Monday, June 23, 2014

Maleficent

By Sati. Monday, June 23, 2014 , , , , , ,
I was very much looking forward to this movie when I first heard that they are planning on making a film from the perspective of Maleficent, one of the most iconic villains in cinematic history. Unfortunately, after the first trailers showed up it seemed pretty obvious that the film will be yet another cash grab from Disney - just like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Oz - the Great and Powerful filled with useless 3D, atrocious to look at color palette, half assed script and a bunch of random, CGI creatures which are practically indistinguishable from each other when it comes to those four movies.

And I was right - Maleficent is like a movie that Disney executives assumed people will go and see because of the character and Angelina Jolie anyways, so why even bother giving it a decent script and honest effort? It doesn't look like this madness is gonna end soon seeing how one by one these movies earn money and are getting sequels, though luckily for us, none of those was actually released yet.
Maleficent is also yet another movie where the pain that drives the protagonist to the dark side is caused by a complete asshole who hurts her. It's one thing for this to be basically a rip off from Oz, it's another that male character who betrays the heroine is so underwritten they might as well put a card saying 'someone stole her wings' out there and the result would be exactly the same.

The story has a potential but almost none of it is explored - the story of Maleficent's broken heart is perhaps the most glaring example as in the latter part of the film it's not mentioned at all, even in the main confrontation near the end. Sharlto Copley (who is basically one bad performance away from getting kicked off from Hollywood at that point), who plays the older version of the boy who betrayed Maleficent, is so hopelessly lost in the web of absurdity that it's almost laughable to witness.
It's a shame that part of the story wasn't treated with more investment and creativity, as Angelina Jolie's powerful scene in which she discovers the terrible betrayal done to her character really deserved better background. It would also make for far more interesting third act had that story been treated better. When you watch the finale to the film, it's almost like they are missing someone yelling 'OK, faster, let's get it over with!' on that set.

The film's plot points - Maleficent ruling her forest, the King's insanity and the relationships between many characters are so underdeveloped I feel like Disney people should personally apologize to actors involved and to the audience. It's as if the only part of the film they focused on getting right is the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora and I feel this one only worked because of Jolie's efforts and excellent chemistry between her and Elle Fanning.
Jolie's performance is so wonderful that it's a reason enough to see that film - she is just incredible even given the limitations of the script. Everything in this movie seems uninspired except for her work - she nails all the little things about her character and shows an amazing spectrum of emotions - naivety, pride, hurt, concern and ultimately - love.

She does something remarkable here and that is that her work is engaging and strong throughout - she is excellent both while playing the mistress of all evil, particularly in a chilling scene in which she curses Aurora and in the film's lovely moments where we see that she really starts caring for the princess, culminating in beautiful confession of love near the end of the movie.
Jolie also gets to show off her comedy skills in film's cute and charming moments. She really is the heart and soul of the movie and her performance as well as the actress' dedication truly deserved a far better movie. Her work makes the movie worth watching but also makes everything else pale in comparison.

Elle Fanning's Aurora doesn't really get much to do but I appreciated how the film made her very charming and that prevented the character from being boring. She does have lovely chemistry with Jolie and together they make the mother/daughter-like bond very believable and touching. In fact in those moments between them the film reaches its peak and almost makes you forget how mediocre everything else is.
For every thing Maleficent gets right, it gets something wrong. The three fairies, played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville, which I imagine were supposed to provide comic relief, are just annoying and unnecessary. I assume small children may like this but this leads me to another issue with that 3D, fuchsia, teal re-imagining you people will pay money to see anyways policy from Disney.

The problem is that neither of those films works completely for either adults or kids. They are all too simplistic and occasionally silly for mature audiences not to get annoyed with (and this is coming from someone who almost fell off the chair during condom joke in Neighbors, but come on, really, flour fight?) and they are too dark for kids - from floating human heads in Alice in Wonderland to Jolie's soul crashing howl and not so subtle rape metaphor in Maleficent.

Another thing - the faux feminist agenda Disney is shoving everywhere lately. Look, I think the necessity of equality of sexes is something that should be yelled about from the rooftops because that equality, and I speak from experience, does not actually exist in the real world. Men get preferential treatment everywhere and it's not right. But when the opposite is done in cinema, it's not exactly helping anything.

