NOT SO MAGNIFICENT
Disney has been on fire lately. Dating back to the mid 2000s, their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise took over the world, followed by massive investments in two of the world’s largest brands ever in Marvel and Star Wars.
In late 2013, Disney knocked it out of the park by releasing “Frozen,” its first bonafide animated hit in years. It is considered an instant classic and ranks (as of press time) as the fifth highest grossing movie of all time, an extraordinary group to be apart of. Among these large scale projects, Disney has released many smaller scale movies and shows that take on different views of beloved tales through Once Upon A Time and even takes jabs at its own expense with Enchanted. 2013’s “The Great and Powerful Oz” is in the same vein as Maleficent. It took Oz from the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and showed his backstory and how he came to be. It was a fun side story that provided for mediocre C.G. effects and solid acting from its A-list stars (James Franco, Mila Kunis, and more). Maleficent felt very similar.
Maleficent is about Maleficent’s rise to villain-hood. The film begins with her younger years as a fairy. Happy and innocent as most fairytale antagonists begin, she meets a young boy that crosses into her realm (I won’t use any names for the sake of spoilers). The two form a friendship. As time moves on, the two take the path towards romance. The young boy, who lives under the rule of the King across the river, has allegiance to the kingdom. As we fast forward approximately fifteen years, Maleficent deflects an attack from the kingdom that leaves the king mortally wounded. The king puts a price on Maleficent’s head, claiming that whoever can slay her will be his royal successor. The young man that befriended Maleficent spends an evening with her but cannot come to kill her, despite his lust for the throne. Instead, he cuts her wings off in her sleep and uses these as “proof” that he killed her. From here on out, the story plays out much like “Sleeping Beauty.” I won’t go any farther, because the main plot is actually different from the story and I really enjoyed the change in the canon, a “what if?” of sorts. This twist regarding the theme of love was one of the film’s few redeeming qualities for me.
Angelina Jolie plays Maleficent. As we haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty nor any of its characters in a live-action movie, we have only had the cartoons/animation to go on. Angelina looks, acts, and sounds exactly as I would imagine a living, breathing Maleficent. Her performance is absolutely stunning. Oddly enough, her character was written to be a slightly less dark version of the villain we all know from the lore, but Jolie adds a touch of this darkness back to the character. She truly owned the show (as she should have) but unfortunately lacked support from any of the supporting cast of the film. Jolie provided 3-4 small laugh-worthy moments that were unexpected but were timed precisely when the story needed a pick up.
As mentioned, the supporting cast did little to nothing to make this movie good. Without Jolie, I couldn’t recommend it to anyone, minus hardcore fairytale/Disney lovers. Aurora was uninspired. The new king couldn’t keep me awake even if he had the ability to use magic. The film’s budget seemed to be smaller-than-average – or at least that is the only excuse I could come up with for such average special effects. Seriously, Star Wars’ original 1977 version is much more stunning, let alone today’s blockbusters. It just wasn’t up to par, particularly the last battle of the film. The fairy godmothers’ art style was poorly chosen (or poorly executed). Not even Jolie’s performance could save Maleficent’s unrealistic flying. This is disappointing to me. Special effects are typically second in importance to story for me and with all of Disney’s assets and past success, it is hard for me to believe that they couldn’t make this look better. Another let down for me was runtime, and not in the way you would think. I typically like short movies. I consider anything in the 80-90 minute range to be somewhat short. 90-2 hours is average, and 2-plus hours would be long. Maleficent clocks in around ??? 80 minutes. It felt like 120. That is never a good sign. Though the story was concise, which I liked, the main events were just not entertaining to watch unless Jolie was on screen.
Jolie’s performance as Maleficent was phenomenal. There wasn’t much else to discuss. Despite the score (Jolie boosted the number), this is a good movie to see but perhaps not add to your collection.
+ Angeline Jolie is worth the price of admission
+ Not so predictable plot twist from the Sleeping Beauty story we think we know
– Poor special effects and C.G.
– Uninspired, sub-par, non-existent performance from anyone not named “Angelina Jolie.”
– Slow moving plot despite being concise
Josiah LeRoy is Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. He cannot wait for NHL 15.