Thursday, August 14, 2014
Film review: Maleficent
Sleeping Beauty gets the "Wicked" treatment here. The villainess isn't evil, just misunderstood, and ultimately, the real heroine. So, it loses points for borrowing that concept.
It starts off interesting, it ends with a nice -- if not totally original -- climax, it's the middle where things lose momentum. I usually feel patronized when a film throws in a gratuitous action sequence to prop up a sagging middle (I'm looking at you three most-recent Star Wars movies, and Casino Royale), but this film needed it. In the second act we watch Aurora go from baby to 15 in a totally unremarkable childhood.
Unremarkable ... couldn't anything happen? A world of dungeons and dragons, and absolutely no conflict in the flabby middle. Just Jolie becoming protective then loving of the princess she had cursed. There had to be a better way of showing that than a playful mud fight with the local trolls.
Just as in the Disney classic, three fairies raise her, but they're incompetent so Maleficent takes over raising her. The incompetence is supposed to be humorous, but never actually is funny.
It's a literal adaptation of the animated film - they frequently recreate scenes faithfully - and I'm sitting in the theater thinking: please, take liberties, please, someone say something sarcastic. Wicked told an old story in a new way, turning what we knew about Oz on its head. This film, not so much.
I could also see parallels to "Terminator 2." The cyborg didn't turn good to service the story, the cyborg turned good because between Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger became a big movie star, and big movie stars don't play the bad guy. (the exception would be Jack Nicholson who's secure enough in his stardom to play the Joker or Jessup in "A Few Good Men.")
This is the same deal, Angelina Jolie is too big a movie star to play a villain. You could hear her agent yelling at the Disney people, "If you want her to be in this movie, she demands that she's the one who kisses the princess to break the spell!"
"Um...but in the story..."
"We don't care!"
As a result, when the handsome prince does show up, he has nothing to do. In fact he spends more time unconscious than Sleeping Beauty.
It's like that Monty Python sketch "Scott of the Antarctic," where the dim lead actor wants a rewrite in which he fights a lion. Nevermind there are no lions in the Antarctic.
So when Jolie gives the princess "true love's kiss," the only thing you see is Jolie's true love for her career.