Movie Review – Maleficent (2014)

Director: Robert Stromberg

Stars: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley

In this retelling of the famous fairytale Sleeping Beauty, Angelina Jolie takes on the role of Maleficent and we see her grow from a child, to Queen of the fairies, and then we see the heartbreak and betrayal that set her on the path to villainy.

Maleficent is not good.

Aside from Jolie, the acting is mostly subpar, often annoying, especially in the case of the three fairies, who are some of the most irritating characters I’ve ever seen. A lot of time passes in this film, it begins when Maleficent is a child, fast-forwards to when she’s 16, then skips another few years, then jumps ahead to when Aurora is born, and then we see highlights of the next 16 years when the curse hits Aurora. This never lets the film settle and everything feels so shallow. I feel like it would have been better served had they focused on just one aspect rather than try and cram everything in. And yet despite all this fast-forwarding, at points the film feels incredibly slow.

The acting is very, very bad, especially the child actors who played the young Maleficent and Stefan (Copley). The beats of the story are predictable as well, so there won’t be any surprises in store despite the film’s claim of telling a familiar story anew. I never felt emotionally involved, and it was just a case of moving through the plot points until eventually reaching the end.

Most of the action was good, and there was one great shot where Maleficent bursts through a glass window. The world of the Moors looked visually stunning as well, and the one part of the film that did generate an emotional response from me was the act of betrayal that set Maleficent upon her dark path. I felt bad for Diaval (Riley), in that Maleficent controlled his transformations, but I thought it worked well to show her trust issues (although he had more personality as a bird than as a man). But these things aren’t enough to save the film from mediocrity.

I didn’t buy that Stefan, who was portrayed as being paranoid and insecure, would allow his daughter to be raised away from his protection all her life. I also thought the film would have been stronger had Maleficent actually taken Aurora and raised her as her own, then it would have been more powerful when the curse hit. Aurora herself is a vapid character, and so too is her prince. However, I did like how the movie played with the usual trope of true love’s kiss, and it was nice to see a prince feel uncomfortable about kissing an unconscious girl.

But there’s another problem. The narrator is revealed to be Aurora (yeah, spoiler alert, but it’s not a huge revelation). Yet she narrates things that only Maleficent could have told her, so while this is billed as ‘the truth’ it’s actually just what Maleficent has told Aurora.

I found Maleficent to be dull, boring, and, aside from Jolie, lifeless. It needed more focus and the shallow nature of the film doesn’t give much chance for emotional engagement. It’s predictable too, which doesn’t help, and it’s one of those films where the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. If you want good re-imaginings of fairytales just go and watch Once Upon a Time.

This kind of reminds me of Godzilla, aside from Godzilla, that movie was rubbish. And aside from Jolie, Maleficent is rubbish.

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