A New Tale, A New Maleficent

Maleficent

            It seems that Disney pumps out a new movie every month these days, as the studio releases yet another film.  Instead of baseball throwing Indians though, this weekend’s film revives an old tale in a new form.  Yes, I’m talking about Disney’s Maleficent, director Robert Stromberg’s adaptation to the animated Sleeping Beauty.  Did he fill the big shoes and hype the trailer’s brought?  Read on to find out

If you haven’t been swept away by the cascade of trailers, this tale focuses on the dark fairy’s origins and how she became so wicked.  At least that is part of the story. Stromberg took some interesting steps in his rehash, putting enough spin on the tale to make it almost an entirely different story that is sure to bring mixed reviews.  I myself rather enjoyed the tale, despite it’s predictability, creating a character-centered story with emotion, passion, and a little bit of surprise while still bringing other elements into the tale.

Of course the main support of the movie is Angelina Jolie, who captured the villainess in both looks and spirit.  Her natural beauty, combined with fantastic makeup and wardrobe, was accentuated in this film, ditching the green skin for a more natural look that radiated power.  Jolie’s beautiful eyes seemed to act on their own, mirroring the emotions trapped within the dark fairy.  Even her voice sounded like Maleficent, grabbing the arrogant and malicious smoothness the cartoon made famous, though her screaming and moaning were a bit overdone. Jolie nailed the spectrum of emotions her part required, and had me fall in love with her acting all over again as well as have a different look on Maleficent.  Of course I am a reviewer who likes his balance, and Maleficent fails to spread the acting weight around, relying on Jolie a little too much

The other cast in this movie were okay, their limited screen time just long enough to bring something to the movie.  Sam Riley as Maleficent’s raven Diablo… er Diaval , was my second favorite of the cast.  His character was a mini version of Maleficent; helping to keep the sorceress on her toes, while providing well timed comedic relief to keep the tale running.  Elle Fanning brings cuteness and positivity, but doesn’t add much more than that, often reduced to walking and smiling at the green screens around her.  Sharlto Copley as King Stefan is an important character, but his overstretched accent, and acting made him a bit more humorous than what I think they intended.

However, the greatest thing about this movie for me is the world Stromberg and company created.  Maleficent’s design is gorgeous in all aspects, as the fictional kingdoms come to life in spectacular detail, that would look even better in 3-D.  While the human kingdom is fitting, the true masterpiece is the Moors, as the mythical beasts and enchanted creatures come out in dazzling colors and light that fits the whimsical nature befitting fairy tales. The integration of nature into each creature, allowed for a variety of creatures to be seen in the movie, each mirroring their place in the hierarchy of Maleficent’s kingdom.  My particular favorites were the tree warriors, not just for the action they brought, but for the integration of cultures and movies in their design, though I’ll admit they are a bit similar to the tree ents in Lord of the Rings.

Maleficent does have some weaknesses at hand.  Some of the creatures were a bit too similar familiar characters we’ve seen in other films, the biggest being the fat elves that look like an overweight Dobby from Harry Potter.  The pixie’s were my biggest problem. Their design was a bit too fake, exaggerated, and sometimes very similar to what Smeagle would look like as a girl.  On top of that, they were airheads that were meant to be funny, but were more annoying, very similar to a certain Star Wars character we all know.  I think Stromberg made them the way that Maleficent saw them, but he just went a little too far for my tastes, luckily they aren’t in most of the movie.  As for the story, the twists are interesting and well needed, but at times I was a bit bored, wanting something else to happen instead of getting an eyeful of Maleficent stalking in the shadows.   It seemed they fast-forwarded through some parts, focusing on the visuals and Jolie, more than the actual story.  Of course I may have been a little close-minded at parts from my expectations of the film.

Maleficent took a different path, but there are so many good elements to this movie that make it worth a trip.  Visually it is gorgeous, and Jolie brings so much to the part though it was at the cost of the other actors. Story wise it is fine, but try to go in with an open mind or you may be disappointed with Stromberg’s approach.  Is it worth the hype?  For me it wasn’t as good as the trailers made it out to be, but it was still good and emotionally fulfilling, despite some of the odd antics.  I would say it is theater worthy to see.

In my book Maleficent scores:

Action/Adventure/Family:  8.0

Movie Overall:  8.0

 

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