A Wizard of Oz Leitmotif in Steven Spielberg's films
“He will try against all odds and prejudices to get home.” The men captured into slavery seek justice; ultimately they just want to be allowed to go home. That is their quest. WOO’s recurring theme—the sanctuary of home— is touched in many other Spielberg films. See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, The Color Purple, Munich, Poltergeist, The Terminal, The Goonies, E.T.
Stormy skies often set the scene when hard times are coming in Spielberg’s films. See War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Poltergeist, An American Tale, Joe vs .the Volcano.
The Africans’ dead are wrapped in red and yellow. See Jaws, Sugarland Express, 1941, Jurassic Park, the Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Schindler’s List, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Duel, Used Cars, Inner Space, Memoirs of a Geisha, Gremlins
Once again Steven emphasizes key plot twists with a Glinda-like audible cue. When Morgan Freeman enters as the slaves’ advocate, the tolls are deafening in Emancipator’s belltower. John QuincyAdams rings for a servant right before he gives a key piece of trial advice: he who tells the best story wins. At the end Van Buren rings a bell against a sour note: he will be defeated. The slave trade in Sierra Leone is subsequently blown to smithereens and those victims as well as the men from Amistad are freed. See Always, A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist, Memoirs of a Geisha.
McCaunaghy’s character evolves from trickster to hero. SeeEmpire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can. Schindler’s List, The Goonies, Used Cars, Joe vs. the Volcano
As in so many of Spielberg films, soldiers sport the giant sized hats that characterized the Winkies.
When the liberated slaves land the ship they’ve hijacked, they are perplexed at the exotic, bizarre sight of a person riding a bicycle. Double take kind of reaction. Hoo boy, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Bicycles play recurring and starring roles in many Spielberg films. Need I remind you of the iconic image of Almira Gulch stealing Toto and riding him to the sheriff to be exterminated? See Munich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun,The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Jaws, Inner Space, Used Cars.
The inside of the prison where the men are held is distinguished by impermeable iron doors like the ones at the entrance of witch’s castle/dungeon. We will see these kinds of doors and fortresses trapping protagonists in many of Spielberg’s projects. See Jurassic Parks, Indiana Jones, Joe vs. the Volcano, Catch me if You Can.
Spielberg buries WOO deep in his serious works. You may be able to find more examples than I have. But I have noticed integrity of the piece trumps Spielberg’s inclination to insert WOO playfulness. See Schindler, Munich, The Color Purple etc.