[#2015oscardeathrace] Maleficent (2014)

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Director: Robert Stromberg

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville

Screenplay: Linda Woolverton

97 mins. Rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

Disney has taken on the recent trend of flipping their fairy tales into live-action extravaganzas. The most recent inclusion here is Maleficent.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, Changeling, Kung Fu Panda 2) has only ever been seen as a villain. Now, she is represented as a supernatural being of good who resides in The Moors. She fell for a boy named Stefan (Sharlto Copley, District 9, Oldboy), who ends up betraying her to become king. In retaliation, Maleficent brings forth a curse upon Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Boxtrolls) that she will fall into a deep sleep when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and you know the rest. Or do you?

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My major problem with this film it is supposed to humanize Maleficent, but not only does it get the character wrong, it also makes a villain into a hero by passing the buck and making another character the villain. So in 55 years, they will make a film about that villain being a hero and creating another villain. You see what I’m getting at here?

The actual character herself is very flat. Angelina Jolie plays her like a prankster and very much a non-villain with very little villaining going on. She is a menace in the sense that Dennis was a Menace.

Sharlto Copley is pretty good as Stefan, but his motives are written to fit the script but not to fit the character.

Elle Fanning is given virtually nothing to do.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland) is rather bland and presents us with a rudimentary retelling of the story from Maleficent’s point of view that only seeks to demonize the original film. So either the two films exist in separate continuities or they contradict each other. Not sure which theory is worse.

First time director Robert Stromberg gives us a visually stunning vision of Sleeping Beauty’s world, but not much more than that. I like the fact that this is mildly entertaining if completely flawed, and I think parents will find some enjoyment with their kids, more so than most other “family” films. The film just isn’t all that good.

What wins the film has are visual: the costume design and the visual effects. These costumes stand a good chance to take the Oscar this year, and the effects work is rather stunningly beautiful and dark.

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I get the feeling that Maleficent will not be a remembered film, except for all the copies that people nabbed on Black Friday (seriously, it was pretty cheap) collecting dust on movie shelves. I get the feeling.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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6 thoughts on “[#2015oscardeathrace] Maleficent (2014)

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