Film Review: Maleficent

Maleficent Header
Maleficent is an interesting effort to create a fairy tale with modern sensibilities and technology, but none of the relationships work to pull it all together.

Retelling a fairy tale from an unlikely perspective is nothing new in this day and age, but Maleficent seems rather strained in trying to retell the Sleeping Beauty myth the way it really happened. The film builds up a young romance to hinge Maleficent’s “evilness” on, and while her rage is warranted I don’t know if she should be redeemed either. Actually, I don’t think the film does a good job of redeeming her. One of Maleficent’s best scenes is her big, emotional confession, but like most everything in this film nothing is really earned. Making everyone in the world so grossly incompetent doesn’t make Maleficent a great caregiver, and there is not one scene between Aurora and Maleficent that makes me believe Maleficent truly cares about her. We are only told we should.

The film rushes through everything. Decades pass in voice over and while this would be fine if I felt like I was connected to the characters, I never feel like I know anyone’s motivations. Stefan is a terrible villain and an undercooked tortured soul. Yeah, a poor kid wanting to live in the castle makes sense, but that is all the motivation we are given about why he might betray his relationship with Maleficent. They completely gloss over the fade between the two and Maleficent so easily taking him back reads as a pretty poor female empowerment message.

Speaking of message, the film doesn’t really have one, well, again, it has one but it is completely undeserved. The big emotional beat of the finale is all centered around Maleficent realizing her motherly love, but like everything in the film it never came close to earning the moment, even if the scene is executed well technically. The de-winging of Maleficent is also a not so veiled reference to rape, which is an interesting and challenging subject to tackle in art, but I’m not sure that is the route you want to explore in a PG Disney movie.

The cast of the film is also unable to elevate the material, but the tone-deaf script might be a big reason why nobody can really settle into their roles. Angelina Jolie plays Maleficent’s anger fairly well, but all the attempts at her dark humor feel out-of-place and never land. Elle Fanning was directed to basically act like an aloof fool, which is actually par for the course for most characters in the film. The trio of helpful fairies are the absolute worst, and so dumb, I wish Maleficent would have just killed them. Sam Riley is the best actor working here, but his CGI animators for the animal versions of his character might deserve a lot of that credit. Love that crow. Sharlto Copley might be betrayed the most by the script, as he gets no motivation and becomes a babbling idiot over the course of the film. Someone give this guy another good movie, please.

Also, what was up with the first King having super powers? Or did he just have an iron glove?

Maleficent is an interesting idea that is poorly executed. The movie looks expensive, but the script and direction betray the cast. You never get a feel for the world, the characters or their relationships. I appreciate the attempt at a fairy tale with modern filmmaking, but Maleficent falls flat in the fairy tale arena.

Maleficent is a D+

3 thoughts on “Film Review: Maleficent

  1. Zac, I loved the movie as did my children ages 8 and 10. I chose not to read about it before viewing it. While some parts where predictable, I loved the spin on the villain we knew little about. As much as I dislike Jolie, she was cast well as Maleficent. I do agree with you about the lack of true connection and development of Stefan. Probably the only disappointing part of the film for me.

    1. Glad you liked it, I didn’t hate it, just, could have been more, everything felt like it could have been done better to me.
      Good call on not reading anything before hand, I try not to either.

  2. Threw this one into my year end marathon to see some of the films I missed earlier this year, and I gotta say, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Maybe the low expectations helped a lot, but I dunno.

    Let’s see…

    -I actually really liked Jolie’s performance, aided on by an adorable little baby. She made me see past those dangerous cheekbones, and that takes some skill.

    -Failed to see the rape thing because I was too busy being relieved she didn’t look like the devil anymore. Then I thought about how she wasn’t bleeding out even though that’s what I would expect after losing an appendage, but Angel cut his own wings off in X-Men and was fine so I guess it can’t be too bad when your magical and/or a mutant. Even after you mention it I still don’t really see it, probably because of Stefan’s motivation, but that’s just me. Isn’t the kiss usually the thing they talk about more when being upset about this fairytale?

    -Speaking of: mmm Brenton Thwaites. Well, not with that hair… Just watched The Signal so I am on the Thwaites train right now.

    -Pretty sure the glove was just whatever that magical metal was, which I wish we had learned more about. Seemed like a very kryptonite response to her overly powerful magic.

    -Fanning was indeed rather doofusy, and I think I probably would have waited on handing over that crown for a while had I been Maleficent. Overall it was just a really rushed job at wrapping the story up once they finally got back to the plot points of the original story.

    Overall it just felt like they were trying to keep the story overly simple, so that can translate to underdeveloped. Felt more like a short story, rather than a feature film.

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