Maleficent movie review
Now yes, this is technically a retelling of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, changing the story outright, but I will be making comparisons to the original film, as I'd do with any reboot. Because a LOT changes in this tale. Does it improve on the story? Does it do this classic villain justice?
We open up on a young fairy named Maleficent. She lives in a magical "kingdom" named the Moor. Here, all sorts of mystical creatures live in peace, with no ruler, just a solid community. Across the land, lives a kingdom much like you'd see in Sleeping Beauty or any classic fairy tale. One day, Maleficent stops a young thief, named Stefan. The 2 bond and form a friendship, which eventually led to stronger feelings, including what Maleficent thought to be true love's kiss. As they get older, Stefan stays at the kingdom more, and doesn't see as much of Maleficent. The king of kingdom, declares that they shall no longer fear traveling to the Moor, and will enter and take whatever riches they wish. Maleficent ( now Angelia Jolie) leads the charge with her treefolk warriors of the Moor and defend their home, quite successfully. We see though that the iron in their suits hurt Maleficent, as she told Stefan earlier about iron. After the battle, the king is on his deathbed and declares, whoever slays Maleficent, shall be his successor. Stefan, now a grown man (and played by Sharlto Copley), finds Maleficent and makes her fall asleep. He cannot bring himself to kill his childhood friend, so he instead severs her wings and brings them to the king, saying he killed her. Stefan is named king as a result.
Maleficent does not take losing her wings well. She forms a staff to help her walk, and the evil within her forms. She soon saves a raven from death, by turning him human. The raven says his name is Diaval, and swears loyalty to Maleficent. Soon, Stefan and his wife, who we never see outside of the upcoming scene, have had a baby. A girl, named Aurora. The day of her coronation has arrived, and the whole kingdom has arrived. The 3 pixies (who were also called fairies at points), bestow their gifts on Aurora, when Maleficent arrives. She is in her full evil glory and curses Aurora, that on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and will fall into a permanent sleep. After Stefan begs for mercy, Maleficent adds a loophole: true love's kiss will break the spell. With the curse laid, she leaves and takes her rule over the Moor. Stefan demands the 3 pixies take Aurora deep into the forest to raise her until the day after her 16th birthday. However, Maleficent takes interest in Aurora, and watches over her as she grows, because the pixies are proven incompetent of doing so. Does this mean, that Maleficent has grown to love the child? King Stefan has grown paranoid of Maleficent's return and grows crazy and obsessed with preparing for it, sacrificing everything else. Will he slay Maleficent? How will this all wrap up?
First off, this story, is a mess. It may not seem it from my description, but the devil is in the details. There are so many little things that don't add up, or leave you sitting there thinking "why not do __?" Many of these things are technically small, but they can add up. Why are the 3 fairies also called pixies? If they are fairies, why does Maleficent look different from them, when she is also a fairy? Why doesn't iron keep up with consistency with harming Maleficent? Why doesn't Maleficent just throw everybody around like she is seen doing earlier in the film? What happens to the kingdom at the end of the movie? They mention a part of it, but it leaves a lot of questions in the air about it. Why doesn't Maleficent just use her treefolk warriors in the later parts of the film? Why doesn't she just get her wings back? These are several of many questions you may ask yourself while watching the film. Usually nitpicks don't tear a film down, but with so many sitting there, you can't help but notice. It can be distracting.
Not to mention, there are little moments that you kind of wish weren't changed. What do we remember most about Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty? Her downright maniacal nature just for the sake of being evil, no one able to touch her until the climax, her awesome teleport exits, and of course, her power to transform into that awesome dragon. They take that all away to humanize Maleficent's character and make her the hero of the tale. There are several moments where she comes into danger and it would be fixed if she could teleport. I know they are changing things in this story, but, is it necessary? Now there is some good tradeoff. Having her as a hero, is interesting. It certainly adds several layers of depth to this story, but at the same time, Maleficent isn't as cool as she was in Sleeping Beauty, yet in this, she is a stronger character. It's a tug of war that may leave audiences divided. I feel very indifferent about it.
The supporting cast, isn't that strong. Elle Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, is an odd choice. She certainly has the sunny disposition and can be a cheerful person, but if they didn't tell you who she was, you wouldn't look at this character and think "Yes, that's Sleeping Beauty." She gives a decent performance, but it isn't great. Copley as the paranoid King Stefan is different for sure. In the original movie, he was just a king, nothing really to him. But to have him connected to Maleficent through their past and having THAT be the reason why she goes evil and curses Aurora, is significantly improved over Maleficent just being a jerk. But, as a character, he is kind of bland. He starts off liking Maleficent, but then just grows up into a butthead consumed by greed, then becomes a psychotically paranoid murder obsessed with nothing other than slaying Maleficent. There isn't really a lot of room to show him grow, it jut happens. Prince Phillip, speaking of bland, is hardly in the film, and I think that's the point. For reasons I can't spoil, he is not a focus of this film, he is kind of just....there. Lastly, the fairies/pixies that watch over Aurora, are reduced to annoying little useless characters that just aren't enjoyable whenever they are on screen. Diaval is a fun sidekick, but he is at his best when he is a silent animal. No offense to Sam Riley's performance, but he was kind of bland as a human.
Now, the effects and scenery in this film, are breathtaking. I know it's all CGI, but it is rally friggin' good CGI. The backgrounds are gorgeous detailed, and the creatures look impressive, especially the treefolk creatures and the dragon at the end. The flying scenes are also very impressive, you really get the sense of flying with the characters, almost as good as How to Train Your Dragon. Plus, the costume designs can really standout, from Stefan's armor, to Maleficent's various dresses. Visually, this is one heck of a showcase of a film.
Now, for the leading lady: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. How does she fare? Honestly? This is the best performance I've ever seen Jolie give. She absolutely absorbs this role and enjoys every minute of it. She is kind, sweet and innocent, yet fierce in the beginning, but downright evil, intimidating and delivers a commanding presence as the film continues. I mean seriously, this is a incredibly well done performance. The standout scene is at Aurora' coronation celebration, she just captures this roll perfectly. While she isn't as evil as the previous Maleficent, she is a better character, and carries this movie on her elegant wings. Visuals aside, Jolie's performance is why you should see this movie.
Overall, I did enjoy Maleficent. When the story became messy and kept popping up with inconsistencies and such, I would be blown away by the visuals and the leading lady. I really feel like a rewrite or 2 on the script would really solidify this as a fantastic movie. For what we get, we get some really good stuff, just mixed in with an uneven story. It is really worth a viewing, just know you aren't getting Disney perfection, just Jolie perfection, and that is good enough for me.
I give Maleficent, 3.5 maniacal laughs out of 5
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