Maleficent: not too magnificent

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Doing movie review without accompanying screenshot is a bit lame, but the connection speed is so far not promising.

More than fifty years from its original release, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty receives an inverted expansion which ends up creating an universe of its own. Maleficent tells the story of the titular character, how her hatred towards the kingdom comes to be, and how she redeems herself.

Once upon a time, a fairy of a magical land forms friendship with a peasant boy from a human kingdom. Although their lands are at war, they revel in each other’s presences and let the friendship blooms into something more. Years come and go, but ultimately fate severs their bonds. Consumed by greed, the boy creates his own greatest enemy when he steals his fairy friend’s wings in order to ascend to the throne. She, blinded by misery, places a curse on his newborn daughter. He, living in constant paranoia, falls further to the depth of insanity. Between the two of them, the cursed girl grows to meet her fate…

At first glance, the premise is interesting. Flipping the perspective gives one the chance to play with many unique angle of the story. Even the casts are quite stellar, with the prominent lady played by none other than Angelina Jolie. The graphics, like one can expect from Disney, is certainly exquisite. For a live action movie it looks as magical as animated films, with expensive CGs and tons of special effects. I’m not musically inclined, but the scores sound just right to me.

Then everything falls short. This movie could be awesome if only they pay similar amount of attention to the scripts. Funny how they manage to get so much things right and do horribly wrong in the others. The first half of the movie, painting background story to young Maleficent the guardian fairy of Moors and the then-peasant King Stefan of the neighboring kingdom, up to their fateful separation and the rise of darkness in their hearts, is beautifully told. We get to see how Stefan’s betrayal affects Maleficent and how his paranoia drives Stefan to the edge of insanity. I don’t like the original fairytale (because Sleeping Beauty does nothing to earn her happy ending) and I’m not fans of Jolie either, so I enjoy the first half more than I thought.

I don’t like how the three fairies are reduced to a bunch of bumbling fools, but for the sake of comedy, I am willing to forgive. I don’t like how the fairies are given next-to-no importance in the story as the whole, and I don’t like Maleficent’s supposed portrayal as misunderstood hero/villain makes her looks like an envious ex instead.

But I am still willing to bend into suspension of disbelief. I am even willing to go through everything without expecting it to go exactly similar to the original animation.

Yes, I let myself be the fool to wait for (hopefully) better development in the last one hour.

But at the end my patience runs out.

For the sake of heaven, I have so much to rant about I don’t know where to start.[spoiler tag from herein]

-Prince Philip is there just to be dragged around. Half of his screentime is spent in unconsciousness.

-Aurora leaves the forest at morning and arrives at the castle before noon, while Maleficent spends the whole evening, even night, to cover the same distance.

-Philip looking for Aurora when he should be heading to Stefan’s castle. He meets Aurora by the spring and tells her he is going to the castle, so why is he still at the forest a few hours later?

-Aurora is so angry at Maleficent because she thinks she is betrayed by someone she sees as a mother all her life, but once she is awakened from her sleep, she walks beside Maleficent as if nothing happens between them. We have to believe they somehow make up off-screen.

-Maleficent kills Stefan, but Aurora has no remorse whatsoever about this. The country should be in catatonic state because a ‘witch’ from ‘savage neighboring country’ has just broken havoc in the castle and gotten the king killed. Aurora somehow manages to unite the two countries and does some pretty impressive persuasion towards her knights, since it is said that the two countries have been at war for ages.

At the end, Aurora looks like an extremely stupid and gullible girl. Oh, her meeting with Prince Philip is so awkward. It even feels like you’re unintentionally spying at a schoolgirl meeting her crush. At least she’s got some character. Philip is not so lucky.

However, one good thing about this movie: I am terribly relieved they decide to subvert the True Love’s Kiss trope. If Aurora wakes up at Philip’s kiss, declaring him to be her true love after meeting just about five minutes or so, I will certainly storm out of the theater at once. Just like Disney’s recent streak, they are happy to show you true love exists in more than just romance. Moms everywhere, have a nice day.

You see, if only they expands on the character development and makes the plotline more believable. The fight scenes are definitely some eye candy, but there is a reason to invest in a story. As it stands now, half of the characters feel only halfway fleshed, while the rest are unfortunate enough to receive adaptational demotion. As I have stated, they already have the right ingredients. Maleficent’s lines are probably the best, supported by Dieval’s snarks. Jolie’s act is especially nice. That’s about the sum of everything.

Maleficent is one of the best villain in Disney feature films, but sadly, her own film is not that magnificent. The last act is frustrating to watch, but hey, to each their own. Jordan Shapiro over at Forbes writes a good article about this movie, disagreement aside.

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