Thursday, June 05, 2014
Last night I went to see Maleficent, Disney's new live-action fairy tale. Side note: if you haven't seen it and don't want to read any spoilers, stop reading now. Just know that I thought the movie was pretty good overall. If you keep reading, I'll get into the details of what I thought was good and what slightly bothered me. Seriously, spoilers on...
While I'm not always a fan of revisiting old stories and remaking them for modern audiences (I'm looking at you, Footloose!), the trend of taking old animated properties and doing them with live actors is one that I'm enjoying. Well, maybe I'm just enjoying the idea of it. The actual results are usually somewhat sketchy (I'm looking at you Snow White and the Huntsman!).
Maleficent pulls it off. For the most part. First, the good... Angelina Jolie is fantastic as Maleficent. And I'm not even an Angelina Jolie fan. She presents the character as a tragic heroine turned villain turned heroine. Her journey to the dark side is full of heartache and might even bring a tear to one's eyes. I'm admitting to nothing, by the way.
Aside from Jolie, I'm not sure the other actors are worth mentioning. It's not that they were bad. I just think, compared to Angelina's performance, they just don't have much of a chance to shine. And I'm okay with that. It's called Maleficent. It should be about Maleficent. And it is. It's all about her. Yes, the story involves her relationships with Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) and King Stefan and even the three good fairies who wind up raising Aurora.
If you go into this movie expecting a faithful retelling of Sleeping Beauty, you'll probably be disappointed. Personally, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was sort of hoping for something a little closer to the original story, but this definitely was not that. Here, we're introduced to a young Maleficent who is a powerful fairy living in a land full of magical creatures. Those creatures are wary of humans and rightly so. As a girl, she meets Stefan, who is initially a thief, attempting to steal jewels from the Moors (the magical fairy land). Maleficent and Stefan develop a friendship over the years and may even fall in love. Maleficent definitely falls for Stefan, but we later see the true nature of Stefan's heart, which makes the audience question whether or not he was ever truly in love with her.
In his ambition to become king, Stefan takes it upon himself to kill Maleficent at the behest of the current ruler. He's unable to kill her (I guess he felt something for her after all), but instead cuts off her wings as she sleeps. He presents Maleficent's wings to the king as proof of the deed, allowing him to become the heir to the throne. Of course, not killing the fairy would haunt him. This is where the story we're more familiar with begins.
Maleficent is hurt by Stefan's actions. Her heart is broken and her wings have been stolen from her. She is filled with hatred and vengeance. So she takes it out on Stefan's firstborn daughter. We all know how this turns out. But, of course, there's a new twist. Maleficent watches Aurora as she grows. She actually does a better job of taking care of the girl than the good fairies do. Those fairies, by the way, are portrayed as complete morons. Over the years, Maleficent develops a sort of motherly affection for Aurora and even grows to regret the curse she placed on her as an infant.
Like I said earlier, I felt like the movie was very good overall and is definitely worth the time and money to see. But I do have my own issues with the way things were presented.
I didn't like Philip's role in the movie. This was the first Disney prince to have a name (other than Charming). In Sleeping Beauty, he was a fairly well-developed character who became an actual hero in the story. In Maleficent, you blink and you miss him. I'm not sure why they spent the time or money to even cast the role.
Like anything else, I'm sure I can pick the movie apart and find more little things that I disliked. But I hate when I do that. Especially when movies are meant to be entertaining for entertainment's sake. And Maleficent was definitely entertaining. Even if you take away all the amazing special effects, Angelina Jolie's performance makes it worth seeing.