In those movies it's not equality. Women are good, strong, fierce and men are basically castrated. Either they are bland and boring (Prince), stupid, cruel and crazy (King) or they are just kind of there because nobody cared enough to figure out what to do with them (Maleficent's raven helper). And it's in every movie Disney makes lately. There are no interesting male characters there, so effectively when we then find out that the heroine falls in love with one in the end it just makes no sense.
Perhaps the writers were aware of how inept they are and that a connection between strong female character and strong male character would require some good, subtle writing. A character like Jolie's Maleficent wouldn't be weakened by strong male character in the frame, in fact in terms of this story pairing her with one would work beautifully coming full circle to her finally finding someone she can trust and someone worthy of her.

The visuals in the movie are your typical Disney live action stuff, but there are few really creative things here - Maleficent is given beautiful wings and the scenes in which she flies are really impressive. While it's all kind of disjointed with the movie never really determining whether she is some sort of feral guardian of the forest or avenging angel of nature, the visuals alone are very nice.

Overall, the film won't appeal to either adults or to kids but Angelina Jolie's dedicated performance makes it worth seeing. Both her and the character deserved much better.

RELATED POSTS:
 

38 comments:

  1. I think the fact that I've still never seen Sleeping Beauty is the reason that this worked more for me than for other people. That, and I was severely blinded by Jolie's magnificent performance. You raise a lot of solid points though, especially with regards to Maleficent's broken heart..and Copley was atrocious here. Great, honest review, as always!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Copley really needs to haul ass to indie movies, some serious script-driven work because all those flashy films lately...his work in each is atrocious

      Delete
  2. I actually liked Coopley here, just for that monologue alone. I wished the film would be more adult oriented so it can explore darker themes here. So bummed out that this just looks like a repeat of Oz overpowering CGI-ladden film. This is a bit better just because of Jolie of course :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah it could have been much more interesting if they went deeper, I wish they figured out if they wanted to make a movie for kids or for adults and just stuck to the decision

      Delete
  3. Sorry the movie was a disappointment. I had my reservations seeing it, and chose Fault In Our Stars instead. I loved the latter, even if it has a lot of problems I was willing (silly, stupid in love with the cast) to overlook. Your review kinda confirmed all of my hesitations that Jolie would be amazing but the rest wouldn't live up to her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, it's exactly that - Jolie is kinda like Ledger in TDK - she is nowhere near as good he was and the movie is nowhere near as good TDK was either - but it's still the case of the film being of one quality and one performance being several steps above that.

      Delete
  4. It's a shame really.. I was about to see it and then heard you didn't enjoy it and decided to wait for the DVD release instead. I just don't want to sit in the cinema, waste good money and watch another Disney 3D - I dislike 3D as it is, I'm not going to get an other Alice In Wonderland on my hands.. I hated that movie btw, just.. awful. Jolie looks good though, in the trailer at least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 3D in these movies is seriously so awful. There were moments in Oz when it did look nice but it's definitely not something you see was shot in 3d from beginning. Jolie is very good and definitely makes it worth seeing but yeah, it's not something one has to see in the cinema.

      Delete
  5. Nice review!
    I haven't seen it yet, but I'll probably download it as I don't want a headache. I already got one from Oz.
    Meh, the feminist agenda. Of course they will shove it in our faces, making us think that they actually care about world problems, not about money. Yeah, right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      Oz was kinda bad but at least it was made before this one - with each year and each newer movie it gets more derivative because they continuously use the same CGI concepts and story ideas.

      Delete
  6. Good review. It looked wonderful. However, there just wasn't really a story, or much else carrying it on and on to make it worth getting emotionally invested in. Because even if I did, it would just let me down by how conventional it got.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, the script was just so lazy and cliche.

      Delete
  7. Excellent review. I especially enjoyed your discussion of how gender roles are portrayed.

    It sounds like this film had some strong points, but I am disappointed to hear the writing wasn't better. Especially since I'm running out of good movies to watch with my 10-year-old daughter. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great review, glad to hear that Jolie is amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She really is, wish the movie was this good!

      Delete
  9. Great review! (and beautiful graphic,as always) I liked this one a bit better, but you're right about the script being weak. The King really could've used more substance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! :) The King character was all over the place like crazy woman's shit.

      Delete
  10. Good review. I agree on comparison with Alice in Wonderland, Oz and Huntsman, they all are money-maker fairytales with big names. Though I still really want to see it on a big screen, just for sake of Angelina.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The visuals are pretty good in this one but it's still very uninspired stuff. It looks better than Alice and SWATH but as for the effects, it's about the same level as Oz, perhaps a little worse.

