Another year, another blockbuster live-action fairy-tale movie.
With Disney kicking things off with Alice In Wonderland some years ago, we've since seen two Snow White movies go by and Oz: The Great and Powerful. Mixed reviews-aside, the films made big bucks so a Sleeping Beauty live-action movie was a no-brainer for Disney.
The casting of Angelina Jolie as the famously sinister Maleficent felt right and the trailers looked promisingly dark and moody. Focusing on a villain for once, this seemed to be taking a different, interesting path with the genre and the familiar story. Sort of how Wicked took The Wizard Of Oz and did its own thing. We follow the Sleeping Beauty story through Maleficent's character arc and what should have been the epic birth of one of Disney's most iconic, frightening villains somehow becomes...
Nowhere near that, in fact.
Did you know that Maleficent had wings and a boyfriend and was totally cool despite... being called "Maleficent" and looking like the Angel of Death? Oh and she ruled Pandora for a while. A land peopled with trolls, Ents and Snorks, apparently. This movie's so wizard, it makes Labyrinth look like a French indie flick about people talking in apartments. Maleficent, it turns out, is basically the most inconsistent villain in the history of Disney: one second killing hundreds in an all-out war, the next trying to stop a curse she herself set up, one second turning a dude into a dragon, the next being limited by her powers which, frankly, only seem to work when the script demands them to. There's no rhyme or reason to this character, a character which was once so simple yet so rewarding. Who wasn't terrified by Maleficent watching the old animated Sleeping Beauty? The scene where Aurora is lured into the dungeon where she touches the spindle alone was enough to make every kid reach for their blankets in a desperate bid to cover their eyes.
This Maleficent is confused, confusing and disappointingly tame.
Relegated to little more than an eccentric, bitter emo auntie!
There are so many plot holes in this movie that, from the get-go, it all gets rather distracting. It's established that Maleficent can pretty much do anything with her magic: create a man, dragons, put together elaborate curses and yet she's riding a horse to the castle when in a hurry, she can't fix her own wings despite having a healing power, she's fighting a human army when she could easily just send them all to sleep, she sets up a monarchy in a fairy land somehow, the list goes on. The film suffers from a serious lack of imagination both visually and script-wise. The three unfunny Jar Jar fairies are made of gross CGI half of the time, the creatures living in that fairy forest look like rejected Dr Seuss characters and both Maleficent and the psycho King's actions make little to no sense. Luckily, the ever-entertaining, too-good-to-be-in-this-movie Sharlto Copley plays the King so he sells sociopath really well but it's never explained exactly why this guy went from friendly kid to evil priest/King. By changing Maleficent's character and showing she really had a good heart but leaving the King as a one-dimensional baddie, the film misses its own point completely. If his characterisation boils down to "he's just bad", how come we had to sit through an entire film of Maleficent being a gentle yummy mummy? Couldn't we have just gotten the scary, evil Maleficent we all wanted to see? Oh sure she looks weird and her one-liners are relatively biting but she's about as terrifying as a puppy dog.
I should also mention that the Aurora we get is a personality-free airhead with a barely developed story. The miscast Elle Fanning grins a lot at basically everything she sees and the film's "Prince Charming" is shockingly one-dimensional to the point where you could put him in The LEGO Movie as a LEGO character just how he looks in this movie and no one would notice the difference. It's actually pretty insulting how they change and dismiss the entire Sleeping Beauty scenario in this movie before ripping off Frozen right at the end in the most predictable ending you could imagine.
Disney ripping off Disney...
While not quite as wildly confounding as Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror, Maleficent really is another low point for live-action fairy tales and it actually made me nostalgic for Snow White And The Huntsman. And that movie was hardly a classic. The cinematography is occasionally pleasant to look at, Jolie and Copley are well cast and James Newton Howard always does a good job music-wise but, as a whole, this is a missed opportunity to say the least.
You wanna see Maleficent?
Go re-watch Sleeping Beauty.
It. Is. Good.