When it comes to Oz the Great and Powerful, just ask the kids. And this big old kid loved the damned thing. The scene where China Girl’s legs were mended was touched with the kind of emotion that only blockbusters (or A pictures) do well–the compassion for the maculated (like the Scarecrow ripped apart in Wizard or the felled Home Tree in Avatar).
And for all Great and Powerful’s flaws along the way–Mila Kunis is a tragically misguided casting decision, mainly because of her voice and the fact that as the Wicked Witch she looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings; Michelle Williams lacks the elegance and the air of patrician confidence of Billie Burke’s 1939 version; etc.–the movie’s climax is brilliant. BRILLIANT I said.
One of the best set pieces in all of Raimi’s filmography, the scene where Oz retakes the Emerald City had one thing that recent superhero movies wished they could muster: a sense of timing. Just as important as how the hero wins the day is when he makes his move. The “just when all seems lost” scene is a lost art–apparently one of the most difficult things to pull off in modern blockbusters. (See Marvel Films, ca. 2000-2012.) But Raimi here does just that, and what more could a kid ask for.
(Quick reminder: the Lumieres invented cinema. Not Edison.)