‘Maleficent’ Review

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“Curious little beasite.”

Where do I begin? Well, this film didn’t meet my expectations, and my expectations weren’t that high to begin with. The film is honestly a mess. It tries to fit roughly forty years of the titular character’s life into a short ninety minute run-time, and it ends up coasting over every single plot point without giving any of them a second look. Which really is a shame, because this film brings up some interesting topics. It just fails to answer said questions and ends up distracting us with colorful visuals instead.

This might be because of the inexperience of Robert Stromberg in his debut as a director. In the past, Stromberg has work on the visual effects for films such as Bad Boys 2, Pirates of the Caribbean, and most recently, Life of Pi. He brought his twenty years of visual expertise with him here, and it’s obvious throughout the film as many of the visuals and landscapes look great. Sadly, that seems to be the only thing Stromberg has a strong handle on.

The script, written by Linda Woolverton, is as bone-dry as they come, in terms of plotting. You’ve seen this exact story multiple times before, even though the ads tell you otherwise. Every so often, the film brings up an interesting topic, but then drops it almost immediately. And other times, it just throws in random scenes because…you know…fan service. The worst case of this is the prince, who is shoehorned in the final twenty minutes of the film (I shit you not). It doesn’t help that his acting is awful.

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Now that I think about it, most of the acting here is pretty bad. Elle Fanning, who was actually pretty good in Super 8, is truly dreadful here. Every scene she’s in, she’s just playing around in the forrest with CGI creatures. You’d think that they’d at least give her some character development because she’s pretty much at the center of this story, but nope. She’s just some happy girl who barley even feels like a character at all when it’s all said and done.

The two actors that seem to have escaped this criticism from me are Sharlto Copley and Angelina Jolie. Copley admittedly doesn’t have much to do here (noticing a trend?), but he tries the best with what he has to work with. One scene in particular when he is sitting in a dark room talking to himself was quite chilling. But it’s Jolie who steals the show here.

And she doesn’t just steal the show, she makes it her bitch. From the first time we see her onscreen, we are actually interested in what’s going on and she is undoubtedly the life and soul of this movie. Without her, this movie would have been absolute garbage. The infamous scene where she casts the curse on Aurora is when she truly shines though, as it turned out being one of my favorites scenes from any movie released this year so far. Too bad the rest of the film doesn’t have the same type of energy and fun to it.

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Like I said earlier, the film does have some interesting bits, but I have the feeling that the heads at Disney didn’t want to make things too dark, so instead we got dragons and far too many scenes with fairies. Far too many. As for one of the interesting scenes, the one that stood out to me was the scene where Maleficent looses her wings. The imagery and tone of this scene gave off a vibe that it was trying to say something about the sexual abuse that men inflict on those for power, but after that scene, I never got that vibe again. Maybe I was looking too far into it, or maybe Disney just thought that going down that road would have been a bad idea for its audience. Yet, impaling and killing people is okay to show to children. Right…

Overall, this re-imagining of the fairytale classic doesn’t soar, it looses its way early on and crashes by the time it’s all over. It brings up some interesting topics, but clearly favors showing its flashy visual effects (and a lot of zooming-in) to keep the kids entertained. For older audiences looking for more of a bite from this “edgy” adaptation, look elsewhere. This beastie only nibbles around the edges.

“I must say, I really felt quite distressed to not receiving an invitation.”

2 out of 5

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