Saturday, May 31, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

I grew up watching Disney films and loving a good number of them. One of my favorites was Sleeping Beauty because of the visuals, the action scenes, and the brilliant villain. When I heard Disney was creating a live action version, I was pretty excited. The trailer looked excellent. But would the movie be?

Maleficent is a 2014 live-action, fantasy film based on the animated film Sleeping Beauty. It is rated PG and is appropriate for most ages but may be a little scary for the littlest ones.

The Good

Angelina Jolie. Angelina Jolie did an excellent job portraying the title character.

Recapturing the Original. In terms of visuals and a few key scenes,  Maleficent did a great job recreating the original. Angelina Jolie looked like Maleficient. Prince Phillip, the King, and the cursing scene looked like they did in the animated version.

Premise. The producers approached the story from an interesting place and gave the main characters a back story and motivation completely different from the original creating a whole new story.

King Stephan. The changes to King Stephan are really the crux of the whole story. While I didn't find the character likeable, it did create a whole new perspective, and the producers did an excellent job of showing how his choices affected everyone and everything else.

The Bad

The Visuals. One of the best parts of the original animated feature was the unique look and gorgeous visuals. It had a unique and distinct look. The live action version had a unique look, but it wasn't the beautiful, colorful, stylized version I fell in love with, which would have been okay if it had been something neat. Unfortunately, it was kind of a weird and somewhat creepy fantasy version that looked similar to other recent films.

Same Approach as Frozen. After watching this movie, I thought to myself, "Self, that movie was just like Frozen, only live action and without the music." It basically took the traditional fairy tale story and twisted the usual troupes: true love's kiss, love at first sight, making the heroes pursue their best interests instead of being purely good, and making the clearly wicked villain misunderstood. If I hadn't seen Frozen, I probably would have thought it was clever, but like most other people I had seen it.

Characters. This film took a film noir approach where no one is truly good or evil but flawed and make decisions based on what will benefit them most. It's the complete opposite of a fairy tale. It was a risky move that didn't work as well as it needed to.

Fairies. In the movie, the human world and the fairy world don't like each other. The three fairies come to Aurora's christening to try and bridge the gap. This was an interesting take, but it made handing over the newborn baby to the three to raise completely insane. Also, the three fairies were so annoying and didn't do any cool magic.

Music. The animated version had a memorable soundtrack. The live action film didn't. I missed that.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish the producers had done something original instead of copying Frozen. I wish the visuals had been more exciting and not just strange. I wish the characters had been more likeable or at least more compelling. I wish there had been good and evil instead of a lot of moral ambiguity. I wish they had used the music from the animated film or composed a new score equally as memorable. I wish they either would have been true to the original or had gone further with changes instead of stopping in between.


This movie was entertaining, but it's not a classic. It had a really good premise, but the director just didn't exploit it to its fullest. The approach was almost identical to Frozen, which was great for one movie but not strong enough for two. So many things that made the animated version work were either changed or left out which was disappointing considering how well the few things they recreated so faithfully turned out. I wasn't in love with the film noir approach. I give this movie a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn. It's worth watching once, but you may want to wait for DVD, streaming, or even TV.

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