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.
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.