Sunday, 1 June 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent poster.jpg
Fairy, Interrupted

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land's fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal - an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king's successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora.

Let's get this out of the way, it's pronounced "Mal-Eff-I-Sent". Learn the name, so you can tell people to avoid this poorly done next entry into the trend of weakly remaking fairy tales.

If Angelina Jolie was the main draw for seeing this film, then you won't be disappointed. While there are opportunities to cross over into a hammy performance, it's a testament to her acting that she does not, gifting the film with a wonderful performance. Copley offers solid support as Stefan, the man who betrays Maleficent in his quest for power and falls into paranoia after the cursing of his daughter.

After working as a production designer on Alice in Wonderland and Oz The Great and Powerful, Robert Stromberg makes his directorial debut, which is fittingly a case of style over substance. He's clearly brought over his talents that won him Academy Awards, blessing the film with visuals that look beautiful upon the eyes, but a film cannot last on beautiful visuals alone.

What we could have gotten here was an interesting perspective on how one woman fell to villainy, but the script chooses to not commit to this path. Bafflingly, Maleficent sets out to keep Aurora from harm, despite being the one who cursed her in the first place. What could have been an interesting look at how a villainous character is made turns dull, by merely transferring the role of villain to another character.

Her mime impressions needed work

Things rely too much on the use of computer effects, as the home of the fairies is populated by creatures which seem there more to entice children than to actually flesh out the inhabitants of the surroundings. The worst offender is undoubtedly a CG Wolf that brings back memories of the Hulk-Poodles from Ang Lee's 2003 Superhero film.

Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple play a trio of fairies who are given the task of protecting Princess Aurora. From their first appearance, it's clear they only exist to appeal to the younger demographic, as they choose to bicker over the most childish of things while not noticing that they've left young Aurora outside or that she's making her way over to the edge of a cliff. The fact that the person Aurora has been hidden from does a better job of looking after her than the trio whose only job is to guard her says a lot about their usefulness. It also stretches credibility that she'd survive for so long under their care, especially without Maleficent revealing herself.

Things aren't helped by Aurora being such a poor character, thanks to a bland portrayal from Elle Fanning. We are told that Aurora is a girl that the whole world will fall in love with, but this is difficult to believe when she's never fleshed out to feel like a real person. Instead, she comes off as dull, and a bit dim at times.

Maleficent squanders any opportunity for an interesting take on villainy for another dull live-action retread of a fairy tale.

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