Our man Jeffrey Roth reviewed Maleficent back in June and while he thought the film was beautiful to look at, felt it dropped the ball when it came to the story. Be sure to take a look at his review, because he raises a number of good points. Ultimately, I kind of agree, but I disagree about some things, too. So let’s dig into it, shall we? The Movie Right off the bat, let me confirm that yes, this is a simply gorgeous film. Angelina Jolie was born to play Maleficent and Elle Fanning does a very good job playing the, quite frankly, more difficult role of Aurora. The Sleeping Beauty herself has always been fairly one-note and characterized more by her inaction than by any real character trait, and Fanning brings a lot of energy and wide-eyed innocence to the role. Because the film spends the time to watch her grow up, we, along with Maleficent, kind of fall in love with her. Visually, she’s also a lovely contrast to Maleficent’s angles and darkness, being all soft edges, light, and smiles. So much so, that at times the character almost seems simple. That’s a hard line to walk, but Fanning does it. And while I’m not a big fan of the catsuit Maleficent we get at the climax of the film, overall the look of Maleficent is breathtaking. A little less so in the early part of the film, before she goes full-on evil, but even there, Jolie makes a striking fairy queen. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast leaves something to be desired. Sharlto Copley is suitably evil as Stefan the Wannabe Royal Date Rapist. And I know that the pixies are supposed to be silly and charming — and Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple do their best with the material — but I wanted to tear my hair out during every scene they were in. I mean, when Maleficent calls them “Pixie idiots” in the deleted scenes, it’s harsh, but true. The hazards of being a forty-something man watching a movie aimed mostly at children, I suppose. Sam Riley does a good job as Diaval the crow, transformed into human form. He gets to play Maleficent’s conscience as well as her henchman, er, henchcrow. And Brenton Thwaites is appropriately bland and lifeless as the revisionist version of Prince Phillip. I’m sure little girls will find him cute, but the boy needed a haircut if you ask me. A brief bright spot early is Kenneth Cranham as the wicked King Henry, but that should be no surprise. He’s Kenneth Effing Cranham, for Pete’s sake. But what about the story? Well, Jeffrey’s not wrong when he says that it lacks some weight, but a comparison to Wicked is both apt and off-target, I think. We’ve got to look at the audience here, and there’s just no way Disney was going to produce a film that went too dark (on the surface, anyway) when dealing with their most popular villain and one of their most popular princesses, as much as we’d all love to see it. So instead, the script by Linda Woolverton is hemmed in before it even gets a chance to start. Despite the inherent limitations of what they can do, Maleficent is still able to subvert the traditional fairy tale and Disney narrative structures, sneaking in some valuable moments for young girls to absorb. The most disturbing moment in the film is one of the most emotionally honest for Jolie to play, and should be required viewing for all little girls. The moment when Stefen returns to Maleficent after years away (their young love was a very strong and effecting element of the opening chapters), roofies her like a frat boy and then cuts off her wings without her even waking up, was horrifying. The date rape imagery combined with the slow realization that spreads across Jolie’s face as she realizes how she’s been violated is haunting and grotesque. Even more important here is the fact that from this point on, one of the themes of the film is that “True Love” is a fairy tale, too. There’s love, for sure, but the film seems to want to emphasize the fact that love is a real thing that changes, grows, and sometimes, unfortunately, fades. This is such an important revision of the original story’s themes that it really needs to have a spotlight shined on it. Because if True Love is just a tale that we tell children, it makes Prince Phillip’s character entirely superficial to the story. Especially since the film has shifted the real dynamic of hostility to Maleficent and Stefan — as well as the final act’s battle (and yes, the dragon shows up!). Even when the pixies manhandle Phillip in to kiss the sleeping Aurora (in a scene that has always been creepy to me), it accomplishes nothing. But it teaches a lesson. I loved the shift in theme, making the focus of the film Maleficent’s growing love for Aurora as an adopted child (not a surprising turn, given Jolie’s own life), so much so that it is her True Love’s Kiss that breaks the curse. It not only provides a nice example of a mother/daughter relationship to rival the traditional father/son dynamic we are bombarded with in film (if I never see Field of Dreams again, it’ll be too soon), but we also get to watch Maleficent grow and change; losing her innocence and wallowing in rage (justifiably so) before learning