‘Maleficent,’ for those of you who make your homes beneath the undersides of large rocks, is Hollywood’s latest addition to the fairy-tale remake trend, starring Angelina Jolie in the titular role. The film tells the story of Sleeping Beauty, but from the point of view of the fairy-tale’s dastardly villainess, attempting to paint Maleficent as a sympathetic character and elucidate her motives.
Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is superb. She carries the whole film. In the early part of the story, her character is put in the same situation as most female fairy-tale characters, but she herself is a refreshing subversion of the norm. She isn’t just there to look pretty and steal some dopey prince’s heart. She’s got stuff to do. Places to fly. And her wings are super rad.
However, through a very personal betrayal, Maleficent loses her super rad wings, and so now she has it in for the king and his family. Her opportunity for revenge comes when the king and queen have a daughter; Aurora. But, having sufficiently cursed Aurora, Maleficent reluctantly finds herself involved in her upbringing (mostly because the three fairies are dumb twits). Becoming more attached to Aurora as the years go by, Maleficent is faced with quite the dilemma.
This movie is not perfect. In fact, it has quite a few problems. It’s set up pretty effectively to be a retelling of Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from Maleficent’s perspective, from certain scenes and lines of dialogue right down to what everyone’s wearing. However, after Aurora is cursed, the plot deviates from the original movie significantly. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it were set up to be a retelling of the classic Charles Perrault fairy-tale, which would be open for interpretation. But it was set up as a rehash of a film that’s already been made. Fudging the details the way it did just made the whole movie feel kind of weird.
The narrative meanders along, speeding up and slowing down seemingly at random intervals, rather than for the benefit of the story. Much of the CGI was soft and childish, especially when it came to Maleficent’s weird-creature buddies, and the three fairies were, quite frankly, terrifying (not only in their appearance, but in their inability to grasp the art of feeding children, and also keeping them from frolicking off of cliffs). You really have to keep in mind when you see this that it is, in fact, a Disney movie. The goofiness of some of the special effects and characters kind of comes with the territory.
However, there are times when the film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Sometimes it feels like your typical Disney flick, other times it feels like it’s trying to be Lord of the Rings, or to have a darker, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’-esque tone.
The most solid part of the movie was the scene in which Maleficent crashes the king and queen’s party and curses Aurora. This scene had the firmest grasp on its own identity: a live-action Disney movie from a new perspective. And it worked really well. Now, if the whole movie could have just picked one tone and stuck with it, on the whole, it would have improved significantly.
Warning: Here be spoilers.
On a personal note, I wish that the romance between Maleficent and the future King Stephen hadn’t been glossed over the way it was. If we had been able to see and enjoy their adult selves together (you know, when he WASN’T plotting to kill her), we would have been able to emotionally connect with their relationship, and feel the betrayal along with her that much more acutely.
I was also a little disappointed that certain parts of the original Disney movie didn’t make it into this film. For example, in the animated version, Maleficent captures Prince Phillip, telling him that she’ll let him go, but only after decades have gone by. Aurora will be awakened by her true love eventually, but only to find that he is an old man. That’s some cruel, creeptastic stuff right there.
I guess in general I was hoping this movie would go a little darker than it did. Which is partly just a case of personal preference, but it’s also a side-effect of the film straying too far from its source material. That was part of the reason ‘Wicked’ was such a success; it turned the Wicked Witch of the West into a sympathetic character without changing any of the key plot elements of the original story. It just provided a new background for them.
But, even with all my complaints, I really liked this movie. Maleficent’s character is complex and interesting, and she has some fun chemistry with her crow/shape-shifting manservant Diaval (played by Sam Riley), who, by the way, is the coolest character in this movie.
UGH JUST GET MARRIED ALREADY
Overall, I would give this movie 7.5/10….somethings.
Stars? Eh… boring.
Sam Rileys. That’s it.
7.5/10 Sam Rileys.