Reel Freak

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Review – Maleficent (2014)

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Disney’s latest live-action epic is Maleficent; a retelling of the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty from the eyes of the eponymous villain.  Robert Stromberg delivers an effective directorial debut, but the movie ultimately belongs to Angelina Jolie; whose spot-on lead performance is superior to the film as a whole, and alone is worth the price of admission.

Maleficent re-imagines the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, from the point of view of Maleficent; a fairy from the magical land of the Moors (or is it Moops?).  She falls in love with a human boy named Stefan, who ultimately betrays her by severing her wings in order to make his King proud.  Now feared, a vengeful Maleficent is constantly being hunted by the humans, when she hears that Stefan has a newborn daughter named Aurora.

Following the classic fairytale, Maleficent puts a spell on the child which will put her into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday.  Sent into seclusion in order to be protected from the spell, Aurora is sent to grow up in the Moors, and is watched over by Maleficent, who ironically grows affection for the girl.  Trying to reverse the spell, as well as still being hunted by Stefan’s armies, Maleficent is forced to fight to keep both herself and Aurora safe from harm.

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This is the first directorial effort from Robert Stromberg, who can previously be found credited as a special effects artist for several blockbusters; including Avatar, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and Oz: The Great and Powerful.  This isn’t the first time this year we’ve seen someone of other behind-the-camera talents step into the director’s chair (see: Wall Pfister’s Transcendence), and ultimately it boils down to mediocrity.  While it has its intentions, Maleficent doesn’t seem to be sturdy enough to go down in history with the rest of Disney’s numerous classics.

A lot of fairytale cliches lay within this movie; whether it be living in a land where there is always warring conflict, an ignorant king, and a happy and magical fantasy land where all of the negative vibes seems to disappear (automatically forgetting the previously mentioned conflicts).  The story is so unsteady that it slowly starts to fall apart with each passing minute, focusing less and less on its characters and more on Maleficent exacting her revenge.  The visuals are very well put together, most notably during the sequences where the walking tree-men fight Stefan’s armies.

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However, aside from giving you things to look at, the supporting characters in the movie are too clunky and disposable to care much about.  Sharlto Copley seems to have his great talents brushed to the side as King Stefan.  Elle Fanning is used very interestingly as Aurora, but they could have hired any young woman for the role.  The three pixies sent to watch over Aurora are excruciatingly painful to watch, to a point where you’ll beg yourself for their scenes of annoying bickering to be over.

The biggest reason why every other character in the movie seems so uninteresting is solely because Angelina Jolie is this film’s ultimate driving force.  She commands each line and scene with incredible dedication, perhaps her greatest performance to date.  Jolie is so pivotal to the success of this movie that you can’t help but wonder if this would have ended up as successful if Maleficent was played by another actress.  A complete range of emotion is offered up in an attempt to bring the best out of a character who, by being the main focus of the movie must appeal as sympathetic, despite being deemed a “villain”.  However, no matter how you feel about her, Maleficent as a character is so enthralling that it becomes questionable when there are prolonged scenes with Jolie nowhere to be found.

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By the end of the movie, it is hard not to appreciate what Jolie has done for Maleficent.  Her performance brings a glimmer of hope to any Disney villains hoping to get their own side of the story told in the future.  The Mouse House has created yet another strong box office mongrel, which will most likely attract audiences for the next month or more, having already (at the time of writing this) achieved $630 million worldwide.  Jolie is just about worth the price of admission all by herself, and is arguably the most vital part of the entire production.

Oh, and also….this is a pretty violent movie for receiving a straight PG rating (even more so than Burton’s Alice in Wonderland).  Did you see those battle scenes?? Food for ratings thought.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 broken spinning wheels

3-stars-out-of-5
– Josh Sazin, 7/6/14

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2 comments on “Review – Maleficent (2014)

  1. MovieManJackson
    July 7, 2014

    This review echoes what I have been hearing: All Jolie and visuals, and no true substance. Might be worth a rental view I suppose, but have never been a Sleeping Beauty fan. Great review by the way.

    • Josh the Reel Freak
      July 7, 2014

      Hey thanks man. It might be saying something why it took me over a month to see it. I figured I might as well, and had heard similar things prior to seeing it. Definitely not a problem if you wait for a rental.

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