24. Maleficent (PG) - Runtime: 97 minutes
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Director: Robert Stromberg
Writers: Too many people
There's been a dearth of recent fairy tale-fueled movies these past few years. Some good, some bad, but mostly they've all been just okay. A very hearty "meh" really. Maleficent really doesn't buck that trend. In fact, it's probably the most blasé of all of them. Sure, it's got some great visuals and a strong female lead, but the story is not that exciting nor are the characters that well developed.
The main problem is that Maleficent is supposed to be a cold hearted bitch. And of course when you bring more depth to an evil character like Maleficent, you're going to lose that edge. And that's fine - I like to see more nuanced characters like that. But instead of softening the edges a bit, the movie completely turns Maleficent into the hero and diminishes any sort of sense of maliciousness or fear whenever she's onscreen. Sure the music is menacing whenever she shows up to curse some people, but it's never really scary like I felt it should be. Pretty much 10 minutes (movie time) after she curses Sleeping Beauty (named Aurora) she regrets it and tries to take it back. It's pretty lame.
The real villain is Sharlto Copley's character - the boy who fell in love with Maleficent, only to betray her and cut off her wings - a very not-so-subtle metaphor for rape. And I think where the story was going was fine - but the movie takes this weird turn half-way through where it's nothing but Maleficent and Aurora having a fun time together in the forest. It's weird and dumb and I pretty much rolled my eyes throughout. I would have rather seen a movie that showed Maleficent's rise to power than see her heart grow ten times like in The Grinch.
There were some good things about the movie - namely the visuals and the beginning of the movie where we see Maleficent as a young fairy and her encounters with all these strange creatures in the woods. It's really awesome and the movie would have been better if they lingered more on the characters within those woods. Create a new mythology/fairy tale of their own. Instead, the film feels rushed when it fast forwards ten or so years so it can get to telling the Sleeping Beauty tale.
I know this is a PG Disney movie, but there's more terrifying scenes in the original Sleeping Beauty than this tame adaptation. The movie felt hollow and devoid of any real fun. It looks real pretty, but that's probably the only thing going for this movie. Angelina Jolie hams it up as much as she can, but she can't save the movie from wooden dialogue and flat characters.
Unfortunately we're not even close to seeing an end to this fairy tale trend. Maleficent is the third highest grossing movie this year worldwide and Disney has lined up a live action Cinderella for next year. Plus Warner Bros. has a Peter Pan movie too. While this may be just good enough for the kids, this one will be long forgotten - you're better off picking up the original animated Sleeping Beauty.
RATING: CURSES TO THIS MOVIE