On Thursday Alex and I saw Maleficent, and in case you’ve never heard of it, here’s the trailer:
I’m going to preface this review by saying that I’m biased. Maleficent from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” is my favorite villain. She’s got her own castle/army, she’s incredibly powerful, and she’s into bondage. What’s not to like? So when I heard Disney was making this movie I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I’d get to see more of my favorite villain, on the other hand they could completely cock it up. But the fact is I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this movie. But again, I’m biased. If you make a movie about a sorcerous with demon horns flying around on giant hawk wings I’m going to be down for that no matter what. She could have spent half the movie filing her nails, I would have been happy as long as the other half was her taking flight. But the movie wasn’t perfect.
What I liked the most
1) Sometimes when you see a “retelling” of a classic movie it’s really just a remake, with little or no difference from the original. What’s the point of those? This was not the case, Maleficent offers up a story which is similar to Sleeping Beauty but actually entirely different.
2) Passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. It’s a dark movie, but women clearly come out on top without the entire plot focusing on finding a man to marry. How refreshing!
3) The costumes and set design are gorgeous. Angelina Jolie was basically born to play this role, all my reservations on her getting the character right were foolhardy. And she even does it with her clothes on! How about that?
4) This might be seen as “a movie for girls” but it’s totally metal. Golems, sand worms, dragons…oh and did I mention Maleficent is an unstoppable sorcerous that flies around with devil horns and giant hawk wings??? Normally my inner child is terribly bored with all the romance in Disney movies but my lust for mayhem was never unquenched. Seriously, Maleficent was a complete badass.
What I liked the least:
1) So, uuh… They use rape as a means to advance the story. I meant it when I said the women come out on top in this movie but did they have to stick Maleficent in a refrigerator? Plots like this need to stop.
2) The movie suffers from the “lets do it in CGI!!!” mentality, particularly with the Three Fairy Godmothers. Instead of using puppetry or even just the actors (Imelda fucking Staunton, people!) themselves, they were compelled to scan and motion capture the ladies in order to portray the fairies, but they didn’t pull it off well. It was as though they spent all their effects budget on making Maleficent’s wings flawless (which they were!) It was honestly distracting how dated the CGI looks.
3) The movie has a flimsy total of six people of color in it, which is technically a good thing considering the number is usually zero. But can they at least speak next time, Disney? They definitely just wanted to mindlessly fill some kind of quota, when in fact there was plenty of opportunity for diverse roles (the fairies, the king, the nobles, hell even Aurora!)
4) I get the feeling that Elle Fanning can do some good acting, but her potential wasn’t met here. Her performance as Aurora had a momentary lapse from mediocrity in the movie, but was otherwise flat flat flat! It seemed like they didn’t know how to direct her, but this is forgivable since the movie isn’t actually about her.
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I think if I saw this movie another time I’d probably see some more insidious problems with it. There are other parts that left a bad taste in my mouth, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Ultimately I was too distracted by the epic quality of Maleficent herself to really sniff it all out, but Disney’s reputation for stories that do more harm to women than good is well earned, so definitely read a more scholarly critique.
But in all sincerity, she flies around with demon horns on giant hawk wings, people. Srsly tho.