Spoilers as to the identity of the Wicked Witch of the West contained within.
When I say that Oz the Great and Powerful is all downhill from the opening credits, don't take that to be too harsh a criticism. It's just that the opening credits are a delight; black-and-white and circus-y, with an old-timey charm that promises a game and cozy adventure to come. They're also, oddly, the film's best use of 3D, the images appearing rich and full-bodied without being intrusive or gimmicky. In a sad way, the credits hint at a movie that the director Sam Raimi could have made had the usual studio pressures not intervened, something small but richly detailed, a throwback picture gently and subtly enhanced by modern technologies. But, alas, it's not to be, as this is a computer fantasia created at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, an Oz where substance follows style and the impossible is realized all too easily.
That said, there is plenty to like in this prequel of sorts. The writers Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire have crafted an often witty script that tells the story of our titular hero's arrival in Oz with warmth and unexpected dollops of grace. There's an all-ages appeal to the writing that does not condescend to kids or showily wink with an overabundance of for-the-grownups irony, the way lots of supposedly clever "family films" do these days. Moments that are supposed to be scary are usually scary, while heartwarming lessons about goodness and kindness bear only faint whiffs of treacle. With one major narrative oopsy aside, which I'll get to in a bit, Oz the Great and Powerful is nimbly written, perhaps yet another tantalizing sign of what could have been had the 3D CGI green screen motion capture monster not gobbled the picture up.