THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY
A REVIEW OF MALEFICENT
*BE WARNED OF SPOILERS AHEAD*
Okay so I just got out from seeing Maleficent a couple of hours ago. Let me say this is a film I have been following every development of for the last three years since it was first announced in 2011. I have been waiting with bated breath to see Angelina Jolie in all her Maleficent glory take the silver screen and dazzle me. After seeing the film, I have to say, I am disappointed. I will explain why further down, but let us start with the good of the film.
1.) Angelina Jolie – Angelina Jolie pretty much walks in and steals the show from the start of the film. She has made Maleficent her own. Although she studied original voice actress Eleanor Audley, who played the role brilliantly in the 1959 film, she did not become a carbon copy of her. She is elegant, sexy, and threatening all at the same time, while being a fairy godmother to Aurora. The scene where Maleficent loses her wings to Stefan and mourns them following is a gut wrenching one. Jolie plays the scene as harshly as it should be. This is truly a comeback vehicle for Jolie.
2.) Sam Riley – Every good villain needs an equally delicious sidekick, and Sam Riley as Diaval very expertly fills the role. His interaction with Jolie is at times scathing, at other times humorous, but each time it draws the audience in.
3.) Their First Meeting – My favorite moment in the movie was when Maleficent first encounters Aurora (played very cutely by Jolie’s daughter Vivienne) and tries to shoo the little girl away. She orders the little girl to go away, to which Aurora throws her arms around her legs, then demands to be picked up. A begrudging Maleficent gathers then the child into her arms, at which point she grabs her horns. Maleficent then puts her down and shoos her back to the cottage. A general aw went up from the audience in the theatre when this occurred. For me, this is where we first see Maleficent’s façade cracking, and really open her heart to the young toddler.
Now the bad.
1.) Aurora – Really, this girl was nothing more than a sidekick to Maleficent, the Robin to her Batman, so to speak. And a Robin with the personality of a frilly napkin. Vivienne Jolie played the role as a toddler with more acting finesse then Elle Fanning. Watching Aurora, I could not get over the fact that she was played so ditzy and so deliriously happy. I can almost imagine Aurora going from the sidelines with a goofy grin on her face, “Oh my fairy godmother and father are fighting in a duel to the death. Isn’t it exciting?” Really, I think this girl does not know any grief in her life. Even the scene where she cries to Maleficent does not seem real.
2.) King Stefan – The whole idea of King Stefan being a crazy person with a homicidal twitch almost seems to be in stark contrast to the 1959 film version. There were several points in the film where he was played out too loud and long. He was not at all happy to see his daughter when she appears, and seems more concerned with Maleficent appearing then for his daughter’s safety. When she pricks her finger of the spinning wheel and is next shown propped up in bed, he seems more concerned with berating the fairies for their stupidity then for his daughter’s well being. Honestly, Maleficent should have killed him earlier in the film. Would have saved us the trouble of having to suffer through the performance given by Sharlto Copley.
3.) The Three Fairies (Stooges) – I must say, this was the most disappointing character development in the film. The good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather were some of my favorite characters in the original. They also bestowed gifts that would at least somewhat be useful (Flora bestows beauty, Fauna song, and Merryweather casts a counter to Maleficent’s curse) and seem to at least be capable of raising a child. Instead, in the film, we get the three idiots Knotgrass, Thistwit and Flittle (I say whoever changed Flora’s name to Knotgrass and Fauna to Thistwit should be fired immediately from Disney) who have no idea how to care for a child. I would let my 60 year old landlord, who hates children, watch Aurora before I let these three have a crack at it. The gifts are not much help either (Beauty from Knotgrass (harmless enough), eternal happiness from Flittle (probably the reason Aurora is so ditzy), and Thistwit did not even cast a gift). They are stupid and oafish, but almost worst is the fact that they are selfish. In one scene after Aurora tells them she is leaving home, Knotgrass (played by Imelda Staunton) berates her, saying she did not spend sixteen years in a hovel with two idiots for Aurora to go and muck it up. When Aurora falls asleep, the three of them are more concerned about how Stefan will treat them then Aurora’s safety. So a poor character development for me.
And now, just the god awful ugly.
1.) Prince Phillip – What the hell was Prince Phillip doing in this film? If possible, he is more useless and brain dead then Aurora! I would rather send Cher from Clueless or Elle from Legally Blonde to face the dragon and save Aurora! Oh but wait, we have no idea why Phillip is there, just that his father King Jonathan (who appeared in the original film, but is only mentioned in this one) sent him to meet King Stefan. In the original film, he was betrothed to Aurora at her birth. He meets her for the first time in the woods in this film, and is kidnapped quite easily by Maleficent to bring to the palace to give Aurora true love’s kiss. He didn’t even draw a sword! And when his kiss does not have any effect, he is thrown out by the three Fairies. The three Fairies! He appears again at the end to give the hint of a future romance, but was unnecessary.
2.) The Narrator – The narrator in this film was totally overused. She appeared almost every fifteen minutes, giving us a recap and details that we did not get on screen. Really, she should have just appeared at the beginning of the film and the end.
3.) True Love’s Kiss – True Love’s Kiss, as it turns out, was given by Maleficent to Aurora. Now before all the anti LGBT groups get up in arms about it, it was a kiss on the forehead. But overall, the whole scene before where Maleficent gives a touching speech about Aurora claiming the rest of her heart reeked of lesbian subtext. In fact Maleficent did all but kiss Aurora on the lips. I am not in any way anti – gay, being a gay man myself, but Maleficent waxing poetic over Aurora’s body even made me squirm a little. I would have much rather have Maleficent be an ally to Aurora and Phillip, with Phillip giving Aurora True Love’s Kiss, then the three of them confronting King Stefan’s guard and defeating them together. What’s left instead was a lesbianesque mess.
So overall, as you can see, this film was a disappointment. Despite stirring performances by Sam Riley and Angelina Jolie, wonderful special effects, and a unique turn on one of Disney’s most well known and loved villains, they cannot make up for all the other wrong Maleficent has. I don’t doubt it will be a big hit for Disney this summer, but I have to give the film (with an EXTREMELY heavy heart) 1 star. I would encourage anyone who was disappointed by the film to buy the novel adaption by Elizabeth Rudnick and the companion book, “The Curse of Maleficent”, which tells the story from Aurora’s point of view. The books are very good and fill in many of the plot holes that the film has.