Josh and Violet provide their male vs. female perspective reviews of Maleficent, directed by Robert Stromberg, and starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Sharlto Copley! We try to keep it spoiler free for the most part, but we’ll warn you when there might be spoilers ahead.
His Movie Review of Maleficent:
Maleficent is a story told from the “other side” almost as if Maleficent was on trial for what she had done to Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and the defense had taken the stand to explain what “really” happened. It’s a story about the “not evil, just misunderstood” Maleficent, and how she came cursing Aurora only to be woken by “true love’s kiss”, and why maybe Maleficent isn’t as evil as King Stefan made her out to be.
So the story of Sleeping Beauty provides little back-story for Maleficent, which gave Disney a lot of leeway with how to handle the character. On paper it actually sounds like an interesting story idea. But does it really work for this film?
Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Elle Fanning as Aurora, and Sharlto Copley as King Stefan. The film was directed by Robert Stromgberg, who is probably most well-known for his visual effects work on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Hunger Games. The story of Maleficent actually begins long before Aurora is even born. Maleficent is a child, and we see her as a fairy–with wings and seemingly a well adjusted kid, despite having no real family to speak of. We learn in this film that both of her parents are dead, although we are given no explanation why. We can make a guess that it was the conflict between the Moors, the magical land where Maleficent lives, and the human kingdom where King Stefan is from. The film provides a brief history of Maleficent’s youth, and the human friend she has as she grows up. She appears rather kind until the tragic day that sends her on her vengeance mission.
Overall, the film feels very disconnected, and really lacks “life”. This is for a number of reasons. One of the big ones I felt was the fairly mediocre CGI characters. They really didn’t feel “alive”. On top of that, the actors “interacting” with the CGI characters for the most part, didn’t seem to be looking at the characters, but to the left, right, above or below where we see the CGI character. This is something that I notice quite often in films where this kind of error is highly noticeable. Also the three fairies that take of Aurora looked just “weird” when buzzing around in their fairy bodies. It just didn’t seem to work.
Additionally, Angelina’s character just doesn’t seem “believable”. While this might seem contradictory to a “fairy tale” based movie, it actually makes more sense for this movie. It is a movie that is trying to humanize the villain of the fairy tale. In order to humanize the villain, the villain has to be relatable. Maleficent’s character was reduced to basically being a creepy stalker waiting for her curse to enact–despite knowing the exact date it would happen. Doesn’t Maleficent have anything better to do? Like perhaps seek revenge for the people that actually wronged her?
Unfortunately, King Stefan was not much more believable in his character development either. He starts out as a seemingly nice kid, and for some unknown reason he turns into a power-hungry, devious man. The changes just did not seem to reconcile when we see what happens.
A word of warning**MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!**
The film resolves in a rather unconventional way, in its definition of what “true love” is. Or least it was unconventional, until another movie used the same “unconventional” idea a year ago in the movie Frozen. Why would Disney opt to rip off its own film only a year later? It was really kind of odd that such a decision would be made despite less than a year transpiring since Frozen came out.
Final Thoughts on Maleficent
Overall, Maleficent was pretty difficult to sit through. There was a lot of Angelina Jolie lurking in the shadows or cackling loudly to others or sometimes just to herself, all while her distracting cheekbones seemed like they would cut through her own skin at any moment. Meanwhile the “comic relief” crow, turned human, turned dog, turned horse, turned dragon wasn’t particularly funny, nor really interesting as a character. Unfortunately, the movie just missed the mark in every way. The visual effects where less than stellar, the story felt shoehorned in to fit the “Sleeping Beauty universe”, and the acting felt pretty shoddy. Overall I think I would give this film a 3 out of 10.
Her Movie Review of Maleficent:
A live action update on Disney’s 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent spins the tale from a different perspective . The film is directed by Robert Stromberg in his directorial debut (though he has a long list of credits for visual effects), and stars Angelina Jolie as the title character, Elle Fanning as Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, and Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) as King Stefan.
Whereas the original film was told from the humans’ perspective, portraying Maleficent as the villain, this story is told from Maleficent’s perspective, and claims that the way the original story was told was not exactly how it happened. In Maleficent, humans are the ones filled with greed and envy over the fairy lands, or “The Moors,” in which Maleficent and the other mystical creatures reside. Young Maleficent befriends a human boy, Stefan, and eventually friendship turns to love, but they slowly drift apart as his ambition consumes him. As Maleficent grows older, she is in charge of protecting the Moors, and has to stave off an attack by the humans who wish to conquer the Moors. With the King fatally wounded, Stefan, now a grown man, seizes upon an opportunity to become King, accomplishing this task through an act of betrayal against Maleficent, and we see how and why she became the evil villain she is portrayed as in Sleeping Beauty.
The story then veers back into the tale we are more familiar with, where Maleficent crashes the party celebrating the birth of King Stefan’s daughter, Aurora, and puts the curse on her – though Maleficent herself is the one who changes her mind to allow for true love’s kiss to waken Aurora, rather than the third fairy using her magic to do so. Also like the original, King Stefan sends Aurora away with the three fairies, not to return until the day after her 16th birthday. However, this is where the similarities end, as the remainder of the story is vastly different from the original, though it does contain many familiar elements. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but I will say that it turns out that Maleficent is not the dark hearted evil villain that we were previously led to believe that she was.
[This paragraph is not blatantly spoiler-y, but can be if you read between the lines, so proceed with caution.] I was a little disappointed that the ending was so predictable, especially when a certain character didn’t enter the movie until very late, and there was very little interaction with that character. At that point, it became obvious that Maleficent was going to take the same route as another recent Disney movie. In that movie, sure, it was a fresh concept, and I admittedly didn’t see it coming until very shortly before. However, here, I saw it coming from a mile away. It seems strange that Disney would use that same exact concept again so soon. But then again, maybe Disney is trying to undo what they’ve been portraying to young girls all this time, and this is the new norm for them. [End of spoiler-ish section]
As far as the acting goes, Angelina Jolie did a great job as Maleficent, although I did find her a tad melodramatic at times. But when she said those lines from the original Sleeping Beauty where Maleficent curses Aurora, that was spot on. If you’ve seen District 9 and Elysium, you’ll agree that Sharlto Copley seems to have been typecast as a mentally unstable/deranged man, so of course he nailed this performance. Elle Fanning was a good casting choice as Aurora. I’m glad they cast someone who actually looked 15-going-on-16, and that Prince Phillip, played by Brenton Thwaites, looked to be that age as well.
I was not a fan of some of the CGI in this film. There was too much that looked fake, and it annoyed me. It’s like, okay, we’re going to make a live action movie about Sleeping Beauty, but we’re still going to have a lot of cartoony stuff in it. Um, no. Make up your mind, one or the other! If you’re going to use CGI blended with live action, make sure it looks real and is not distracting. Some of the CGI mystical creatures looked beautiful, but others were too fake looking. Speaking of annoying, those three fairies were excruciatingly annoying, both in fairy and in human form. I think they brought too much of a cartoony aspect to the film, as their fairy form also falls into the fake looking CGI category. They were probably meant as comic relief for the kids, but I could not stand them.
Overall, I guess I just didn’t like the story as it was rewritten. There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense and were left unexplained. I was hoping for more of a resolution at the end, but didn’t get it.
My rating: 5/10
P.S. Yes, Angelina Jolie’s dramatic cheekbones are majorly distracting throughout the entire movie.