Maleficent is a retelling of Disneys Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of the villainess Maleficient…so basically theyre ripping off Wicked. Audiences and children loved it, while some critics were torn by it. Some like it. Some hate it. Which side am I on? Lets find out! Note: This is a biased review. This all my own opinion. If you differ from what I think, thats fine. Everyone has their own perception.
So whats good? 1. Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. Holy shit! Not only do I see Maleficent, not only do I hear Maleficent, but I am in her presence! All hail the Mistress of all Evil!!!! Jolie puts on quite a show. At first, when I saw the leaked photos of her in costume I was like alright, not bad. Maybe I can get down with it. But when I saw the movie, she truly embodied the dark fairy. I hope Eleanor Audley is giving her a nod of approval from beyond the grave (for those of you who dont know she was the voice of Maleficent in the 1959 movie (also voiced Lady Tremaine in Disneys Cinderella)). Its not just the way she looked or the way she spoke that captivated me. It was also the way she moved. Maleficent is a villain who is best known for her power, but also her elegance. She walks as though shes royalty and she may as well be. She always carried herself with dignity and grace, and Jolie really captured that. Bravo!
2. Diaval. Yes, the crow who becomes and man who becomes everything else Maleficent wishes. I kinda liked him. He was genuinely funny when the tone called for it. He was serious and concerned when he needed to be. Like in the animated one, in this movie his main service to Maleficent is information. He is her eyes and ears... and wings obviously. He obeys her every command without...okay ALMOST without complaint. He does banter, but its funny when he banters. Hes enjoyable.
3. Effects. The effects in this film are unbelievable. In fairness, it isnt always perfect. Sometimes, it doesnt look right. But most of the time, it looks damn good. The CGI on the creatures (some of them) look like you can touch them! The Moors pre-evil reign looks beautiful and gorgeous, while the Moors during the evil reign looks dark and creepy.
And what was bad? 1. The Story. The story is hard to follow. Its horrid. Theres an unexplained war between the humans and magical beings for whatever reason. Then theres the weird Maleficent looking different from the other fairies thing, but well get to that part later. Its all over the place. Maleficent is supposed to be this evil fairy because she wasnt invited to a christening! Okay, it still sounds weird, but thats how spiteful she is. In this version, Maleficent fell in love with Stefan, but was betrayed by him when he clipped her wings (although it wouldve been ALOT easier to kill her) so she became the evil fairy we know her to be. While I dont completely mind the backstory to it, I cant give a pass to the mediocrities in this movie. I mean, the 3 fairies as dumbass babysitters, Maleficent pulling childish pranks on them (not very graceful), the slow bonding of Aurora and Maleficent, etc. Its all stupid!
2. One-Dimensional Characters. This means that a character has little to no depth, personality, or expresses one or two emotions. This would be okay if these characters werent in any major roles in all 3 acts of the film…which they are…hence this category. And you know its bad when they have more personality in their animated counterparts than their live action ones! Thats right, I went there! A) King Stefan. Adult Stefan is horrible. Making him the villain wasnt only a bad idea, but his character is crap. His only thought is power and he goes mad for bringing down Maleficent. His only personality traits are malice and greed, which is very weak. Some characters can make these traits do very well. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is all vanity and greed, but hes still interesting. King Stefan in the animated movie was interesting because he interacted as a human being. He feared for his daughters safety and was humble. This movie vilifies him in the worst way possible! B) The Fairies. I had to look up their new names because I barely remembered them. Thats how bad it is people. In the original movie, you remember Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather because they leave an impact. Their diverse personalities combined with heroic determination made them memorable. In this movie, theyre nothing like their animated counterparts. Theyre reduced to incompetent comedy reliefs who arent really that funny. They lack any capability of caring for a child, which causes Maleficent to step in. I understand that this movie is to make Maleficent look good, but did they really have to make these fairies looks so pathetic to do that? Its just so hard to watch. C) Aurora. To be fair, Aurora in the original Disney movie wasnt exactly the most developed princess (hell, she was asleep for 2/3 acts and had no lines afterwards), although they had plenty of opportunities in this movie to change that. They couldve made her interesting other than giggly and happy. D) Prince Philip. Again, he wasnt very developed in the animated movie, but at least he did something! He had a role! A purpose! The only reason Philip was put in this movie was to prove that you cant fall in love with someone for 2 minutes to have true loves kiss...again thats a plot already made in Frozen. His appearance is meaningless.
3. Some Nitpicks. A)Maleficents Powers. Anyone else disappointed that Maleficent didnt turn into a dragon? Yeah me too. While I live the green fire-like Magic around Maleficent when she casts her curse, I hate how she doesnt turn into a dragon! Thats the one thing everyone remembers her for in the animated movie! B)Fairy Aging? Why does Maleficent age like everybody else? In fact, why does she look like a human girl with wings. Why doesnt she look like the other fairies? Why dont the other fairies look like her? None of these questions are answered. Im a fan of show dont tell but in a case like this TELL!!! An explanation is needed! C) The Director. Yes. While Robert Stromberg is an amazing special effects designer, and it shows in this movie as well as Avatar and Oz the Great and Powerful, he doesnt know how to direct in a way to tell a story. Directing art and special effects is one thing, but directing actors and staff to tell a story is an entirely different game.
4. Tone. Perhaps I should make this plural because rather than one, there seems to be two tones. Its either very bright and happy, or very dark and angsty. Now this can work to an extent, you dont want an entire film to be filled with sadness and dread or peppy and lively. There needs to be a balance. However, balance means there needs to be a transition. In this movie, there is a lack of balance, a lack of transition between these two tones. One moment, its angry and upsetting, the next its whimsical and goofy. It makes the already confusing storyline frustrating to follow.
How does it hold up? Its not that good. I mean its not horrible, there are still some enjoyable scenes. Some of the actors, without a doubt, are great, but the story itself falls flat. Lets also keep in mind that this movie came after the massive success of Frozen where true love came from sisterly love rather than romantic love, proving that love exists in all places. They try to show that off in this movie with motherly love, but its not showcased very well. So the story ends up riding off of Wicked AND Frozen rather than its own tale. But what I truly believe the real problem here was making Maleficent the main character. In the original 1959 animated movie, despite the title being Sleeping Beauty the focus was more on the fairies: Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, rather than on Aurora (afterall, they had WAY more lines than her). Since they were doing a live action movie, they shouldve made Aurora the focus. But once again, they missed an obvious opportunity! This is why I think this movie didnt do so well with the critics and me. While audiences may have loved it (hell my little cousins argue with me why they love it), I dont think its a very strong film. Also what do you want me to review next week? Something old? Something new? Something good? Something bad? Let me know in the comments. If I dont get any requests by Thursday, Ill just put something out. K? Fair? Goodie.