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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Revamping classic fairy tales has almost become its own genre, we’ve had Snow White and the Huntsman, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Oz the Great and Powerful,  the sad thing about this is that none of them have been all that good. I’m not saying they have no redeeming qualities it just looks like the studios are pushing style over substance. As long as it looks great that means it must be great. Unfortunately that is not the case. Disney is at it again with Maleficent, here we get a version where the dark queen of the fairies may be just a little misunderstood.
 “Now face me and all the forces of Hell!”
Maleficent is not the “Mistress of all Evil” anymore. Instead, she once was a sweet young fairy who lived in the magical kingdom of Moor, flying around on beautiful wings and beloved by all her magical friends. Then she met a boy.
 Boys are smelly and not to be trusted.

The two become fast friends and as they get older their friendship turns to love, but Stefan wants to be king and so he betrays her and cuts off her wings to prove to the current king that he destroyed her. Thus winning the hand of the princess and becoming the new king. This is certainly an unusual way to run a monarchy.  Enraged by this horrible betrayal Maleficent waits patiently for her chance at revenge and this comes when the King has a daughter. Maleficent party crashes the christening and curses the baby.
“Who wants a death curse, oh you want a death curse.”
  But in this version she  curses the baby with “Eternal Sleep” and not with death, as was the case in the original story, which was then mitigated by one of the fairies into a sleep curse; “Not in death, but just in sleep, the fateful prophecy you’ll keep.” Here in lies the problem with the Maleficent of this movie; they have made her a villain/hero so they can’t have her do anything too nasty. I’m not saying this idea can’t work but Maleficent is supposed to be the “Queen of Darkness” and not a tragic misunderstood hero. Now I’ll state for the record that Angelina Jolie is fantastic in this movie and is the primary reason this film has any entertainment value whatsoever. She looks amazing and is able to imbue a good deal of pathos into a character who curses a baby. The problem is that she cursed a baby! Even if in this version it wasn’t a death curse, and later she feels really, really bad about it, but there is still the fact that she cursed a cute little infant, and that is a hard thing to work around.
“Why Fairy Godmother, what big horns you have?”
 Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is fine as the sweet maid who is raised by three idiot fairies, seriously these fairies are beyond stupid, and it is up to an ever watchful Maleficent to prevent them from starving the baby to death or letting the child wonder off a cliff.
 Later when she grows up, she assumes Maleficent is her Fairy Godmother because she has always looked after her. Unfortunately there is still that pesky curse to worry about and, of course, Prince Boring will eventually show up. Not too mention her asshole dad.
"Hail to the King, baby."
 King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is given the thankless job of being the films real villain and he’s given no character trait other than “I want to be king at all costs!” and as a threat to Maleficent he is lame at best. The film gives Maleficent the Achilles heel of being harmed by iron, a standard fairy weakness, but I really didn’t need to see a movie where Maleficent has to try and escape the evil king.
“I don’t escape people, people escape ME!”
 The magical land of Moor is your standard CGI rendered world, full of funny creatures and wonderful waterfalls, and is attacked by humans for the simple reason that they are mysterious and magical.
 This is not hard to believe, humans have a long history of attacking what they don’t understand, but when your army finds itself facing twenty foot tree ogres riding giant boars…well maybe you might want to re-think your campaign.
"Green Peace anyone?"
 So turning Maleficent into a sympathetic character didn’t work for me but I will give them credit for their take on “True loves first kiss.” That was a really nice and touching scene.
"But I barely know her."
 This is a hard film to grade because Angelina Jolie is great fun to watch and the fantasy elements of the film are mostly entertaining (Note: This excludes the three fairies who were annoying beyond belief) but being Disney took a villain who is in my number one spot in the lexicon of Disney Top Villains it is hard for me to recommend it. Maleficent to me is the personification of all evil and something that good must overcome, she doesn’t need a tragic back story and certainly not one where it’s “Girl betrayed by boy” as that really takes away from her awesomeness.
 Also I call foul on the fact that Maleficent does not turn into a dragon, her flunkie does. That’s just bullshit. The dragon we get looks pretty cool but isn’t as effective as one would hope.
Now this is how a film should end.

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