'Maleficent' (2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD)
(Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, et al / Blu ray + DVD / PG-13 / 2014 / Walt Disney)
Overview: Explore the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain in the wickedly fun twist on the classic, Sleeping Beauty. In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens he forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl.
Blu ray Verdict: "Well, well." Hearing Angelina Jolie utter those words had me excited. Maleficent is a sight to behold. She's tall, menacing, strong and subtly powerful. Alas, If only her movie was as sharp as her cheekbones. A lot has happened on the journey from script to screen, and the film has suffered for it. We are left with the shreds of rewrites.
'Maleficent' is the latest in the line of post-"Wicked" take on stories, where the villain gets the chance to reveal the motivation behind their actions. Except this isn't Maleficent's account of 'Sleeping Beauty' - this is a completely different tale. And frankly, a tale I don't care for.
The film ticks off its mandatory checklist: Spinning Wheel - check. (Spoilers ahead) In a shockingly emotional turn of events, the film successfully gives Maleficent reason for her villainy. The film treads an unexpected and on-point metaphor for rape, which catapults us into that iconic Christening scene from the animated film. Jolie is perfect in these scenes. Maleficent's curse is delivered with strength, gusto and conviction. But this conviction for the original tale doesn't last long enough. After comfortably placing the audience within the context of 'Sleeping Beauty', the film sharply deviates from its source and leaves the audience stranded.
Three Fairies - check. Why tarnish what we loved so dearly? Disney's three endearing fairies (Flora, Fauna and Merryweather) are replaced by ridiculously unfunny pixies (Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit). They're weak, stupid and mean. Who would have thought Aurora was entrusted to these three for protection? The three pixies don't care for the baby, and so instead of searching for 16 years for the one she cursed, Maleficent finds herself watching over Aurora (Elle Fanning) as her reluctant Fairy Godmother. Scratching your head yet? True loves kiss - check.
The film wastes too much time showing fairies slapping one another (yes, it's that variety of comedy) to properly set up the love story between Prince Phillip and Aurora. The writers think it suitable to set up a 'surprise' ending, whereby Phillip's kiss does not work in awakening the Princess. I don't have to reveal who does wake the sleeping beauty, but its a cheap resolution that has become a new cliché.
So in an misguided effort in juggling the roles of the characters, 'Maleficent' has ended up being terribly muddled. Most notably the pixies and King Stefan; who after not seeing his daughter for 16 years, banishes her to her bedroom with not so much as an hello, before acting out violently against one said pixie.
Jolie and Fanning do well with what they're given, but what is given is not what was wanted. Where is the evil Maleficent we loved? All that is left with an ill-judged feminist romance. 'Maleficent' is an adult film (correctly rated M for its themes and violence) that has childish characters that could only appeal to four-year-olds. It is indeed a Sleeping Beauty - a visually superb film that failed to awake to the possibilities of what it could have been. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Aurora: Becoming A Beauty
From Fairy Tale To Feature Film