Friday, May 30, 2014

Maleficent Review

When you look at the history of the Walt Disney Company, you quickly realize why they are so huge. They are experts at always finding new ways to earn money. Now is not the time to dive into that long history, but I say that because Disney's recent kick is making live-action movies of their old classic animated movies. The guinea pig in this was 2010's Alice in Wonderland and that worked out super well financially as the movie earned over $1 billion worldwide. Of course this means more. Currently at hand is a treatment on Sleeping Beauty. Next year we will get a take on Cinderella early in the year and The Jungle Book later in the year. Since the success of Alice in Wonderland, other studios are joining the party. In 2012 we got two Snow White movies, one by Relativity and the other by Universal. Warner Bros. is bringing us Peter Pan next year and Tarzan the year after that. Financially this is all working out, but I'm not here to talk about money. In terms of movie quality, it's been 0 for 3 for me so far. Alice in Wonderland and Mirror Mirror were huge misses for me. Snow White and the Huntsman actually was enjoyable, but train-wrecked in the end. So this is a bad track record so far. I was hoping that Maleficent would turn things around, but unfortunately I am sad to report that Maleficent has also missed the mark.

What I really do appreciate is the fact that, at least in Disney's own live-action versions, they seem to be trying to do something different with the movies. Alice in Wonderland was essentially a sequel and Maleficent a complete retelling of the story. If Disney had just decided to do Sleeping Beauty all over again without any changes, that would've rehashed the whole remake discussion that we have constantly? Is it necessary? What's the point? Why do we need this again? The fact that we have Sleeping Beauty done in the perspective of the main villain makes this intriguing. In fact, when I first heard about this project, I was intrigued; when I saw the first teaser, I was excited. Diving into the psychology behind a main villain is something that I enjoy a lot. It gives the villain depth and character while making the movie as a whole more intense and emotional. This also looked like a dark re-telling of the story. With Sleeping Beauty especially, that sounded like an excellent idea.

After advertising itself as a dark movie, the first red flag for me came when the official rating came out. I normally don't have a problem with PG-rated movies, but in this case I did because I was nervous that this movie would try to be a dark fairy tale and kids movie at the same time. This fear turned out to be my biggest concern. The movie had an identity crisis. It tried to appeal to adults by being dark, gritty, emotional and action-packed. But it was too scared to go too far. It would start a cool action scene, then it would cut away before it went too far. It started to get dark and ominous, but then it would immediately cut to a happy scene. If you want to be a happy kids movie, then fine. I can enjoy those movies. If you want to be a dark adults movie, then fine. I can also enjoy those movies. But pick one. Don't try to be both, because what happens is you end up appealing to none. Seriously. I was asking myself the whole time, 'Who is this movie intended for?' The easy answer based on the rating is kids. I'm not a parent, but I do have many nieces and nephews. I wouldn't recommend my siblings take their kids to see this. But it's not an adults movie either.

This leads right into the next point in that the movie had horrible pacing issues. It started off really slow and throughout the movie, there were several scenes that just dragged on. Then things just started happening. The events didn't flow well. The writing was bad. The script wasn't great. Things just happened and you as a viewer were just forced to accept these things. Then scenes were thrown in there that just didn't make sense. It was forced. One second Maleficent bursts into the castle and we have a super awesome evil Maleficent scene where she curses Aurora. The next scene she feels bad that the three fairies aren't doing a great job at raising Aurora, so this evil villain starts taking care of Aurora. What? I don't get it. One second you doom the girl for the rest of her life potentially and now you feel bad that she isn't being raised right? Nope. I don't buy it. These things continue the whole movie and are especially bad at the end where the whole finale of the movie is forced and rushed. It especially disappointed me because this movie had so much potential that is just thrown away.

I will say that the cast in the movie is excellent. As the marketing has shoved in your face for months now, Angelina Jolie is Maleficent. And by goodness does that woman do a great job. I don't think they could've picked a better actress to portray the character in a live-action setting. The problem was they didn't write her character very well. I wanted her to be evil, especially during the scene where she curses Aurora. Holy cow that awesome. If they had kept that Maleficent, that would've been great, especially because they did a great job at building the character up to that point. Sad. Elle Fanning also did a good job as Aurora. I've actually been really happy with where her acting career is going. If you don't know her, yes she is Dakota's little sister. And yes, I think she is starting to outshine her older sister. This isn't my favorite role that's she's done, but she does well and I hope she continues to get good roles in the future.

Overall, this movie had a ton of potential that it just threw away. That said, I wouldn't consider it an awful movie. Sure, I had a lot of bad things to say about it, but I have seen a lot worse recently. I'm just very nit-picky with it because of how cool it could've been. I didn't like it as much as the somewhat disappointing Snow White and the Huntsman, but I did like it a lot more than Alice and Wonderland and Mirror Mirror, so it gets kudos there at least. It just didn't have the charm of Sleeping Beauty, spurred by the pacing issues, identity crisis and poor writing. I won't recommend you skip this movie because in my opinion that is an unfair recommendation. Different people have different opinions. But I will suggest to you to not pay full price for it if you do decide to see it. Find a matinee showing or a cheap theater. Or just wait and Redbox it. There are plenty of other good movies out right now that are more deserving of your time and money. My grade for Maleficent is a 6/10.

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