When you're making a companion piece to something that's been as revered, memorable, and loved as 1939's The Wizard of Oz, you better get ready for some backlash, comparison, and criticism. And while Sam Raimi's prequel certainly has room for improvement, I found it at the very least, entirely serviceable.
The question however, is that when it comes to something that is as revered and memorable, and loved as The Wizard of Oz, is serviceable enough? The budget was big enough. The photography and visual effects were certainly a spectacle. And they certainly tried to capture the aw shucks innocence of the land of Oz. Unfortunately, they were missing something. Something that the great and powerful Oz ended up handing out at the end of the 1939 original to the Tin Man. A heart.
There was nothing in Oz the Great and Powerful that tugged at your heart strings. Was it simply the allure of Judy Garland? Or the mysticism of Technicolor at the time? Or maybe it was 70 odd years of built up expectations? I don't know, but I found the performances of the witches to be lacking. I suppose I could have given Mila Kunis a pass, but I found her "green" face to be rather distracting. It quite simply took away from her performance, made her look more like The Mask; a rubbery caricature.
I also didn't find Michelle Williams' performance to be particularly genuine. I realize that she's the saccharine personification of ooey gooey goodness, but it felt entirely forced. I mean, she was great in My Week With Marilyn, so I have to wonder, was she simply miscast for this role?
(blogger's note: spoiler alert)
I loved how Sam Raimi gives nods to the original while recognizing that we live in an entirely different age now in such a fashion that only Sam Raimi can. In particular, James Franco basically tells the munchkins to shut up in the middle of their introductory song and dance piece.
Finally, the biggest question that I wished that they would have answered was, where did the ruby slippers come from?