Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review: Maleficent



Recommended for: Ages 8 to Adult

Rating: PG (for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images) 

Explore the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain in this wickedly fun twist on the classic SLEEPING BEAUTY. In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king's newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land. Journey beyond the fairy tale in this soaring adventure that is "visually arresting, brilliantly designed" (Andrew Barker, Variety). 

Because of the whole "locked in the vault" thing, I didn't have access to very many Disney movies growing up. (The ones we had, we watched all the time, but that's beside the point.) Sleeping Beauty was one I didn't watch until my sister bought the 50th anniversary edition. I wasn't really a fan of it. Prior to that, my only encounter with Sleeping Beauty was in My Big Book of Bedtime Stories, which is full of retellings of classic fairy tales and legends. In that version, she actually slept for 100 years. After rewatching Sleeping Beauty in preparation for Maleficent, I decided the Bookania version of Sleeping Beauty was my favorite. I'm not entirely sure where Maleficent falls on that scale, but I like it way better than the animated version. I can agree with what friends have told me, that it is a good movie.

Technical: 5/5

Well, it's a Disney movie, and Disney tends to do things right. The acting was fantastic, the dialogue was well written, the costumes were cool, and the special effects were well done. Now, it was pretty obvious that many of the creatures in faerieland were computer generated, but it was still good CG. On the technical side of things, it was fantastic.

Setting: 5/5

Stefan's kingdom was a pretty typical fantasy kingdom, not much different from the animated movie. The main difference, I would think, is more in the backstory of the setting, and the fact that there is no neighboring king betrothing his son to infant Aurora. Faerieland was a wholly new addition, and it was pretty neat. It is a kingdom of all sorts of fairies and other creatures, of which Maleficent is protector. There is, naturally, magic in the worldbuilding, but it's just what one would expect from a retelling of Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

Plot: 4.5/5

This is where things change from the animated feature. There is still whole sleeping curse enacted on Aurora, where she will prick her finger on a spindle to set it in action, and she is still raised by three fairies who don't really know how to do things without magic out in the woods, and there still is a Prince Philip she meets in the forest, but there the similarities pretty much stop. Just as in the animated film Aurora isn't really the protagonist, so she is not in Maleficent. However, rather than the fairies taking that role, Maleficent herself does. This movie is all about Maleficent's story, how she came to enact the curse and why, how she felt about it afterwards, and what she did about it. It does puzzle me how she got a name like Maleficent when she was a sweet little girl, but it's an iconic name, so I suppose they couldn't change it. Maleficent does somewhat play an antagonistic role in this movie, but Stefan is the true antagonist. Both of them were in the wrong, but he never sought repentance. It would be unfair of me to say that the twist ending didn't surprise me since I got spoilers from a friend last summer. Though as a viewer of Once Upon a Time, it might not have surprised me even so.

Now, one of the main problems I have with the animated film is the pacing. Really, the story doesn't lend itself well to pacing. It covers too much time where nothing happens, which is difficult to do. The part where Aurora is a baby feels like a prologue in the animated movie, but it also feels like it takes up too much of the movie causing later development of the story to be cut accordingly. I think Maleficent did a much better job as far as this goes, despite covering a longer period of time. I still hate how 16 years are skimmed over, but at least Maleficent montages a good portion of it and has actual scenes mixed in so you can get to know Aurora somewhat and see how Maleficent truly feels about her. I thought her change in feeling felt a little too sudden, but they didn't really have time to develop it more.

Character Development: 4.5/5

Far better than the animated one. We can actually get to know Aurora, though not as well as I might like. Maleficent herself is well rounded, and we really get to know who she is. She has more motivation than just being miffed at being left out of Aurora's christening, and, while her actions are clearly not good, it is understandable why she did it. Character arc-wise, she is incredibly interesting. She starts as a sweet little girl, then takes a negative arc plunge, and then, through the rest of the movie, journeys on a positive arc. Stefan is the other character that is best developed. His is certainly a negative arc, which was interesting to see. It wasn't what I expected, and, while it wasn't exactly pleasant for Aurora's father to be a villain, it was an interesting plot development. Diaval, the raven that Maleficent turned into, well, anything she needed was particularly interesting to me. Now, I do wish there had been a bit more of Philip. He had a tiny role, but he was magnificent at it. I did especially love how conscious he was of the fact that he and Aurora barely knew each other. And he was Jonas from The Giver, so...

I really enjoyed Maleficent, and can heartily recommend it, especially to people who like the story of Sleeping Beauty. It is a tale of redemption, more than anything, and I agree with my friends that it is good. And now I'm anxious to go see Cinderella, and looking forward to next year's Beauty and the Beast.

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