It's no secret, that I have had a sort of love-hate relationship with Disney. I will not delve too deeply into it, but suffice to say there are several Disney movies released during the Eisner years that I hate with a fiery passion. It has taken a while for Disney to regain my trust. Pixar studios, Marvel Studios, and several of their recent animated features have done a great deal to raise my trust, to the point where I actually see the name Disney, and don't automatically think "Crap".
By this point, I'm sure that everyone is quite familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty, or at the very least the Disney version. Princess is born, she is cursed, she sleeps a lot, some dude kisses her without her consent, he is sent to prison for sexual harassment when she wakes up. It's a timeless story of love, and overcoming evil. However, much like play "Wicked", there is always another side of the story. Everyone is always ready to rush to condemn the evil witch, but no one ever seems to wonder... What is her story?
Maleficent, feels like a very familiar tale. A tale that weaves in and out of the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty, giving us glimpses at things that lead up to the events of the classic story, as well as things that happened simultaneously to all the other goings on. Things feel safe, and almost painfully familiar. It is here that the movie walks a very fine line.
Whenever you retell a familiar story, you will always have comparisons drawn to the original tale. When you retell a story that is known and loved as well as "Sleeping Beauty" you enter dangerous territory. This is something that "Wicked" managed with surprising flair. Rather than retelling the familiar tale, they flipped it around, and made the movie about the villain from the original story. This again enters a very difficult area. If you make the villain too sympathetic, you essentially sully the memory of the original, and may sour the audience to your movie. Conversely, if the villain is not sympathetic enough, then you undermine your film, and make it essentially uninteresting. The question is how well did Maleficent walk that line?
I'd say the movie did marginally well. There are times when it slips off the line, but on the most part, it manages to weave a decent story, with an appropriately sympathetic protagonist. There are several lines that are delivered in a very unconvincing manor, and there are times where the script sounds like it could have used a little more polish before being put in front of the camera, but on the most part the movie does remarkably well.
The digital effects are fun, and insanely colorful at times, managing to provide a stark contrast between the realm of man, and the realm of the fairies. The creatures look varied and interesting, and provide a nicely fleshed out ecosystem. For me, the biggest downfall of the special effects department, was the three "good" fairies. They were... frankly pretty horrifying to look at. I'd include pictures here, but... I think I'd rather my readers see them in action for themselves. As an added bonus to the fairy realm effects, I think it is important to note, that Maleficent's first flight, feels sort of like I imagine an acid trip would.
What is served up to us, is a story of love, heartbreak, vengeance, and redemption. It is a story of greed, and ultimately the price of greed. It is a familiar tale, and honestly... I think it may have run a little short. The narrative feels rushed in some places, with certain parts making little sense. (I'd elaborate, but I do hate to spoil things).
All in all, the movie is light on violence, high on atmosphere, and manages to cast most of the roles really well. Sharlto Copley feels a little out of place at times, but all in all an effective cast. Elle Fanning, makes a very good choice for Aurora, and Angelina Jolie was practically born to play this role... Which may or may not have something to do with the fact that she occasionally looks like an evil witch.
RECOMMENDATION: If you're a fan of villains seeking redemption, or of seeing the movie from a different viewpoint, this movie will be your cup of tea. If you're not a huge fan of fairy tales, this film might leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.
IS IT THEATER WORTHY?: There are indeed some scenes that make a viewing at the theater a worthwhile endeavor. My caveat here is... if you can avoid it, don't pay full price. This is a matinee film, in my humble opinion.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Is this a movie that I think I will watch again? Maybe. Am I glad that I saw it? On the most part, yes. The film is not perfect, and it could have used a little more work, but all in all, it was a decent film, and despite a few parts that might be a little too intense for children, I think it might be a decent movie for the 10 and up crowd.
FINAL SCORE: 7 out of 10