Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

I am SO behind on my movies. I've missed a ton of them. Life is just too crazy right now. sister insisted on taking my 3-year-old niece to see Maleficent. Everyone was raving about how good it is, and my niece sits through Disney movies, especially of the princess variety, quite well. So, we all went.

It was a fun experience, not only for the film itself but because my niece hasn't been to a movie since she was little enough to sleep through it (since she was an infant, in other words). It was fun to experience what is essentially her first film in a movie theater with her. When we went in, for some reason the lights were all the way down, even though the movie didn't start for another ten minutes. She was afraid because it was so dark. Then I put her up on one of the seats. (You know, the fold-up theater-style seats?) Now, my niece is very tall for her age, and skinny as a whip. She only weighs about 34 pounds. I put her in the seat and it folded up on her. She started screaming and asked to go home. LOL. Poor thing. Ah the trama of childhood. Anyway, we got her a booster seat which helped keep the seat from folding, and gave her some popcorn and she felt better. She sat through the movie fairly well, though the surround sound was too loud for her and she got afraid a few times. Every time she did, she would grab my hand with her little fingers and my heart melted a little bit.

Okay, onto the movie review. I am going to talk about the film a bit, but I'll keep things largely spoiler-free

To anyone out there who wishes they had cheekbones
likeAngelina Jolie's in this film, please note: they are
prosthetics. (Picture Source
Plot: As most of you probably know, this is a re-telling of Disney's 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty, done through the eyes of Maleficent. It starts out with the evil fairy as an innocent fairy child, and we see her back story. How she became a villain. Then it goes through the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and ends just after. I was actually surprised how many similarities there were between the classic cartoon and this film. They did the entire christening-of-Aurora scene almost word for word from the Disney film. I thought it was really cool. Sort of gave me goosebumps to see it as a live-action film.

Actors/Characters: Angelina Jolie did an excellent job in this role. I'm really not her biggest fan, but loved her performance here. She managed to portray evil, as well as vulnerability and at times true sadness. Elle Fanning as Aurora was a great choice too. She's got that sunny smile that lights up her whole face. It makes her more innocent-seeming and girlish than the cartoon Aurora, who is supposed to be sixteen but looks more like a twenty-five-year-old model. Similarly, Prince Charming is much more teenager-ish than in the cartoon, but it didn't bother me to have a younger-seeming hero and heroine. Actually, the price reminded me of the kid who played Atreyu in 1984's The Neverending Story. If you don't know that reference, it's not important.

Okay, let's talk about what they did with Maleficent's character. Again, this won't be spoilers. I promise. Just more broad analysis. I really liked what they did with her character. They made her very human. I especially liked the first part of the film where we see her back story. They took her from a flat villain to a very dynamic human being, capable of both good and evil, who chose to go with the evil for a time. I thought the character development here was excellent. However...

Retelling: Despite liking the character in and of itself, I had some issues with what it did for the fairy tale. Because Maleficent was neither all good nor all evil, and by the end, she was more good than evil, there suddenly wasn't much of a negative force driving events. They had something that explained why the negative events (Aurora pricking her finger and falling into sleep, etc.) still happened, but for me, it just wasn't enough. They didn't compensate well enough, in my book, for making Maleficent somewhat good. 

In the cartoon, you'll remember, it was Maleficent who sort of brain-washed Aurora and guided her toward the spindle in order to fulfill Maleficent's evil prophecy. In this, I don't know. It was almost like Aurora went into a weird trance and sort of did it herself. I just thought it was kind of lame. 

Besides, not having a clear-cut, tangible villain to pit against your protagonist is a rookie mistake. It's kind of story-writing 101, so I'm surprised to see the film taking this approach. (Yes, you could argue that it's worked for some writers/stories in a big way, but they're the exception, not the rule. And if you look closely, they're generally not as much of an exception as you might think. Discussion for another time.)

Then there was the kiss that awoke Aurora. Let's just say that it wasn't true love's kiss from the prince that did it. Now, granted, perhaps I shouldn't have expected that. This is, after all, a modern retelling and we can expect the film makers to put their own spin on things. Lately, especially from Disney, there's been a trend where they say "true love" doesn't have to be romantic love. In Once Upon a Time, true love's kiss passed from mother to son. In Frozen, the "act of true love" was that of a sister for a sister. Now, don't get me wrong. I really love this idea: that "true" love that can change the world takes more forms than just the romantic sort. I think it's a very true thing and I love what Disney has done with it. But, they did something similar in Maleficent and it just felt...a bit tired to me. Despite liking the general idea, I think it's starting to be overdone. So, I wasn't crazy about that aspect either.

Overall: Despite what I said above, I really liked the film overall. The visual affects were stunning and beautiful. The story held my interest (and that of the three-year-old munchkin, which is saying something) and the portrait of Maleficent was a terribly interesting character study. The issues I had were really just minor plot points I thought the writers could have thought through more thoroughly. (Alliteration, anyone?) 

And most of all, it was fun to see a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, which might just be my favorite Disney tale. (My main problem with the original, that Prince Phillip has an immensely flat personality, was not addressed in this version either, but, it is what it is. I'd still like to see a version where that is remedied, though.)

Has anyone else seen Maleficent? What did you think of it?


  1. You're not the first one to dislike the true love's kiss aspect.
    I haven't seen it. The story just didn't compel me to the theater to see it. Will watch on NetFlix with low expectations.

    1. Like I said, there are some good aspects, too, so I hope you find something you like when you get around to watching it. Thanks Alex! :D

  2. Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Classic Disney movie. I'm very much looking forward to seeing this at our cheap theatre when I have a chance.

    Terri M.
    Second Run Reviews

  3. Hope you enjoy it when you see it Terri. Thanks for stopping by! :D

  4. Jolie hardly ever puts in a bad performance, but man, I just wished they gave her more to do here. Good review Liesel.