A Wizard of Oz Leitmotif in Steven Spielberg's films
WAR HORSE: 2011
When Joey is rescued from the barbed wire and brought back to camp, snow begins to fall…and that begins the healing for both horse and Albert from Devon. In WOO, snow falling on poppies is the antidote to their poison. Glinda banishes the sleeping death and secures the companions’ momentary release from witch’s evil influence. Snow revives Dorothy and the lion, cures them and sets them back on the path of life, eventually to find their way home.
Going home (to Mom) once again shines as the beacon for the main characters (boy and horse) in this movie. See Empire of the Sun, A.I., Sugarland Express, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, The Color Purple, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em).
When Colin walks through No Man’s Land, he is reciting a prayer for courage, like a mantra…the Lord is my shepherd. This is reminiscent of the WOO mantra ‘lions and tigers and bears oh my’. See Minority Report for another mantra.
No Man’s Land recalls the landscape where the witch’s castle was located, dark, bleak, and barren. We reach for courage in a terrifying, evil world. Also I am reminded of the Kansas landscape, black, grey and white, tumbleweeds deserted roads before the tornado strikes. This ‘air of grayness’ was an effective device in WOO to portray hopelessness. See E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Schindler’s List, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Poltergeist
Bells ring at the announcement of end of War as they do in Lincoln at passing of 13th. It’s a WOO thread: “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.” Evil has been extinguished. Triumph of the perseverant!
The sweet, chubby German who reluctantly must do his job—warhorses under his direction will die pulling artillery—looks suspiciously like the tenderhearted Gatekeeper of Emerald City, AKA gatekeeper for Oz’s Hall. Same center part in middle of slicked down hair, mustache, and body type. Same sentimental character that disobeys orders to help hero. If he had a slightly bigger part, I’d call him a trickster.
This German hollers out ‘Run! Run!’ to Joey, the horse, encouraging him to escape. Dorothy hollers to Toto at witch’s castle, “Run Toto, run!” See Minority Report, Sugarland Express, Twister, A.I., Jurassic World.
At the end, when Joey and Albert get home, look at the sunset scenery for a very GWTW homage to Victor Fleming who also had a hand in directing WOO. See A.I., War of the Worlds.