      Delete
  11. Great review, as usual! I am a bit reluctant to go see this movie, since these re-imaginings of classic fairytales are usually disappointing. However, from what everyone is saying about Jolie's performance, I think I might give it a try.

    Also, I don't think I have mentioned this, but your site is one of the most beautiful I have ever come across! Simply amazing! One more thing, I didn't know until recently that you are a Lana Del Rey fan. What did you think of Ultraviolence? I personally loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Jolie's performance is worth seeing, no matter how bad/average the movie is. She really gave it all here and was dedicated to the character and to pulling it off, at least it seemed that way for me, so she is the only one who wasn't there just for a paycheck and at least tried to do her best :)

      Thank you so much! :) I love Ultraviolence, cannot believe some people are disappointed with it - the titular track and 'F--cked my way up to my top' are currently my favs from the album.

      Delete
  12. I would see anything for Angelina Jolie, anything, but this doesn't interest me in the least. And you've been to my site....that's saying something.

    I enjoyed your review, though. Disney has to stop this shit, though, you know? No more live-action updates/redos....it peaked at Enchanted, damn it. And that one hardly qualilfies...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha well it's not a very interesting movie and as I said it's actually for no one - it's sometimes too silly, sometimes too heavy. Angelina's fans would be the only demographic I'd recommend it to, actually.

      It's like they are desecrating their own legacy with this shit.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I'm with you. This whole bullshit-family subgenre is awful. The kids won't get it, the adults will be bored.

      I like Jolie, I do, but I'm still going to pass on this one. Well, until my wife and I rent it and she falls asleep twenty minutes in. Should be a blast!

      Delete
    3. Haha, on the plus side this one is only 90 minutes long :)

      Delete
  13. Heh, yet another stinker filled with useless 3D!! I now refuse to pay for 3D anymore, obviously I have no choice if it's a press screening but really, most 3D is useless! Too bad about this one being so bad, I mean it's not enough obviously to just have one good actor in the lead, script is still what makes a movie good! Bummer about Copley too, I liked him in District 9 but he was unbearable in Elysium but that's because his ridiculous character was written that way in the script.

    I might check it out on a slow night just to see Jolie in the role, but glad I didn't see this on the big screen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah it's really not worth seeing in cinema, especially in 3D. Jolie is wonderful but they really don't seem to realize the script is more often than not the most important thing in the movie

      Delete
  14. Great review! The writing of the movie was bad; there was so much potential with the story that didn't get explored. They really banked in on Angelina Jolie, and considering she's a good actress, the writing should have given her more credit. The men on the film were underwritten that they really don't deserve to butt heads with Maleficent; she wasn't given a challenge with the king. Jolie did very well on this film - that's the only positive thing that could have came out of this.

    With the other live adaptations coming up, I don't think I'm going to be expecting much quality, but they should at least make some effort.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Exactly they are just so lazy - they think they can get a famous actor to do the new version of famous tale and all work is done. They even use the same stuff in those films, the visual effects and the way those movies look is almost identical

      Delete
  15. You're absolutely right about the film being severely underdeveloped due to a lazy script. If Jolie wasn't in this film, I probably would have hated it, but she saved the movie (yet I did only give it 3/5, and that's mostly for her). The CGI killed me more than anything else, because digital animation is just too much and too unrealistic. Like I said, keep in mind it's targeted toward a younger audience, but that doesn't mean the script had to be so half-baked. Good review, Sati!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same rating system here, if it wasn't for her I wouldn't even see it but she was absent from the screen for a long time, and, well it's Angie, there is no one like her :)

      Delete
  16. Agree with you on all fronts here, Sati. It was a good looking movie and all, but it's also so forgettable. I really didn't like the ending either. A man falls to his death and then everything is all puppies and rainbows? I know it's Disney, but c'mon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really should use those reimaginings for more than just a way to get money out of people :/

      Delete
  17. Excellent review! I agree Jolie makes this disappointment worth a look. The only thing that saves this from being totally forgettable is her magnificent performance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Totally, she really carried that film!

      Delete
  18. Ughhh, this was so terrible - huge disappointment! Sharlto Copley was awful wasn't he? What a terrible performance. The only saving grace was Jolie (and I enjoyed her chemistry with Fanning too), but the whole thing sucked as a whole.

    Such a shame, I adored the 'once upon a dream' trailer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was honestly almost embarrassed for the guy :/ The film was uninspired to begin with, but good Lord, his character's arc was just awful. No one could have rescued that.

      Delete