Monday, June 23, 2014

REVIEW: Maleficent


Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning


May 30, 2014

Robert Stromberg


1 hour 37 minutes



Gotta love Disney rehashing their old products in order to churn in a few dollars at the box office, right?  In 2010 they let Tim Burton put his own spin on "Alice in Wonderland," next year they're bringing a live-action adaptation of "Cinderella" to the big screen, and now we have a new spin on the story of "Sleeping Beauty" called "Maleficent."  Basically if you know the story of "Sleeping Beauty," then this is pretty much the same story, just from the perspective of possibly Disney's most iconic villain.  The titular character is played by renowned actress Angelina Jolie, who hasn't been in a movie in almost four years.  This apparently was a passion project of hers, so I give her credit for sticking to this and putting all of her energy into this one film.  However, the movie itself could have and should have been a lot better than it was.

Here's the easiest way to summarize the movie as a whole: Angelina Jolie is great as Maleficent.  Aside from a couple of laughable moments from her, Jolie emulates the damaged, the caring, and the sinister sides of Maleficent really well.  As someone who isn't the biggest fan of her work, I have to say that she fit the part quite well, and it was also kind of nice to see her in another movie after four years or so.  Elle Fanning is also quite delightful as Aurora, aka "Sleeping Beauty."  Yeah, I'm going to guess that at least 20% of you reading this had no idea what Sleeping Beauty's actual name is.  Anyways, Fanning is really good here, and she just has one of those smiles that's pretty hard to resist. Jolie and Fanning in my eyes share the best scenes of the movie together, with their chemistry being nice and pretty touching.  Shartlo Copley of "District 9" fame plays King Stefon, and he for the most part is good in the film as well, though there's not much else to say about that.  There are other performances in this movie, good performances in fact, that could be mentioned, but honestly, this movie is primarily Jolie and Fanning's show, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

The visuals in this movie are absolutely gorgeous, I must say.  I didn't see the film in 3D, but honestly, there isn't really much here that's necessary to shell out the extra money charged for the goofy glasses.  As for the special effects themselves, they all look colorful, vibrant, and very pleasing to the eyes, even if some of the effects look better than others.  Also, I really enjoyed the design and the scope of the film as a whole.  The design of Maleficent's forest kingdom is both haunting and quite beautiful to look at, and it just looks even more magnificent when it's during the day and the characters are exploring the wonders of the woods.  The cinematography helps to make the movie feel big and grand, which is what movies with $100 million budgets should be doing anyways.  Whether you see the movie in 3D or not, it's hard to deny how incredible the visual effects are in this movie.

The main thing that takes me out of this movie is the screenplay.  Linda Woolverton, best known for writing "The Lion King" and most recently "Alice in Wonderland," fails to make the movie as engaging as it could have been.  I understand this is a Disney movie, but I felt that this was more childish and whimsical than it should have been, which to me is a missed opportunity.  The "Narnia" films and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films were never afraid to be dark while still being family friendly, so why couldn't this one being grim, dark and on the borderline between PG and PG-13?  Not only was that a problem for me, but also certain characters, particularly the "Prince Charming" character here, is given barely anything to do and is just there to move the story along.  This movie could have potentially been great, but Woolverton's script made the movie more child-friendly and more formulaic than it should have been.

Overall, I was surprised that I enjoyed "Maleficent."  The trailers didn't really do much for me, and I wasn't even that excited to see it in the first place.  Guess my family choosing to see this over "How To Train Your Dragon 2" actually wasn't the worst decision they could have made.  Having yet to see "Dragon 2" still, I guess I'll have to judge that when I eventually see that film.  As for this movie, the chemistry between Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning was great, the visuals were quite pleasing to look at, and the whole scope of the film is grand and, well, magnificent.  If Linda Woolverton hadn't added characters into the story for no reason and made a darker, borderline PG-13 film like the "Narnia" movies, then I think this could have been something truly great.  I have no regrets seeing this movie, and if it was on TV at a convenient time in the future, I might choose to sit down and relive the 97 minutes this movie lasts.  And even if you yourself doesn't enjoy the movie, at least Lana Del Ray's take on the song "Once Upon A Dream" plays over the credits.


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1 comment:

  1. Angelina Jolie is magnificent playing the powerful, brooding, conflicted title character. Her familiar, Diaval (Sam Riley of 'Control') and the sweet princess (Elle Fanning) give strong supporting performances, too.
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