Reviews: Maleficent

Misbegotten

As a rule, villains should have an edge over heroes. They shouldn't be unstoppable, but it should be clear that they're holding a better hand. Maybe they're stronger, or smarter, or have greater social influence. This is to help create tension in a story. There should be a sense that the hero could triumph, but it would not be easy, much less guaranteed. And so, when the hero does triumph, we not only feel a sense of relief, but feel impressed that the hero was able to overcome a powerful opponent. Disney's original Sleeping Beauty understood this. Maleficent (the character) was powerful, malicious, and clever, but the king and the fairies all find ways to oppose her, and she's ultimately slain.

Maleficent (the movie) does not understand this. The eponymous character is both made into a hero, and made more powerful than any of the other characters. Nothing any other character does hinders her at all. Instead of one of the fairies modifying her curse, she just casts one that won't kill Aurora. They try hiding Aurora? Maleficent finds her right away. Then she starts secretly watching over her, and being a better mother figure than the fairies, who are all self-absorbed nitwits that hate Aurora. Soldiers search for Maleficent, and she overpowers them with no effort whatsoever. The prince does nothing and has no reason to be in the story. No, the one who saves Aurora from Maleficent's curse is... Maleficent! Just because the movie's named after her doesn't mean she has to be the one who does absolutely everything in the story.

Then the movie ends with Aurora extolling Maleficent as someone who "Wasn't a hero or a villain, but both" with a tone that implies this is somehow makes her better than if she were a straight-up hero. I don't understand why. Even here, where she's portrayed as a hero, her cursing Aurora is still a spiteful act of punishing one person for someone else's actions. Does that mean Superman would be a better character if he went around punching people because he was mad at Lex Luthor? But I think it's emblematic of the movie's conceptual problem. It doesn't have anything to say other than "Gee, isn't Maleficent awesome?"

My Least Favourite Film About a Vengeful Killer Dominatrix

Thanks to Netflix, I have finally gotten around to watching Maleficent. It’s the next in one of Disney’s many live action remakes of a classic cartoon, conveniently released in time to re-establish an aged, soon to expire, copy write claim. Not that I’m at all cynical about it. I think it is fair to say Maleficent is actually one of the better of these remakes.

Maleficent is a dramatic retelling that focuses on the one thing anyone actually cared about in Sleeping Beauty – that magnificent bastard of a villain. The first thing the film does right is to not care one iota about being faithful to the original. With the exception of a couple of scenes, which are word for word homages to the original film, Maleficient tells a completely new story with a vastly different perspective on the character. Whereas before, Mrs M was a card carrying villain who basically declares war on a baby just because she wasn’t invited to its Christening, this time around she was a once good fairy brought down by ambitious men.

There is good and bad with this alternative character interpretation. On one hand, I usually enjoy feministic deconstructions of Disney movies, on the other, we do sadly lose a lot of that iconic badass in her switch from ludicrously spiteful sorceress to misunderstood fairy-godmother from the land of the shiny things. This doesn't seem to be Angelina Jolie’s fault; she is quite brilliant in the role and clearly loving every minute of it. The problem seems to be a writing issue. It is established that Malificent is an all good protector of the happy pixie forest, and the one bad thing she does (cursing a baby) is something she only did out of revenge against some King committing something that looks suspiciously like rape (via subtext). Even then, she is eventually sorry for doing that. Basically everything she does gets justified, she has carte blanche to kick ass, and nothing to learn from the situation. The only growth her character has is her relationship to Aurora, which is probably the strong point of the whole movie but also the one that the movie is keen to distract you from.

This would have been lovely little picture if it decided to keep the focus small; a tale about a super-powerful evil queen forming a bond with some kid who’s life she has already planned to ruin. Instead, of course, the focus is on big sweeping line battles, CGI vistas and anvillicious imagery. That sort of thing takes me straight out of the story in its boring presentation and conspicuousness. With three fairies who constantly fall into the uncanny valley too, the whole thing comes off looking very tacky. For this reason, I can give the most tentative of recommendations to Maleficent. Try watching it, but don’t try too hard.

They wasted a perfectly good plot.

Seriously though: the ideas were good, the acting was good for most of it. The execution of this movie though? Not so much.

The Special Effects of the Moor in Daylight... while not terrible, they weren't good either. At night, they were beautiful, and subtlety was well used. In the daylight, however? It looked straight out of an animated film. Shadows didn't fall right on the actors ( Compare Prince Philip to the little troll thingoes at the end), and the flying was not very well done on the closeups. But this stuff is forgivable if other things go right, and the remainder of the effects are fairly well done as well.

