Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Maleficent review

As it turns out, we where all lied to when Disney first released Sleeping Beauty in 1959. Nay, the king, handsome prince and Aurora where not the good guys, it was in fact the evil fairy who cursed the baby princess. Maleficient is billed as being her side of the story, but it is a completely different story altogether.

With Disney riding high off the success of Frozen, this film bares many similarities, and ultimately the same moral message as Frozen. A young Maleficent is carefree in her fantasy creature kingdom (many of whom look like Groot and Flanimals), but over yonder reigns a greedy king, intent on taking over the fairy moors. When she meets a young lad named Stefan stealing pond gems from the fairy land, the two quickly become friends who kind of fall in love. As you'd say, she was way more into him then he was into her. She believes it to be true love kiss, and is disappointed when he leaves to get work in the kingdoms castle (and yes, he did say to her that this was his ultimate ambition right at the beginning).

Fast forward several years, and the king is fighting Maleficent for her moor, where she fatally wounds him. On his death bed, the king states that anyone who kills Maleficent will be king. So Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley) betrays his friendship with Maleficent by drugging her and cutting off her wings (yeah, she has bird wings in this film) to fulfil his dream of being a rich powerful man. So, consumed with hatred and revenge, she comes in all Nosferatu like and curses the baby so that on her sixteenth birthday she'll prick her finger on a spinning wheel needle (because, you know, there just so happens to be one in the grand Christening room at that the time) and be condemned to eternal sleep, unless kissed by loves true kiss. This curse is worse than it sounds, because to Maleficent true love doesn't exist, so she'll be asleep forever.

The film at this point drifts wildly from the original. As it turns out, Maleficent virtually raises the young Aurora. Stefan (looking a little like The Burger King), fearful for the life of his daughter, sends her away to a quaint cottage with three inept and annoying fairies who can't remember to feed the baby amongst their bickering (Maleficent does so via a rose that drips out milk...). The girl believes her to be her fairy god mother, and just before her sixteenth birthday, states that she wants to live with Maleficent in the moor. Not before being magically dragged back to the castle to prick her finger on a spinning wheel.

Where in previous Disney films, it was obvious who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, this film blurs the lines. It's commendable to try and replicate the complexity of life, but in kids films you have to be clear as to the purpose these bad guys have, because then your message gets mixed up. The vengeful Maleficent, with her menacing cheekbones (inspired by Lady Gaga via Orlan), turns motherly and sorry for her misdeeds. King Stefan turns into the bad guy, apparently being an unloving dad (despite have the same parenting techniques as the ones in Frozen). I felt bad for Stefan though, and his demise was unfair and brushed aside.

Stefan indeed is a much more misunderstood character than Maleficent. Single minded yes, but he is tortured by the curse that Maleficent puts upon his child, and paranoid that she'll come back and punish him some more. The feminist ending, much like Frozen, is once again misunderstood. According to Disney, a woman can do whatever the hell she wants, to her own crazy logic, damaging lives, if at least she acknowledges her love for her sister/daughter/other female relation. Maleficent makes a mistake but comes out the good guy. Stefan makes a mistake and pays dearly.

This film is flawed. Only going into production because Angelina Jolie wanted to do it, the film rings her poorly written part out until it is dry. Jolie is there to look slightly mean, but you are always aware of her being an actress playing a part. The other characters are flat and lifeless. Stefan, played with all the anger you'd expect from Copley, is drastically underused. The over reliance of CGI is dizzying, and don't even get me started on Aurora's length of time sleeping.

There is some flourishes to impress the young. My niece and nephew loved it, especially the end fight scene. The inevitable kiss from a prince brought out a loud "eww!" from a boy at the front. For me however, it didn't make enough of the great, ready made characters. Maleficent was softened too much. Sometimes, a bitch should just be allowed to be a bitch.



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