So for the last few years Disney has been trying this new thing where they make live action fairytales. All of which, so far, are based vaguely on animated films they made in the 50's. Those films of course were based on old folklore and fairytales from long before the 50's. So in a sense these films are adaptations of an adaptation.
And much like that happens when you proceed to keep remaking something and having a new person in charge each time, the end product tends to be all over the place. In movies, sometimes you can have, too many cooks.
Thus far the films that have been made have been Tim Burton's Alice, and Oz the Great and Powerful. I could rant for hours how both of those films are beyond fucking shit and how disappointed I was in both (especially Oz which broke my fuckin' heart m8) but I won't. Just know, they are why I had very VERY low expectations for the film I watched tonight.
When the original trailer for the film came out I was pretty impressed. Chances are you saw the original trailer at some point. It was everywhere. It was a gorgeous trailer. Dark, violent, and beautiful much like the film. And with a haunting rendition of "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty performed by Lana Del Rey, who is pretty goddamn fantastic on her own.
The idea behind the movie was that it was the TRUE STORY behind Sleeping Beauty and that Maleficent herself was actually misunderstood from the insane evil sorceress she was in the original animated film. Which is all well and good but in the back of my mind, dancing like Chernobog's minions around the Bald Mountain itself, were memories and reminders of just how bad Alice and Oz were.
I finally saw the film, many months after it was released.
And it's ok.
Which considering I'm comparing it to Oz and Alice is pretty damn high praise.
It reminded me a bit of Kingdom of Heaven, Bridge to Terabithia, Clash of the Titans, and all these other expensive but mediocre fantasy action films that have been getting dunked out year after year. But obviously its not quite as bad as those.
In fact the film is relatively OK.
I'd give it a firm 7/10 at best.
In fact I think Maleficent might have had some of the most potential I've seen in a fantasy flick from big budget Hollywood in some time.
But tons of little issues build up over the course of the film that drag it into the mud and prevent it from being truly great.
And because I like to complain I will list them now and hopefully how they could have been better.
- The film begins with the narrator letting us know that there are 2 Kingdoms. One Kingdom is humans and its run by a greedy King. The other is The Moors and its nothing but fairy creatures. Apparently there was a war between these two Kingdoms. My question is: HOW?
- The fairy Kingdom is full of tiny harmless monsters. Water sprites, itty bitty pixies, and little toad and mushroom people who are clearly not fighters. Theres some big tree warriors but they only show up briefly and take out a small contingent of soldiers. So how was there ever a war? And for that matter how was there ever a STALEMATE between a Kingdom of heavily armed horsemen armed with polearms and swords, and a jungle full of innocent childlike pixie people who seem to lack any real self defense?
- Maleficent is a fairy. She meets a boy named Stephan. She mentions her parents are dead. But how? Did they die in the war? Were there other fairies? Did the other fairies die to the King? These are the sort of things the audience needs to know in order to for there to be character progression. There's no explanation at any point in the film why Maleficent is the ONLY FAIRY LEFT.
- Stephan is Maleficent's friend. Their relationship grows into a romance. The film vaguely tries to make it seem like Stephan is poor as a child. But this isn't explained at length. Later on we see that Stephan as an adult is a noble who works for the King so....what?
- Stephan seems like a nice guy until the King is dying. The King wants Maleficen't cool wings. So what does Stephan do? He chops them off after drugging Maleficent. Why? Why did this character go from nice person into disturbingly violent weirdo in a heartbeat? Why does he want to be King? He's in love with the QUEEN OF FAIRIES in a land that doesn't know poverty or strife. Why would he want to be King in the shitty land he was born in? And why would he cut off his best friend's APPENDAGES in order to be King?
- Also where is the logic? Stephan knows Maleficent is powerful. She kicks the ass of plenty of the King's men. Why would you EVER provoke a fairy queen who could easily beat the shit out of you with magic?
- Maleficent wakes up and sees her wings have been chopped off. She mourns for about one day. And then....
- She's evil! Yay? She just went evil like instantly. And what does she do with her new evil view on life? She....goes to the new King Stephan...and instead of getting revenge on him as he stands in front of her completely defenseless she.....curses his newborn baby. Why? He's right there.
- How did Stephan get a wife? Why does the wife have no purpose in the film? She appears in ONE scene and then dies offscreen. What a waste.
- Maleficent saves a crow. Cool now she has a crow buddy. She had a crow buddy in the original animated film too. Neat! Oh wait....she...turned the crow buddy into a man. Well...ok then.
- Crow buddy adds nothing to the film. He isn't Maleficent's conscious, he doesn't dispense advice, he doesn't have witty one-liners or funny dialogue. He isn't wise or interesting in any way. He also doesn't end up as her friend or boyfriend or anything. He literally just takes up space and screentime.
- Maleficent at one point turns crow buddy into a wolf to spook some armed knights. A troop of about 20 knights proceed to piss themselves over one single wolf. Why?