Fortunately, the acting was good for almost all of the movie. I credit Ellie Fanning for giving us the perfect image of innocence, and Angelina Jolie for portraying Maleficent magnificently. But... Ms Jolie's performance wasn't without fault. While she did do the best out of all the actors, she also made the biggest error: her "Screeching" after losing the wings? Ow. My. Ears. Not a good sight from a veteran actor. Other than that though, a brilliant job done.

However, the story: Where do I begin? They traded out story telling for action. I didn't mind so much during the battle against the first king, but the final battle? It was merely there for the sake of it, and didn't add anything to what could have been a brilliant story. I mean, seriously, Aurora could have jumped in at any moment, and diffused the entire situation, or Maleficent could have told Stefan that Aurora was alive and that the curse had been broken. Terrible waste of a scene that could have determined whether Stefan's love for his daughter was real or superficial, or whether his anger at Maleficent would still cloud his judgement.

I was also looking for more moments between Maleficent and Aurora, more C Mo H's. Instead, everything has been... glossed over, condensed. It didn't do well for the story. The Narration that appeared didn't help matters. Everything lacked substance, and while acting can make or break a movie, it can't save a movie that lacks substance.

And finally, a little bit of nitpicking, but that armour at the end looked ridiculous.

While the movie isn't terrible, and the acting was mostly spot on, this was very poor execution of what could have been a masterpiece. 2/5 stars.

Ye Olde Ode to the Glorious Mary Sue

In the very first scene of the movie, we are given that ever-so-classic bit of exposition. "Over here lives everyone just like you in a normal, boring world. Oh, sure, they have stories and drama and all sorts of BORING stuff, but we're going to ignore them and go over here to the *Magical Fairy Kingdom* where everyone and everything is *Better* and we'll show you the *Perfect Fairy Girl* that you should all support and feel sorry for when she inevitably gets betrayed!

As a connoisseur of all types of fanfic, I can say definitively that this movie plays like a bad Mary Sue. We have our archetypical perfect girl who is loved by everyone, who gets betrayed by the bad guy mostly just to show that he's bad. Because nothing that he does that doesn't involve the Mary Sue is important. She grows up and becomes insanely powerful with no real explanation, and proceeds to get mutilated(with strong rape overtones) to further make us feel sorry for the 'poor Mary Sue'.

Her magical abilities shift randomly with no causal link, just to push the plot along. Oh, she needs to get captured? That's fine, she'll get captured. Why? Because she has to get captured for the movie to move along, duh. Rationality? Consistency? What's that?

Another point; has the movie ever heard of the phrase "Show, Don't Tell"? This movie's gotta be 15-20% exposition. Seriously, don't give me 30 seconds of "And so the kingdom grew angrier and angrier, and did so for 15 years", give me a simple "Fifteen Years Later" and then zoom in to show the people *visibly* angry. Or whatever!

Ugh. This movie isn't the worst in the world; some of the parts by Jolie are really quite good. But everything else about it is bad. Bad camera angles, bad scripting, and worst of all, bad character design.

For all that, it's still watchable. The problems are in the underlying structure, not the stuff kids will usually notice, which I suppose is why it's got such decent reviews from most people. Nonetheless, I feel everyone's reviewing it far too high.

3.5/10

A great movie, not the best adaptation

I'll start by saying that many people (myself included) expected a P.O.V. Sequel or a Perspective Flip with Maleficent, but the film is neither of that. It's a loose adaptation of the Disney film. As such, most complaints I have seen are about either Maleficent being reimagined as an Anti-Hero, the film's examples of Adaptational Villainy, or Sharlto Copely's accent, and I agree on all accounts when comparing it to the original Disney film. I was specially angry that the three fairies' new personalities were awful and very disrespectful of the original, where they are a bit bumbling but a lot more loving and responsible. The movie warps the characters into what the plot needs, even Maleficent, only resembling the original film in its bare bones.

That said, I enjoyed the movie greatly. Once I accepted it as an adaptation and let it stand on its own, I began loving things like Maleficent's relationship with Aurora, who is far more of a character than in the original (although still somewhat bland), the actors do a great job with what they are given, Angelina Jolie in particular. I also enjoyed most of the characters, the effects and the beautiful designs for The Fair Folk. It's a story about how a woman copes with being hurt by someone she trusted and with time lets herself love again, with the story of the Sleeping Beauty framed within it. If you look at it expecting to see a Live-Action version of Sleeping Beauty, you're going to be dissapointed, so take it as it is, and form your opinion not only based on how it compares to the original.

