Thursday, April 9, 2015

Movie Review: Maleficent



Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Special effects, interesting twist on the story
Cons: Never felt drawn into story, slow pacing
The Bottom Line:
Twist on tale you know
Could have been better but it
Keeps you at arms length




Good Idea Poorly Executed

Fairy tale retellings are in right now.  Sometimes it’s a mash up of characters from various stories and other times it’s twisting a story and focusing on a different character.  That second option is what we get with Maleficent, which tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the person we all know as the villain.  Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as good as it could be.

We actually first meet Maleficent as a young fairy (Isobelle Molloy) as she meets a boy of about her age (Michael Higgins) who has wandered into the land where all the fairies live.  The neighboring kingdom of humans and Mal’s kingdom don’t get along, but an unlikely friendship forms between the young Mal and this young man, Stefan.

Unfortunately, Stefan’s (played as an adult by Sharlton Copley) desire for power destroys their friendship when they become adults as he completely betrays Maleficent (now played by Angelina Jolie).  The result of this betrayal is Stefan marrying the princess and Maleficent showing up to curse his new baby.  But what will happen next?

I will admit as I started watching the movie, I was thinking that we don’t really know what drives Maleficent to be as evil as she is.  I mean, cursing someone to die (or at least sleep) at the age of sixteen is pretty drastic.  I actually felt the movie did a fairly good job of setting that part up, and I could certainly understand why she did what she did.  It doesn’t justify her actions, but they are understandable.

Sadly, the movie overall just isn’t that great.  I found it all fairly slow as I kept waiting for the next plot point to hit.  I mean, we ultimately know where the story is heading, but the twists they tried to tell for this movie aren’t interesting enough to keep us engaged.  We've seen this kind of twist on a story before, and it just felt too familiar overall with no real fresh ideas to make it interesting.

Since this film sets up a different villain and big swings in Maleficent, we need to really get to know the characters to get behind the changes to the story.  Again, this movie just didn’t quite pull it off.  I always felt like I was an outsider looking in on the story instead of an active participant.  The narration certainly doesn’t help.  I think if they had abandoned that, I might have gotten more into the story.

And yes, part of the problem might be me.  I have a hard time when they work to recast a villain as the hero.  You’ve got to really make me believe the new version of events you are telling, and I just didn’t think the needed character development was there.

Plus don’t get me started on the fairies that raised Aurora.  They are so stupid it is almost painful to watch them.

I do think part of it was the acting.  I’m not saying the acting was bad, but many of the performances seemed withdrawn, like they were holding back.  This was especially true for Angelina Jolie, who was great when she had to menace but didn’t quite seem to have the more emotional parts of the story down.

The special effects are outstanding.  This story calls for a lot of them, and they never disappoint.  It truly is a feast for the eyes.

While I know I’ve been harsh on the film, it’s not that it is bad.  It’s just average overall.  In the future, I’ll be sticking with Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty over this live action Maleficent.

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