Maleficent is studio-mandated fan fiction, a Sleeping Beauty remix with sumptuous visuals that never really provides a good reason for existing. I’ll grant that it’s the first competent execution of the post-300 “artificial live-action” aesthetic, but the narrative adjustments to the classic tale – a sympathetic villain, an excoriation of dictatorial hierarchies and a hefty dose of action (as though your Disney DVDs inspired your older brother’s D&D campaign) – only serve to bring it closer to the conventions of modern children’s cinema. Even the film’s twist on “true love” is blatantly cribbed from Frozen.
In the title role is Angelina Jolie, enveloped by botox-taut elfin features and prominent arched cheekbones. She’s not so much providing performance here as presence; aside from a brief (intentional?) David Bowie impersonation, she rages, glowers and occasionally allows a single tear to well. The Wickedly unoriginal choice to tell the story from Maleficent’s perspective never fully justifies itself; she’s too often left an observer rather than an agent of change in her own story.
Maleficent isn’t a bad film. It’s just unnecessary, especially as a children’s film with an (admittedly excessive) M-rating. Worth watching if you just need more Sleeping Beauty in your life, I suppose.
13 thoughts on “Maleficent (2014)”
As a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty’s animation and style, I already felt like this movie was unnecessary, but your mention of a David Bowie impersonation has me intrigued. Can you elaborate on that?
There’s one scene in particular where she’s talking about the “bay-beh” that’s very much like Bowie-in-Labyrinth. Given that a couple of the creature designs are strongly Henson-inspired, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a deliberate nod. They definitely pay strong homage to Sleeping Beauty‘s colour scheme and look – which is mostly successful, but not enough to justify it as a thing that exists, imo.
I’m a fan of Jolie but a bigger fan of the animated version of Sleeping Beauty that really left me with that conflicted sense of – “I know she’s evil but she’s so beautiful” – regarding the character of Maleficent and it’s probably the only Disney cartoon I remember very well – it even got me obsessed in learning to spin wool just so I could figure out how the spindle got to prick her finger…
It’s probably worth a watch (assuming you haven’t seen it yet?) if you’re a big fan of Sleeping Beauty – if nothing else it’s interesting to see how they bring that world to life, even as it dips into cliché.
Nice review Dave, I’ve not really got any plans to see this as from the reviews I’ve read, seems pretty much what I expected from it. I absolutely hate the Tim Burton/Sam Raimi Alice in Wonderland/Oz the Great and Powerful aesthetic look that this seems to be going for, and the whole thing just seems like a pretty shameless cash in on Wicked. Worse when of all the Disney villains, Maleficent was probably the only one driven by being pure evil, it seems like such a stretch to spin this round.
Yeah, the narrative contortions the film gets itself into to justify her evil acts are pretty contrived (and not particularly convincing). Cheers.
121/200 is a decent rating actually for a movie that is unnecessary and unoriginal. I’m not disagreeing with you but Angelina is so good I also gave this 3/5 stars which is virtually the same.
I mostly enjoyed this so I’d still recommend, especially to fans of La Jolie. She’s incredible.
It’s probably about a 2.5 star film for me (my ratings system doesn’t line up perfectly with stars), but yeah, it’s not terrible, and Jolie is mostly why.
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