Great if You're Watching for Maleficent

Maleficent is a great movie. Angelina Jolie acting has never been better and she brings the main character to life with style. The set design and special effects are amazing, the side characters range from interesting to tolerable, and the story flows nicely. Maleficent does an excellent job of portraying the title character as both a villain and a hero. The christening scene is just as equally deliciously evil as in the animated version, but it doesn't detract from Maleficent heroic moments either. The themes of the price of revenge and greed (more particularly how both can be more damaging than one realizes at the time) are beautiful and don't let anyone off the hook. The humor is kept to a minimum, but great. Snarkiness abound without a toliet/piss joke insight.

There are two issues with this movie. One, is that there's a narrator for most of it. It is used to give a quick info dumps such as explaining that two kingdoms had been neighbors and enemies for a long time and why the three fairies show up to the christening. No instance last longer than a minute and I thought was used well. Allowing the characters to focus on the emotions of the scene, but if narrators annoy you, it might annoy you here.

The second issue is that this is NOT a mere of point of view swap. Parts of the story are heavily changed, large sections are added, and characters are changed. Some of them are for the better, like Aurora is a sweet, happy, naive, girl with some agency instead of a life-less doll. Others, like the fairies, take a turn for the annoying when their forgetfulness and infighting gets turned up a notch. One character is turned into a straight up villain and while their descent into villainy is interesting to watch, fans of the character from the animated version will probably not enjoy it.

Final verdict: It is great, but go see it only if you want to see a new take on Sleeping Beauty not a retelling of the animated movie.

Worst $7.50 I Ever Spent

Once again, Disney has done the impossible! A lesbian version of Sleeping Beauty with Angelina Jolie cast as a skin-tight-black-leather clad version of Disney's greatest villain — making such a dull story out of those ingredients is a truly impressive feat.

This is the single, absolute, uncontested, most BORING movie I have ever seen in my entire life! No exaggeration, no hyperbole — it is that boring. There is no logic or flow to what little plot there is — it's just a bunch of characters either staring silently or SCREAMING!!! I checked my cell phone at least 6 times to see how much time I had left to sit through this torture and was on the brink of getting up and leaving twice. It is just. So. Boring! It's not even fun and enjoyable in a Guilty Pleasure way like Hansel And Gretel Witch Hunters; the story is too boring and stupid for you to enjoy the cool effects and Jolie's excellent performance.

And let's not even get into how much of the plot is a rehash of Frozen or how it butchers — completely, thoroughly, mercilessly butchers — the character of Disney's all-time greatest villain. Fortunately, it's too boring to bother attacking its portrayal of the badass Mistress Of All Evil.

One more thing: Disney, it's time to stop beating yourself up for your use of Love at First Sight in 3 films decades ago! It's unrealistic, we get it — now drop it! You've attacked it not once, not twice, but three times now! We forgive you, we know you're not trying to corrupt the minds of young girls, it's okay! As your 2nd greatest princess says, it's time to let it go!

I hope you saw this, Nostalgia Chick, because this film definitely deserves a spot among the Top 3 Worst Disney Sequels.

Declawing Maleificent.

I’m curious to know if the filmmakers behind “Maleficent” even watched “Sleeping Beauty” beforehand, or if they just caught a YouTube clip of Maleficent cursing the baby Aurora and decided “Yep, we could totally write a superhero movie about this chick.”

I mean, it wasn't unbearable, but after 70 years of “Maleficent is the biggest baddest bad guy ever”, now you’re trying to convince me she’s a hero?

The one and only part where Maleficent, who the trailers made out to be a big badass force of evil, does anything remotely villainous was cursing Aurora, which was taken nearly scene for scene from the original movie. But other than that, that’s about it. There’s not a trace of the evil witch, who for nearly a century has been regarded as one of the scariest villains in cinema, available beyond a sarcastic nature and some pranks.

Even the climax felt very “superhero-ish”, and she loses her cape, making Maleficent look like she’s wearing a spandex suit, which in turn made her resemble Catwoman. It got to the point where I wouldn't have been surprised if, after the credits, Nick Fury came up to her and invited her into the Avengers.

Also, and spoiler alert here, she doesn't even turn into a dragon. Her raven sidekick does. What the hell was THAT?

It also bugged me how the Three Faries, when in fairy form, looked like they came out of Shrek.

Angelina Jolie Has No Great Peers To Play Against

I loved Maleficent, but Angelina may as well had been acting against CGI versions of herself instead of with the people in this film, because they absolutely paled in comparison to her magnificence. None of the other actors were up to par to compete with her experience.