to deal with her pain and find a way to feel again. That’s powerful stuff, and given the appalling numbers when it comes to rape statistics in this country, it’s an important journey to have symbolically represented in a children’s story. Especially one from Disney, which practically guarantees that it will be played over and over again in households around the world (it’s the third highest worldwide grossing film of 2014, so somebody’s going to be watching it again, no doubt — parents be warned!). With any luck it can replace Pretty Woman as high school girls’ favorite “fairy tale” romance (something that troubled me to no end when I was teaching). So yeah, as a forty-something dude, the movie wasn’t really my thing, but it was extremely well-done, and sneaks some important themes and life lessons in there. If I had a daughter, I’d watch it with her. It’s the sort of film that would play well on lazy Sunday afternoons along with other classic fantasies. Do TV networks still do that? When I was growing up Sundays were all about Gulliver’s Travels, Doctor Doolittle, and other fantastic tales. Maleficent would fit nicely alongside them. The Disc There’s not a lot to say here. The film looks amazing, which is saying something for a work with this many digital effects. But it’s a Disney disc, so that’s kind of to be expected. Disney’s live-action films and their Marvel Studios releases are all about as good as they can be. So from a sheer video/audio quality standpoint, this is a damn-near perfect release. The Extras Aurora: Becoming a Beauty (4:53): Personally, I would not have thought Elle Fanning was the perfect Aurora right out of the gate, but she was the first choice and she fits exactly with what this Aurora is supposed to be. She has an innocence and exuberance about her that embodies this version of the Disney princess. She also seems to have loved playing in this world; And why wouldn’t she? I mean, it’s a Disney Princess world. We’re just living in it. From Fairy Tale to Feature Film (8:13): This is a fairly standard look at the development of the film’s production, talking to stars, writer, director, etc. Angelina Jolie apparently signed on to the project because she loved the character, but didn’t think they’d ever be able to figure out a way to make the film. Ha ha! Gotcha, Angelina! Once Woolverton cracked the script — basing the source of the character’s anger on the stealing of her wings — it all fell into place. Plus the decision to retool the “True Love’s kiss” idea to shift the film’s focus from “Boy meets Girl” to exploring a mother’s love for her child (despite Aurora not being Maleficent’s birth-child) is extremely affecting. And I kind of love the rig they used to make Maleficent’s flying movements more graceful and controlled. No wires here. Well, a few wires, I guess. Building an Epic Battle (5:48): If you want to see the Disney Production Machine in action, this is the featurette for you. They spared very little expense to stage the battle scene that closes the first act of the film, building a gigantic rig in a huge field so they could stage flying shots and the effects required to have Maleficent swooping through an invading army and sending them scattering. It’s impressive, I have to admit. Classic Couture (1:34): Like an ad for a jewelry company, the camera lovingly circles and examines a couple of Maleficent’s headpieces and some of her rings while the designer talks over it. There’s not much here, but it’s just gorgeous to look at. The amount of detail brought to every level of the production is exemplified here. Anybody with a goth Etsy shop should take some notes here. Maleficent Revealed (4:45): This is pretty much just a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of the visual effects with no discussion. It’s a little boring and can be skipped. Deleted Scenes: “Stefan in King’s Chamber” – Cut so we wouldn’t see early on just how evil and ruthless Stefan had become during his time away from Maleficent. Its removal makes the date rape scene more of a disturbing surprise. “Pixies Seek Asylum” – More pixie scenes should have been cut, if you ask me. “Pixie Idiots” – Probably a bit harsh to make it into the film, but accurate. “Diaval Asks about the Curse” – A cute scene, but from a pacing standpoint, cutting where they did was much more effective. Sometimes, you’ve just got a line that is definitely the closer. “Suitor” – Disturbing to think that the pixies were going to be parading young men in to kiss the sleeping princess. Another reason to not like the pixies. They kept the digital effects, though, for when Prince Phillip is brought in. See larger image Maleficent [Blu-ray] New From: $9.13 USD In Stock Maleficent (2014) Blu-ray Review4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Advance Review: The Jungle Book Blu-ray - Psycho Drive-In August 29, 2016 […] the songs are some of the best in classic Disney history. So, while the recent Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and Cinderella went straight live-action – we’ll just ignore The Sorcerer’s […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.