“When I’m good I’m really good, but when I’m bad I’m better.” The Good and the Bad of Maleficent.
I went to see Maleficent after I don’t know how many months of looking forward to it, and…it left me perplexed. It wasn’t a bad kind of perplexed, just the kind of feeling you would get if you bit into a home-cooked apple pie and had it tasted like ice cream cake. It was really good, just not what I expected.
The all-around outstanding cast choices were one of the more satisfying surprises in the film. Angelina Jolie is Maleficent, so much so that it’s almost like Maleficent has been playing Angelina Jolie for the past 38 years. Nobody could have portrayed her the way Angelina did.
It wasn’t only her performance that stood out, though: Sharlto Kopley made Stefan just power-hungry enough to be creepy, Elle Fanning turned Aurora into the definition of childish curiosity, Sam Riley perfectly balanced Angelina’s steeliness with his quip-prone Diaval, and Brenton Thwaites was so adorable as Prince Charming you couldn’t help but smile when he was on screen.
The actors and actresses gave it their all and it showed. When they spoke you didn’t only believe them–you believed in them. That’s an accomplishment in any fairy tale film, and certainly not what I anticipated walking into the theater.
As in any Disney film, the graphics were amazing. It was full of fairies, wood monsters, fantasy worlds, and magic spells…but none of it looked out of place. The artists behind the scenes made sure that everything had some kind of gritty detail or imperfection that made it seem like it could actually exist. I was particularly impressed by Angelina’s wings–they moved organically with her and there were several scenes where I couldn’t tell if they had hitched a prop on her back. Apparently they were always computer animated, but they certainly didn’t look it.
The relationships between the characters were unorthodox but interesting. You wanted to watch them unfold.
Maleficent’s treatment of Aurora was truly heart-wrenching. The duality of Maleficent’s hatred for the child of a man she loathes and her undying love for a little girl so similar to herself makes for a beautiful performance that is at once soothing and painful.
Her back and forth with the raven Diaval was delightful, providing a comic warmth that made you feel like you were seeing into Maleficent’s daily life. The mouthy bird tiptoed over the edge of respect and back again. It was the only kind of company you would expect the Mistress of All Evil to keep.
If anything, I felt that Maleficent’s feelings towards King Stefan felt short. There was a lot they could have done to expand on everything that went on between them, but the producers seemed afraid to delve too deep into their history. It was a shame.
There’s no nice way to say it: parts of it were missing. It was clear that someone edited out crucial sections to make it reach the hour-and-a-half long mark. Added backstory and conversations–ones that were probably there in the first place–could have easily stretched it out for an hour more, and to an excellent effect. After all, this was a film for the kind of people that like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones. Anyone in that theater came specifically to delve into the psychology of the characters. I was kind of sad when I found out that it was well under 120 minutes.
The time was (almost) the only issue I had. Had the editors let the story breathe, it would have been truly perfect. The bittersweet love story sets up a great backdrop, Maleficent’s descent into evil is sublime, and the crescendo has you on the edge of your seat. It’s a hearty film–if you gave it a handshake, you would want to do business with it. The other problem was something that couldn’t be avoided.
For well over half the movie, Maleficent is our black-wearing, spell-casting, horned demon of a self. For the other half she’s a charismatic and spirited defender of her homelands and everything inside them. That makes for an intriguing and fleshed-out villain everyone can get behind…it just wasn’t what I was looking for.
I love Maleficent because she’s one-hundred percent evil. I wanted her to be utterly ruthless for little to no reason and without any resistance, like she was in Sleeping Beauty. Having there be 90 minutes of Maleficent cackling and scheming would have made for a pretty boring film, though, and I really can’t complain that much. I got that vindictive witch for a solid half an hour, which is nothing to shake a staff at.
Basically, visions are seldom what they seem…but that’s not a bad thing.
All and all, Maleficent is a good film. Maybe it’s a little rushed, but the cast, the world, the characters, everything worked together to make something you will want to go back and watch again.