Maleficent actually isn’t a bad movie per se, but one that never quite hit its potential especially when you get a great performance out of Angelina Jolie who seemed to be the only one giving it her all with such a flashy character. But the issue at hand is a script with little conflict and a movie on the whole that doesn’t even try to challenge its audience.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Drama
Disney | PG – 97 min. – $36.99 | November 4, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
With the successes of Oz the Great and Powerful (financial anyway), Alice in Wonderland (a movie I loathed) and “Once Upon a Time” television series, Disney is running with the blueprint of taking classics characters and putting a twist on their stories in live action form. The latest is Maleficent, a film that’s nice to look at but is empty of any substance.
The film opens with a lay of the land with two kingdoms, one of men and the other of fantasy creatures. One is in it for power and money while the other has no ruler and looks out for one another. In the utopia that is The Moors, lives a fairy named Maleficent (ANGELINA JOLIE) who, as a child, fell in love with a common thief named Stefan and although the two live in different worlds, with Stefan having different pursuits of garnering power.
The current king of mankind had vowed to take over the Moors but getting older, takes one last stab but is thwarted by Maleficent who has taken control as the Moors protector. In the fierce battle, the king is mortally wounded and will reward anyone who kills Maleficent to be his successor. Hearing this, Stefan lays his cunning and treacherous plan, going back to Maleficent as they once did as children, drugged her and brutally tore off her wings, in a vicious act of betrayal. Bringing the wings to the king, Stefan becomes king of the land, marries and has a daughter named Aurora.
Alongside a raven named Diaval (SAM RILEY) whom Maleficent makes take human form, serves as her spy, swooping over the kingdom where she discovers the birth of Stefan’s daughter and, just like in Sleeping Beauty, crashes the ceremony and lays a curse on the baby: that at the age of 16, the prick of her finger will put her in a slumber with only true love’s kiss able to awaken her. So, to protect Aurora, Stefan sends her away with three (airhead) pixies named Flittie (LESLIE MANVILLE), Knotgrass (IMELDA STAUNTON and Thistlewhit (JUNO TEMPLE) and not to bring her back until she turns 16 and a day.
But something strange happens. Despite putting the curse on Aurora, Maleficent begins to have feelings for the girl, and any attempts to lift the curse failed, and over the years befriends her to the point where 15-year-old Aurora sees Maleficent as her Godmother. And here’s the primary problem with this movie: Maleficent, who is the villain, becomes the hero and thus we have no antagonist although they try to make Stefan fill that role, but he comes across as such a secondary character that he carries little to no weight to the plot.
Maleficent, as with Oz: the Great and the Powerful before it, looked great with solid production and costume designs, and even some of the performances are admirable (albeit Kunis was a bit off), but in both cases, the story falters and it actually feels like we’re missing half of the second act, especially considering the breezy 90-minute running time (sans credits).
Where the film excels, beyond the technical aspects, it’s squarely with Angelina Jolie, literally the only reason this is even worth sitting through. Jolie seemed to have a grand time playing an outlandish character both in personality and style, and it’s appreciated because with anyone else, this would’ve been a chore.
The movie was helmed by Robert Stromberg marking his feature film debut after serving in the visual effects department on a variety films ranging from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to The Terminal and Walk the Line (and interestingly was the production designer on the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful as well as Avatar) but much like Wally Pfister’s debut with Transcendence, technically Stromberg made a good movie but the emotion was limited and on the whole, Maleficent just never quite struck the right note(s).
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This release comes with a glossy and reflective slip cover. Inside contains the standard DVD Copy and code for the Digital Copy.
With the features, there’s only about 25-minutes worth of featurettes and even that is EPK-level of info:
Aurora: Becoming a Beauty (4:53; HD) covers the casting of Elle Fanning as Aurora aka Sleeping Beauty.
From Fairy Tale to Feature Film (8:13; HD) looks at adapting the book into live action and has on-set interviews with the cast and crew including Angelina Jolie.
Building an Epic Battle (5:48; HD) – Here we see how the battle scenes were filmed.
Classic Couture (1:34; HD) is a short featurette on the costume design of the Maleficent character including her headdress.
Maleficent Revealed (4:45; HD) is more behind-the-scenes footage and interviews but doesn’t provide that much detail is more like primer.
Deleted Scenes (6:41; HD) include five scenes removed or cut down from the final film. Nothing amazing but worth a look if you’re a fan of the movie…
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Maleficent casts a spell onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer and in its original theatrical 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture unsurprisingly looks excellent providing for sharp detail levels and colors are brilliantly bright throughout in keeping with the fairy tale setting.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track has incredible sound from James Newton Howard’s score to the crisp and clear dialogue levels. But it’s the ambient noises and other audio effects that help give this lossless track good depth. Not sure if it’s reference quality, but pretty darn close.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Maleficent actually isn’t a bad movie per se, but one that never quite hit its potential especially when you get a great performance out of Angelina Jolie who seemed to be the only one giving it her all with such a flashy character. But the issue at hand is a script with little conflict and a movie on the whole that doesn’t even try to challenge its audience. The Blu-ray released by Disney is pretty basic in terms of features but at least the video and audio transfers are both top notch.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.