Friday, July 4, 2014

Review of "Maleficent"

On this rainy Fourth of July, Jeannine and I decided to take in a movie, and chose "Maleficent", the new Disney "reimagining" of the tale of "Sleeping Beauty", focusing this time on the villainous sorceress, Maleficent, so wonderfully designed (probably the best name and design for a Disney villain EVER) and brought to animated "life" in the original DIsney cartoon version of "Sleeping Beauty".

This live-action film stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, and while I am generally not a big fan of hers, I have to admit that -- at least as she is made up in this movie, with those cool signature horns -- she does sort of look the part. 

Sadly, but certainly not unexpectedly, that resemblance is probably the most memorable thing in the movie. 

I would love to have been a "fly on the wall" when the story meetings for this movie took place, especially when the people in charge discussed what is a key element -- if not THE key element -- in the movie. I refer to the assault on Maleficent in which her wings are cut off, and the aftermath of this tragedy. Let's imagine how it might have gone…

PRODUCER: Okay, so Stefan cuts off her wings with a cool saw chain -- what a great idea! 

WRITER:  Um… maybe we should show her trying to use her magic to try to regrow her wings after that, or attempting to get a new pair somehow.

DIRECTOR: Nah, nobody will want to see that. Besides, we have more special effects we have to get to.

WRITER:  But she's already displayed her incredible magic powers… wouldn't it make sense for her to at least TRY to use them to repair herself?

PRODUCER: Ah, you think too much. The audience won't care about that -- they just want to see cool stuff!

WRITER: But -- but even after she's lost her wings, she shows that she can do almost anything with her powers. I mean, she's changing a bird into a man into a wolf into a huge fire-breathing dragon --

PRODUCER: Yeah, isn't that dragon cool?! Much better than that old animated one.

WRITER: Well… it just doesn't make sense that she doesn't even make a single attempt to use her amazing magical powers to heal herself -- there's not even a passing mention of her trying to. And if you want to argue that it's impossible, for some reason, for her to do so, like maybe fairies only ever get one set of wings in their lives, aren't we missing a great opportunity for emotion and drama and pathos here? I mean, we could show her desperately trying to regrow her wings, trying every magic spell she can think of, but failing, misshapen stumps growing and falling apart, failing, tears running down her razor-sharp cheekbones as she realizes to her utter horror that it's just not possible -- 

DIRECTOR: Nah, that'll take too long. We've got a whole bunch of scenes of fairies throwing mud and flour at each other to fit in this flick, remember…

WRITER: Oh, yeah. Never mind.

The movie was entirely what I expected -- a "clever" idea which really wasn't all that clever to begin with, dressed up in the kind of nearly-flawless special effects finery which is possible these days when buckets of money are hurled at a project. Heart and soul are virtually nonexistent. The plot progresses in a kind of by-the-numbers, phone-it-in manner, as we are asked to believe all manner of illogical actions and results for the sake of being able to lurch from one plot point to the next. It all ends with a "true love's kiss" which is almost exactly like the one in "Frozen", and just about as contrived and forced as that one was as well… and finally "the kingdoms are united". Huh? How'd that happen?

It makes me want to watch the original "Sleeping Beauty" again, as a mental palate cleanser. -- PL

1 comment:

diego said...

what bugged me most about this movie is it starts off with an interesting idea-- take this old tale of clear good vs. clear evil and make it more complicated. make the king start out good, but reveal an evil side. and make maleficent good, but be driven to evil by vengeance. then by the end, you can have both sides be kinda good but kinda evil at the same time, torn between their dual natures by their relationship with aurora, thus making the conflict so much more interesting. but instead of exploring that, all they did was flip it, so that by the end, it was still clear good vs. clear evil; just a reversal of the old sleeping beauty story. why bother reimagining an old story if you're just gonna do the exact same thing?

i also didn't care for the unnecessary cgi. the three pixies did not need to be small. they never looked right.

angelina was wonderful as usual. wasted on this unambitious story.