Monday, June 2, 2014


Disney’s MALEFICENT is a new version of their classic SLEEPING BEAUTY story. Where the original tale focused on the cursed princess, this version makes the villain the main character; a unique approach which acts as a gift and a curse.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a winged fairy charged with protecting her realm from the neighboring humans. When she is scorned by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), her childhood friend and future King, she places a curse on his daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning), which will put her into a death-like sleep on her 16th birthday.

The first and better half of MALEFICENT latches onto the old saying, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. The film starts off strong in exploring Maleficent’s origins, her first love, and eventual heartbreak which results in her beloved wings being cut from her body. Her torment is real and powerful, and the stage is set for a justified revenge story.
But despite the big bad fairy being the main character, this is still a SLEEPING BEAUTY movie, and once the film introduces Aurora and her curse, MALEFICENT loses all sense of focus. Maleficent the character, whom we got to know so well in the first act, suddenly takes a back seat to Aurora and her time spent with three annoying fairies charged with raising her (played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple). The film adds an extra dimension by having Maleficent begin to have regrets for placing the curse, but not enough time is spent exploring that angle and the story wanders about aimlessly searching for something to latch onto. It is a major tonal shift that the movie never recovers from.

First-time director Robert Stromberg, who has won Oscars for his work in art direction, paints a very colorful film in which there is always something nice to look at. He never passes up an opportunity to film Maleficent with strong backlighting to accentuate her iconic form, and the results are often stunning. But for every wonderful shot, there are 100 dodgy CGI shots which are very cartoony and beyond the realm of believability.
Angelina Jolie is stunning as Maleficent. Her appearance dominates the camera and she gives a performance to match. Her lines come through like music, with perfect pitch and tone that is a joy to listen to. Jolie however seems to struggle when she has to act through her unnecessary heavy prosthetics which give her these unnaturally-high cheekbones, as she can’t really flex her face at all. Elle Fanning is a joy to watch in her role as the young princess and nearly steals the show. Sharlto Copley is a walking and talking disaster; he looks stupid, sounds ridiculous, and acts like such a Muppet we half-expect a piano to fall on him.

The finale gives the characters some interesting resolution, but only after a CGI-heavy battle scene which is not nearly as exciting as it wants to be. The best parts about MALEFICENT are in its ideas and their beginnings, but all great ideas have to be seen through the end. It is visually stunning and ambitious with a great performance by Jolie and Fanning, but flawed everywhere else.

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