What she brings to this movie is a human aspect to this villainous character that already has a bad reputation. Angie gave Maleficent a healthy dose of spunk and sass. Angie acted her butt off. At one point in this film, she expresses a mournful agony so strong and moving that I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't help but compare the scene to her mastectomy she had to go through. And the moment felt all the more poignant for that fact. It really touched me.

Now I wasn't really a fan of her before, but now I recognize her talent and I really want to examine her acting in other movies. The other characters were silly, as is expected of a Disney movie. Angie was acting a serious role, and the rest of the cast was prancing around as if in a farce.

Disney fucked it up in the same way that the Hunger Games film did: they didn't know whether to push the envelope and let the film be dark and complex, or to go for familial friendly and saccharine. What results is an mix of the two ideas that is not fully satisfying in either way.

I wished that Disney hadn't made this film. Because Maleficent is a dark character, I wanted to see that darkness as more than just Disney Villain dark. I didn't believe her Face-Heel Turn for a second. As this whole movie is a Reconstruction of the original formula, it gave you reasons and justifications for her evilness. It made you think about it. For a kid, this is a great way to teach about black/white/gray morality. But I'm not a kid so it was pretty bland because it just didn't push hard enough in the direction of darkness.

Ultimately, go ahead and see this for a fun weekend, especially if you got some kids and you want to entertain them. It's pretty much a live-action Reconstruction of a Disney animation and another girl-power overhaul of the old Disney formula. And I don't doubt that the new Cinderella film will be precisely the same way.

Good Movie, but a Poor "Retelling"

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie: I thought it had potential but half-expected to be disappointed as I often am by adaptations. Instead, I thoroughly enjoyed it, with one caveat.

The film itself is very well done. The tone is well set and maintained throughout; the sets and scenery are beautifully chosen and detailed, and the special effects are magnificent. Oddly, my one problem with the film is when regarding it as an adaptation or retelling: too much has been changed from the original story to quite be plausible in that regard. It would have been a better film set loose to stand on its own merit.

Not everybody's cup of tea, but darkly beautiful

Personally, I will say that I am somewhat biased, because I tend to enjoy fantasies, particularly those with a darker tone of pain, loss, betrayal, and ultimately a sense of hope amongst the overwhelming despair the characters suffer. I enjoyed the humour in the movie as well, from Maleficent's dry sense of humour, which reminds me of Morticia from Addams Family, to Diaval's snarky comments and the three fairies' constant mishaps.

Maleficent's start of darkness was tragic and beautiful, as you watch her being betrayed by a friend she trusted and loved for the sake of power, leaving her heart shattered and twisted with hate. It adds a new dimension to the original incarnation, where the villain is simply evil for the sake of being evil and petty. In Maleficent, you get to witness how the titular character is broken, yet not completely villainous. In addition, it puts a realistic spin on some aspects of the fairytale: The impracticality of love at first sight, the problems arising from three inexperienced fairies attempting to care for a baby, the awkwardness and emotional distance created by a 16 year separation followed by reunion...

Having said that though, it is undeniable that the movie focuses a lot on Maleficent: It is, after all, her story. I don't think the other characters fade into the background around her. Rather, you see the other characters through her interactions with them, making them secondary characters but certainly not insignificant background elements.

The best way to watch this movie is to go in and view it with an open mind rather than comparing it to the original, consciously or otherwise. Maleficent is a movie that may not appeal to everyone because of its darker tone and how it shows a different angle to the characters in the story, but there is something beautiful in seeing the darkness that consumes the various characters and how they react to it in their own ways, be it by being twisted and consumed by it or by embracing and accepting it and growing stronger from the experience. Whatever critics and other viewers may think of it, this is one movie that I'll be looking forward to seeing on DVD.

Save Your Money

Let's start with the film's strengths: The cinematography is beautiful, some of the dialog is well done, and Jolie delivers some excellent moments.

And the rest of the film feels like a massive letdown for someone who actually wants to root for the Mistress of Evil from the original Sleeping Beauty. It seems like all of Maleficent's defining moments have been watered down or completely changed. For some reason her whole arc is now the role of psycho ex-girlfriend to the king. All the other fairies are reduced to slapstick idiots. The king is supposed to be an evil madman but feels more like a brooding idiot. And all of act three is Maleficent being a dumb hero instead of doing anything intelligent or crafty.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/reviews.php?target_group=Film&target_title=Maleficent