Did you know that Oz the Great and Powerful is a shot-for-shot remake of Army of Darkness? Forget the mystery of which actress is playing the Wicked Witch of the West – this is the secret that Disney has been hiding! Of course, we’re only kidding. Oz isn’t actually a remake of the third Evil Dead movie - shot-for-shot or otherwise. Nevertheless, there are some striking similarities between the two films - which director Sam Raimi recently confessed in our interview with him - to the point that it bears further scrutiny in the form of a side-by-side comparison guide. As such, we’ve crafted a list comparing the two films and their various similarities. FYI: There are MASSIVE SPOILERS ahead for Oz the Great and Powerful, so if you'd prefer to watch that movie without knowing every major story beat, you should probably stop reading right now. Everyone else? Read on... [SPOILER ALERT!!!!!]
Both Army of Darkness and Oz the Great and Powerful feature protagonists who are selfish, arrogant blowhards – Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) in Army and Oscar Diggs (James Franco) in Oz. Sure, Oscar is probably a bit craftier than Ash (of course that’s true of most people, as Ash’s greatest strength is his incomparable stupidity), but otherwise, they’re two peas in a pod. Furthermore, both men are incredible womanizers who whisper (fake) sweet nothings into ladies’ ears to get them into bed. Ash likes to tell the ladies that he loves them (“That’s just what we call pillow-talk, baby!”) while Oscar likes to give them cheap music boxes that he claims were previously owned by his dead grandmother. (Spoiler alert: They weren’t. And even if they were, that would be really creepy.) In the end, both characters find their courage and manage to save the day. Awww.
Army of Darkness is about a (mostly) regular Joe – Ash – being sucked through a magical portal back to Medieval times. There, he’s hailed by the locals (whom Ash refers to as "primitive screwheads") as 'the chosen one,' a man from the future long ago prophesied to fall from the sky and defeat the Evil Dead. Oz the Great and Powerful is about a grifting magician - Oscar - whose hot air balloon gets sucked up by a tornado, which subsequently sends him to the Land of Oz. There, he’s hailed by the locals as the chosen one, a great wizard long ago prophesied to fall from the sky and defeat the Wicked Witch. Neither Ash nor Oscar are the sort of "chosen ones" that their respective believers expected, but ultimately, that's what makes them so special.
In Army of Darkness, Ash is promised the thing he desires most – to go back to his own time – as long as he travels through a dark and terrible forest and into a forbidden cemetery to recite three words ("Klaatu, Verata, Nikto!") so that he can safely retrieve the Necronomicon. Unfortunately, because Ash is a full-blown moron, he doesn’t remember "every tiny syllable" and instead awakens the titular army of darkness. In Oz the Great and Powerful, Oscar is promised the thing he desires most – enough gold to make Scrooge McDuck jealous – in exchange for the destruction of the "Wicked" Witch. Reluctantly, he agrees and sets off through a dark and terrible forest and into a forbidden cemetery, where he learns that the so-called Wicked Witch is actually the good witch – Glinda (Michelle Williams) - and that he was duped by the actual Wicked Witch (of the East), Evanora (Rachel Weisz).
The Love Interest Turned Hideous Monster!
In Army of Darkness, Ash wins the heart of Sheila (Embeth Davidtz) after displaying his unrivaled demon-slaying prowess several times over (his chainsaw hand and "boom stick" probably didn’t hurt, either). Later, Sheila's kidnapped by a flying Deadite before being possessed and transformed into a Deadite herself. When she reunites with Ash on the battlefield, she tells him, "You found me beautiful once!" To which Ash responds, "Honey, you got real ugly." She sure did. In Oz the Great and Powerful, Theodora (Mila Kunis) falls madly in love with Oscar Diggs after he gives her a cheap music box and teaches her to dance, dance, dance the night away. Alas, Oscar doesn’t actually have feelings for Theodora, and that little revelation drives her to eat the apple of wickedness given to her by her (already wicked) sister, Evanora. The apple immediately transforms Theodora into that Wicked Witch of the West we all know and love – in other words, she looks less like Mila Kunis and more like a skinny, pointy-faced She-Hulk.
The Evil Army
Both Army of Darkness and Oz the Great and Powerful feature massive evil armies that terrorize the heroes of their respective stories. In Army, the army is composed entirely of Deadites - i.e., demons who have possessed humans or the corpses of humans. These particular Deadites are (primarily) stop-motion skeletons, a la Jason and the Argonauts. In Oz, there are actually two armies: first, the Winkie army (you know, those fellows who chant "Oh We Oh, Yo Ho" repeatedly), and second, the evil flying baboon army. The baboon army is obviously the real threat of the story, and they're seemingly more vicious and violent than the flying monkeys you remember from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
The Climactic Battle
In Army of Darkness, Ash’s heart grows three sizes and he gives a grandiose speech that inspires the townsfolk to come together and defend the castle against the oncoming army of Deadites. Because he’s from the future, Ash uses his rather convenient knowledge of black powder and modern technology to mount a surprisingly formidable defense. In Oz the Great and Powerful, Oscar comes to realize that he might be a good (not great) man after all, thanks to Glinda's encouragement. As a result, he gives a grandiose speech that inspires the good people of Oz - the Quadlings, the Munchkins, and the Tinkers - to stand up to the Wicked Witches’ terrible armies. Because Oscar is from a more scientifically-minded world, he uses his knowledge of black powder, (not quite) modern technology, and magic tricks to mount a surprisingly formidable offense.
Wicked Witch or She-B*****?
Near the end of Oz the Great and Powerful, Glinda the Good Witch defeats The Wicked Witch of the East (A.K.A. Evanora), whose true form - that of a hideous, old crone - is finally revealed. And she looks almost exactly like the quote-unquote "she-b****" from Army of Darkness. The scene that follows, with its intense zooms and artificial wind, is like something straight out of the Evil Dead series and incredibly reminiscent of the aforementioned "she-b*****" scene. The similarities in this instance seem particularly intentional. Raimi, of course, has been known to insert visual nods to the Evil Dead series in his movies, especially more recently (the surgery scene in Spider-Man 2 and 80% of Drag Me to Hell).
In our recent interview with Sam Raimi, the director talked about the parallels between Oz the Great and Powerful and Army of Darkness, and even said that he tried early on to make Oz more distinct (apparently he assumed not enough people had seen Army for the similarities to matter). It's worth noting that the story for Oz was written by Mitchell Kapner, so many of said similarities were probably around prior to Raimi's involvement. For more about Oz the Great and Powerful and Evil Dead:
- 'Oz the Great and Powerful' Super Bowl Trailer
- 'Oz' Spoiler Images
- Is 'Evil Dead 4' Being Written this Summer?
- The Evil Dead remake Red-Band Trailer