Sheila.
Exhibit B: Theodora.

The protagonist unwittingly/incompetently sets in motion the events that lead to the creation and empowerment of a great evil.
Ash misspeaks the magic words while taking the Necronomicon from its pedestal, which brings about the rebirth of his now gruesome evil doppelganger, who in turn raises an army of the Dead.
Oz thoughtlessly scorns Theodora who, in her despair, allows herself to be manipulated and tricked by Evanora into eating a magic apple. The apple transforms Theodora into a more powerful and evil witch – more powerful and evil than Evanora herself.

The Protagonist’s beautiful, sort of but not really girlfriend is transformed into a hideous and evil version of herself by the film’s main villain. (This and the previous trope are very much tied to each other.)
Evil Ash turns Sheila into a deadite.
Evanora transforms Theodora into the ugly, and very green, Wicked Witch of the West.

There is a montage of scenes depicting the protagonist preparing a ragtag group of unlikely warriors for the final confrontation.
Ash shows them how to make new weapons, and teaches the villagers and peasants how to fight (albeit in a somewhat comical and unconvincing fashion).
Oz gets the pacifist inhabitants of Oz to build what will be an elaborate rouse (à la The A-Team/The Three Amigos) to defeat the evil witches and their minions.

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The Protagonist brings scientific knowledge from his time period/universe to give the good guys a tactical advantage.
Ash teaches the wizard and blacksmith how to make black powder for explosives.
Oz teaches the tinkers how to make black powder for fireworks.

The protagonist conspires with a local craftsman on a secret project.
Ash and the blacksmith create a death coaster from the car that transported there with him.
Oz and the Master Tinker build a hot air balloon similar to the one he was in when he transported to Oz.

The protagonist’s futuristic/otherworldly black powder projectiles demoralize the enemy.
Ash’s explosive arrows greatly intimidate soldiers in the dead army to cartoonishly comedic effect.
Oz’s fireworks frighten the witches and their army.

The protagonist flees from battle at a critical moment in what looks like a shameful display of cowardice to his allies.
The castle is invaded and Ash is seen escaping behind the castle walls.
Once they’ve entered the castle, Oz leaves the resistance to execute the plan on their own while he fills up his new balloon with gold from the treasury.

Just when the situation looks to be at its worst, the protagonist surprises everyone when he reemerges with some crazy contraption to turn the tide against the enemy.
Ash, in an explosion of wooden door shards, reveals himself riding his secret death coaster, complete with giant spinning blades of death, and easily mows down any deadite that dares cross his path.
The new Wicked Witch shoots a fireball at Oz’s balloon as it sets off with its expensive cargo. The Balloon hits the ground in an explosion of fire and gold. Shortly thereafter, the prototype of the famous giant floating head projection of Oz appears and intimidates the hell out of everyone.

And finally, zombie dinosaurs rise from their prehistoric graves and eat the brains of orphans… and non-smokers – but that’s mostly a political statement. Zombie dinosaurs are very upset about the legislative restrictions forced upon the American smoker by their tyrannical government oppressors. (I assume anyway. I never actually made it to the end of these films. Too scary.)

Well, I think I’ve both made my point, and wasted a fair bit of your time with trivial nonsense. You’re welcome.

Those are the parallels I thought of anyway. Please feel free to comment on this post if you think of anything I missed.

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