Hank: Tarsem Singh is capable of leaving his visual imprimatur on the most varied of material- from R.E.M’s classic “Losing My Religion” music video, through Hollywood thrillers like “The Cell” (with Jennifer Lopez) and mercenary commercials starring Enrique Iglesias, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Pink, to more idiosyncratic projects like “The Fall.” The scripts he works with have rarely been remarkable, but his stylized direction makes you excuse him. His directorial vision adds considerable elegance to “Emerald City,” which would otherwise be yet another re-interpretation of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” (this time as a gritty high fantasy).
Gone are the lollipops and the corny lines and the cheeseball costumes: this is a sobering land where joy is as infrequent as the magic that has been forbidden by the Wizard of Oz (Vincent D’Onofrio, an insecure Kingpin). Instead of a little girl, Dorothy Gale is now a bad-ass, Not-in-Kansas-Anymore cop (Adria Arjona). Even Toto has been grittified into a German Shepherd! With a twister of a plot, a diverse cast, great special effects, and a land that splits the difference between “Game of Thrones” and “Harry Potter,” “Emerald City” certainly has something for everyone! Will this be the wondrous, wizardous saga that earns SIX CHERRIES and frees us all from our @#$%@$& eternal sentence?!?
For Trent, we have mud-covered, ass-kicking barbarians, replacing those bothersome Munchkins that led him to so many therapy sessions.
Trent: No! Turn it off! And there’s nothing irrational about being terrified of Munchkins! They can bite your balls off before you even saw them coming, and then as you lie there with a bloody crotch, they start chanting demonic incantations in their high-pitched voices! See also: Oompa-Loompas, Smurfs, Ewoks, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Hank: For Grandpa Felicius, we have a reverent homage to a beloved literary masterpiece from the golden days!
Grandpa Felicius: No. The world does not need more bastardized visits to Oz, or Wonderland, or Neverland. Spare me the fate of being a relic in the public domain.
Hank: For Tracey, we have several powerful bad-ass female characters, often played by – what’s that you call them, kiddo? POCKS? Dorothy is played by a Pock, Adria Arjona, whom we just saw on “The Belko Experiment.” Tip / Ozma (Jordan Loughran) is basically a TRANSGENDER Pock! Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Joely Richardson) is… well, aggressively white and seemingly asexual.
Grandpa Felicius: Like all of Tracey’s favorite sufragettes!
Hank: And never forget the rock and rolling Witch of the West (Ana Ularu) who looks like a cross between Chrissie Hynde and Fairuza Balk! This is an empowered female who does NOT let anyone mess with her opium time!
Grandpa Felicius: Ah, yes. Now there’s an LBGQHDTV if I ever saw one! This Witch runs the Oz Bordello, because Oz now has a Bordello, exactly as L. Frank Baum intended from the very beginning.
Tracey: UGH! No! Stop, you two. Look, I love it when Persons of Color and/ or members of the LGBTQIA+ community take the lead, but there’s no need for turning Dorothy, the quintessential Kansas girl, into a Hispanic unless it makes sense in the context of the story, or if you’re doing it to accurately represent changing demographics. What “Emerald City” does is just called tokenism, and it’s a patronizing, condescending way of not listening to the actual needs and demands of—
Hank: Yeah, ok, kiddo. For Cousin Franz, we have a post-modern subversion of deeply archetypal cultural tropes –
Cousin Franz: No. Because it got cancelled after one season, and it is downright painful to see how Tarsem Singh’s carefully conjured world was brought down by an unappreciative, jaded, binge-exhausted audience who wouldn’t give it a chance. As little as ten years ago, “Emerald City” would have been an astounding, nearly unimaginable visual feat. These days, it was dismissed as a “Game of Thrones” imitator that failed to contain the desired quota of dragon breasts or whatever. And I can’t say that’s an inaccurate assessment, much as I liked the show.
Hank: As for Beatricia, we have…. Well, there’s gotta be SOMETHING in the universe that satisfies you, right, babe?
Beatricia: No, Hanky. Because if I wanted something bright and innocent, I would watch Judy Garland dancing around in a colorful Oz, and if I wanted something dark and sexy, I would watch Jason Momoa humping Emilia Clarke while deadly hordes roam about, but at no point in my existence have I wanted to watch both things simultaneously.
Hank: Darn. Well, at least we have monkey robots for Blurbarella.
Blurbarella: “Emerald City– Does Not– Accurately Represent– Plight of– Sexy–Monkey Robots.”
1 of 6 Cherries