Maleficent Movie Review of Good and Bad Points | Fanboys Anonymous

Maleficent Movie Review of Good and Bad Points

Posted by Anthony Mango Friday, June 6, 2014
Maleficent - Directed by Robert Stromberg. Written by Linda Woolverton. Starring Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Elle Fanning (Aurora), Sharlto Copley (Stefan), Lesley Manville (Flittle), Imelda Staunton (Knotgrass), Juno Temple (Thistletwit), Sam Riley (Diaval) and Brenton Thwaites (Prince Phillip).
Picture of Logo Maleficent Film title screen shot

Maleficent is a reimagining of Disney's classic Sleeping Beauty, built around the premise that the story we've all been told is not quite how things went about. This is a way to bring the titular villain into the forefront and make her the protagonist rather than merely a dragon that people need to kill, because, you know, the crazy evil witch with the horns has to die.

Very rarely do I ever go into a movie that is a prequel, sequel, reboot, or anything of the sort without doing my research and checking out at least what I feel is to be the bare minimum. In this case, I had seen Sleeping Beauty as a child, but I was never fond of it and could not honestly remember all that much. To be perfectly honest, I didn't even remember that a spinning wheel was the MacGuffin involved in the curse. So, that being said, I was able to approach this with fewer preconceived notions and lower expectations.

Did that pan out for the better or did it hinder the film?

It's time for another REVIEWPOINT as we break down the film's hits and misses.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW

As always, let's start with the bad news first.

THE MISSES

1. WELL, MEN SURE ARE BASTARDS, AREN'T THEY?

I'm sure this wasn't the intention of the film, as though it were created by some uber-feminist propaganda tyrant, but hey, if there can be such things as a Bechdel test, then fair is fair and the men can judge things in a similar fashion. Every man in the movie is kind of a piece of shit. The former king and every soldier in the kingdom are nothing but warmongers for the sake of it. Stefan steals the heart of Maleficent and then becomes a huge asshole by cutting off her wings and going insane. The big tree creatures that are given masculine voices? Brainless thugs that are only good for punches. Diaval is a servant. Prince Phillip is not only not good enough to be the one to break the spell for Aurora, but he's also a klutz of a moron. Granted, I thought the decision to change the true love kiss to Maleficent was the right way to go for this retelling, but Prince Phillip had no redeeming qualities to make up for taking that away from him. It would have been nice to see him side with Maleficent against Stefan and show some positive leadership qualities or something.

2. THE CREATURES

What were those hideous frog dwarf things, and why was I looking at them so much throughout the movie? All of the different animals and monsters and so forth in the forest were kind of repulsive—even the fairies. Speaking of which…

3. THE FAIRIES

Annoying AND ugly. If Aurora hadn't been magically imbued with superhuman optimism (that's canon in this movie, not just a joke) then she would have no doubt strangled those bothersome half-wits a long time ago. The constant bickering is probably supposed to be endearing, but I couldn't stand it. No wonder Maleficent is the better choice to go with—she's not a pain in the ass 24/7!

4. UNIMPRESSIVE 3D / SPECIAL EFFECTS

I can only remember one shot from the movie that I could tell was in 3D, and it was the slow motion crash through the glass during the end fight. Everything else seemed like it was still in 2D to the point where I actually took my glasses off to try to see if there was something wrong. Only two of the last four movies that I saw in theaters (links to the reviews below) were in 3D. Those were The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. While the former had some good 3D moments, the latter was not impressive enough to me. On the other hand, I saw RoboCop and Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 4K and I was more impressed than I was with these recent 3D showings. This had the same underwhelming quality to it, and considering how steep the prices are getting, I might have to start cutting back on the 3D unless it's a movie that particularly warrants it.

THE HITS

1. LIKABLE VILLAINS

Props to Angelina Jolie for pulling this off. The movie balances the character; her motivations are either completely justified or, if they aren't, she's regretful of having taken things too far—but not immediately or not just because the plot calls for it. Stefan's a jerk and stays a jerk after his heel turn, so this whole movie would have tanked if there wasn't someone to root for. Maleficent ends up being that character. The same applies to the rather charming Diaval, who could have come off more like a creepy stalker than a worthwhile Sancho Panza. That's a good thing, too, as Prince Phillip comes off more like Prince Bumbling than Prince Charming (I know, I know, different movie. Just go with it. I liked that joke.) Aurora is a bit heavy-handed with the "isn't she sweet" attitude but is still someone you don't want to see get killed, and the primary reason why that is the case is because it would suck to see Maleficent suffer another devastating blow like she had earlier in the movie. 

2. LANA DEL REY'S "ONCE UPON A DREAM"

The main theme throughout the film was catchy enough that I would have written down the music here as a positive already (shout out to James Newton Howard—good job, buddy). However, extra credit goes to Lana Del Rey for her rendition of "Once Upon a Dream," which was used in the end credits. I like a number of her songs quite a bit ("National Anthem" probably being my favorite), and I'll be adding this to my collection as well. It's dark, eerie, and I completely wasn't expecting it when the credits came on, so that was a pleasant surprise. Truth be told, I didn't recognize that it was her, and I thought that it could have been Angelina Jolie herself singing. I'm not familiar with Jolie's voice, but it sounded close enough that apparently I'm not the only person who thought this. Funny enough, Jolie supposedly hand-picked Lana Del Rey to sing it, so that might have been the reason why.

3. PAUL DINI

He's uncredited, but according to IMDB, he helped polish the script. Paul Dini is one of the primary reasons why the Batman animated series from the 1990s ended up being so magnificent. I have no doubt that he helped clean this script up and boost it to the level it is now. Without him, I very well could have ended up really disliking this movie, rather than thinking it was okay.

WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?

Eeeehhhhh…I don't know. If you are a Disney fanatic, you're naturally going to see this, so my recommendation doesn't matter. If you hate Disney stuff, then that's equally the same, but in the opposite direction, and you'd never be caught dead watching this unless they tortured you like in A Clockwork Orange. However, if you're in the middle of the road like myself, and you like the more modern Disney movies (Aladdin, The Lion King, the Pixar films, etc) but aren't exactly fond of the older "classics" (Snow White, Cinderella), then it's a tough call. I enjoyed the film more than I had expected to but not as much as I had optimistically hoped that I would. It won't get another viewing from me, but I'll be listening to Lana Del Rey's rendition of "Once Upon a Dream" quite a bit. Since the 3D was disappointing and movie theater prices are ridiculous ($32 for two tickets and a small popcorn in the middle of the afternoon?!), I would suggest that this is a download more than it is a trip out to watch it. Even then, you might want to pass if you aren't particularly intrigued by the idea of twisting a story around.

If you want to check out some more comic book film "Reviewpoint" articles:

What were your thoughts on the movie? What should the next Reviewpoint be?

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THIS POST WRITTEN BY: ANTHONY MANGO

Tony Mango is the founder, head writer and show host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment and more. He is a writer, creative director/consultant, media manager and entertainer. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Extended profile here.

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