- In the original film Maleficent had no idea where Aurora was for 16 years. In this film Maleficent watches over Aurora as she is cared for by the 3 good pixies in the forest for 16 years. Somehow despite never directly interfering with Aurora, the girl notices and thinks Maleficent is her fairy godmother.
- The three pixies add nothing to the film at all. I think they were only there to entertain kids who liked them in the original film. Problem is, in the original film they have a purpose and save the day and drive the narrative forward and are fun to watch. Here they are dumbasses and comic relief and take up valuable screentime that could have been spent on Maleficent and Aurora's growing friendship.
- Prince Phillip is in the film for all of maybe 1 minute. He does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And the story quickly becomes all about him for no reason afterwards. His kiss isn't even the one that wakes Aurora. So he serves absolutely no purpose in the narrative and just wastes more time.
- Stephan turns into a crazy man. The less said about that, the better. But his transformation seems to make little sense and somehow despite treating his kingdom like shit for 16 years, he is never overthrown.
- Maleficent's wings are actually still alive. They are rotting in a glass box for more than a decade but actually fly out of the box at the end and attach to her back. Meaning AT ANY POINT Stephan could simply have given them back to Maleficent. There was 0 reason to keep them.
- Crow buddy becomes a dragon specifically for the sake of having a battle scene that invokes memories of the original dragon Maleficent turns into in the original film. While being very cool, it accomplishes nothing.
- Despite being a medievel film, Crow buddy dresses like a modern male. He wears black jeans, leather boots, a black trenchcoat, and a black open-chested tshirt underneath. He looks horribly out of place in every scene and looks like he's a few bad dates from tipping his fedora and uttering "m'lady" at every chance he gets.
- After Maleficent loses her wings one of the first things she does to recover is try to learn to walk. And rather than simply finding a long stick to prop herself up with, she takes an ordinary stick and turns it into a giant badass sorcerer stave. Which is cool to see but a pretty dumb obtuse way of explaining WHY she has the stick in the first place. Especially when we can see she's very capable of using magic without it. I hate to use the word fanservice when talking about a fucking walking cane but there it is.
- Aurora finds out she is cursed and instead of staying safe at home away from spinning wheels (which she knows now will kill her) she instead flees IMMEDIATELY to the Kingdom of Stephan, a place she has never been that she knows probably has spinning wheels in it. STUPID. DUMB.
- Stephan locks her in her room immediately so she is not near any wheels. Almost instantly one of the maids opens the other door and Aurora runs out and pricks her finger in what might be the dumbest series of events leading up to a finger injury ever in the history of film.
- Aurora is pricked by the spinning wheel and falls asleep. She is asleep for only a few hours before being woken up. She claims she earned the nickname SLEEPING BEAUTY from this. How? How does being asleep a few hours entail a legendary nickname? If I go to bed in this Kingdom and wake up will I be known as Sleeping Fatty?
- The cgi is really bad. You know how every year a movie is made of a beloved children's novel to try and catch the same fire of Harry Potter? And you know how every year when these movies get made they have really soft blurry cgi that looks out of place? Well that's every single special effect in Maleficent. It looks pretty bad. Like Ang Lee Hulk bad.
- The film is narrated by an adult Aurora. Somehow as an adult Aurora knows of the war between Kingdoms and all the other crap that happened before she was born in minute detail.
- In the final fight scene Maleficent is wearing her cool black cloak. Then a tiny net right out of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist lands on her. Then it gets yanked off by Stephan. Somehow in the midst of this the cloak vanishes. From this point onward, much like Crow Buddy, Maleficent is wearing weirdly modern clothing including tight leather slacks that look like something a female spy would wear. I can't imagine why this was done. To show off Jolie's legs maybe? I don't know. But it's weird and dumb and makes her look out of place as much as Crow Buddy.
- Stephan tries to tackle Maleficent after she has wings and tumbles off a tower to his death. Yes it sounds and looks as stupid as you imagine it does.
- The beautiful Lana Del Rey song from the trailer doesn't play at any point in the film. It plays during the credits.
AND DESPITE ALL THIS ITS STILL A 7/10 PRETTY ALRIGHT FILM.
Let that sink in.
Despite ALL those complaints it's still a movie that is somewhat worth watching. It's just interesting enough and just action-packed enough and just BARELY imaginative enough to make it a good popcorn film worth your time if you are bored.
All those flaws and it's STILL ok.
That's what I meant at the beginning of this post when I said the film had potential. Because the good parts of the film ARE SO GOOD they almost make up for all the BAD parts. Which is pretty fucking rare with big budget Hollywood films these days. And for that alone I have to give Maleficent light applause for being enough fun where I can look PAST all those flaws and still enjoy the film for mediocre magical adventure it is.
And again it's a shame those flaws exist because if they didn't this film would have (and should have) been spectacular.
7/10 for Maleficent.
Tim Burton's Alice which I would give a 4/10 and Oz the Great and Powerful which gets a -6/10 because that film is literal garbage.
Hopefully the new live-action Cinderella is better than these 3.
Here's a raccoon:
When it’s cold outside
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