Maleficent has been highly anticipated by Disney fans since it was first announced and after the first clips of Angelina Jolie in the title role were released the hype started to grow increasingly. Throw in a re-imagined version of “Once Upon A Dream” sung by pop artist Lana del Rey in a haunting style along with an intense marketing campaign and Disney can’t fail, right? Well, the good news is Disney is going to make a ton of money off of teenage girls and Once Upon A Time fans, but for those who expect decent acting and dialogue out of a blockbuster, buckle up for a disappointing 97 minutes.
(WARNING: Spoilers throughout.)
- James Newton Howard has collaborated with Disney on a few other occasions (Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet), but Maleficent is definitely the strongest score he’s composed for the company. That being said, it doesn’t compete with his work on King Kong or The Dark Knight collaboration with Hans Zimmer. It does have a certain charm though that is reminiscent of some 90s soundtracks like Hocus Pocus.
- Robert Stromberg set out to make a wondrous world in his directorial debut in the same vein that won him Academy Awards for Best Art Direction in James Cameron’s Avatar and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. The landscape shots, particularly ones featuring the Moors (the mythical land of the fairies and such where Maleficent resides) are breathtaking. If anything, the Moors resemble the world of Pandora from Avatar too closely, but at least Disney has an excuse to overhaul the Avatar expansion at Animal Kingdom into a Maleficent-themed land if James Cameron starts throwing fits over the finished product.
Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
- Angelina Jolie mentioned on multiple occasions, including the 2013 D23 Expo, her fascination with Sleeping Beauty and the character Maleficent and how it is the perfect role for her to play. Jolie shines in the starring role, despite the abysmal script she had to work with and the terrible direction they took with the character. The stand-out moment for Jolie in the film ends up being the “curse” scene which borrows dialogue straight from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty.
- Linda Woolverton was in charge of crafting the script and it is clear that she has finally lost what talent she once possessed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For those of you not familiar with Linda, she is the writer behind Beauty and the Beast, co-writer on The Lion King and helped with story material on Aladdin and Mulan. In the Broadway realm, she adapted her Beauty and the Beast script into the book for the Broadway musical and co-wrote Aida. What talent Woolverton has in writing for animation and Broadway is completely lost in live-action. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to the dialogue in two of her other scripts – Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Yes, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a box-office smash, but that doesn’t mean it is good.
- The script and dialogue for Maleficent is no better than Alice in Wonderland and some of the most cringe-worthy lines I’ve heard uttered in a film come from this movie. Why did Aurora have to say she wanted to live in the Moors with Maleficent and eat “berries and black nuts”? Why couldn’t Linda have chosen any other food? Was Woolverton watching Jurassic Park and channeling Robert Muldoon when she had King Stefan yelling “SHOOT HER” to his men in attempts to take down Maleficent? My guess is Linda decided to just get lazy on this screenplay, but she deserves it – she is the only female writer to have her name solely attached to the writing credits for a film that made over a billion dollars.
- I get it – Maleficent is a reinvention of the character we know from Sleeping Beauty and not a retelling. However, what ended up happening is that Maleficent was turned into a weak, flawed character that got upset about being betrayed by someone she thought truly loved her at one point in her life and decided to put a curse onto his first and only daughter. In the midst of her creeping and watching over Aurora for her first 16 years, which is actually an okay addition to the story, she ends up developing an attachment to her, especially once Aurora starts to think that Maleficent is her fairy godmother. Maleficent was THE villain of Disney villains and in this reinvention she is no longer a villain. FYI – Disney fans adore villains in some cases as much as the heroes and this is the perfect example. Maleficent could’ve been beyond evil at every point in the film and audiences would still eat it up.
- Also, Linda Woolverton must’ve been watching Frozen when she decided to change true love’s kiss coming from Prince Phillip and instead Maleficent gets the honor. I understand the decision, because people ate it up when Frozen came out, but Maleficent is made that much worse because of it.
- In terms of unnecessary changes, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are now Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle. If that’s not unnecessary enough, Maleficent’s raven Diablo is transformed into a human/dog/worm/dragon/whatever else Maleficent feels like turning him into named Diaval.
- We already covered Angelina Jolie in her role, so take that as a sign of how the rest of the cast did at their jobs. Some of the most embarrassing acting takes place in this movie, specifically by Sharlto Copley as King Stefan. Elle Fanning isn’t horrible, but she spends a third of her screen time being annoying, another third floating around behind Maleficent and another third asleep. Sam Riley, everyone’s favorite birdman Diaval, proves that he could compete with Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in a creepy, staring, smiling competition. Also, he is a glowing example for why nose prostethics should not exist. Imelda Staunton takes on a role as Knotgrass that will cause most people to hate her, which isn’t far off from her performance as Dolores Umbridge, but that hatred stems from her character being evil. This hatred is all about how terrible the character and acting is.
- Who created these creatures and why do you still have a job?
Craig’s Review 1.5
“Maleficent takes the quintessential Disney villain character and turns her into a weak protagonist in a film full of atrocious acting and decrepit dialogue.”
Shaun’s Review 2
“Despite having one of the most fascinating characters to work with, Disney flattens Maleficent into a dull, uninteresting protagonist with a trite backstory and uninspired plot twists. Rather than embrace the attraction many fans have to the enigmatic villain, Disney inexplicably decided its audience wasn’t capable of supporting such a dark and complicated character. Sincere apologies to Marc Davis.”
Maleficent is now in theaters including IMAX 3D and Disney Digital 3D.
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Category: TV / Movies