Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Maleficent - Movie Review

Disney Pictures presents a re-imagining of one of their most beloved fairy tale movies and puts the evil of their most feared villain in a whole new light. Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Sharlto Copley with direction from visual effects expert Robert Stromberg.

There once was a beautiful fairy named Maleficent (Jolie) who lived a truly magical existence within her forest kingdom. Peace and prosperity were the main orders of each day, at least until a series of intrusions from the outside world would force her to become a fierce warrior and eventually a cold and calculating evil version of herself. Fueled with revenge after being betrayed by someone close to her, she curses a newborn girl named Aurora (Fanning) and condemns her to eternal sleep after her 16th birthday. Thus begins a story familiar to most, but told in a way you might have never expected.

Between 1987 and 2012, Robert Stromberg became highly respected for his special effects work and he brings a ton of influence to Maleficent from movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean, Life of Pi, and even the Game of Thrones TV show. There were many times while watching this movie that I felt like the creators took the original animated Sleeping Beauty and threw it head first into the world of Pan's Labyrinth as it has a very similar look and feel. Overall, the movie is stunning to look at although some of the visuals look more like a video game than a photo realistic movie, even given the subject matter.

Angelina Jolie received a lot of hype going into this performance as there was a lot of potential for her to turn this into a milestone in a career that is already filled with iconic roles. While I enjoyed her turn as the emotionally troubled villain, I felt like she could have given a lot more to the character and she almost literally just floats through the picture rather than taking the opportunity to produce something truly magical. I couldn't help but think of Charlize Theron's excellent work as the evil witch in Snow White and the Huntsman in comparison to what Jolie left on the table. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed what she did, I just feel like she could have given even more to the role which would have elevated not just her character but the entire movie.

Maleficent will no doubt be a success at the box office and as a marketing machine for Disney although I wouldn't necessarily rank it up against some of their stronger efforts. Jolie is good but not great, the special effects are several years behind current standards, and, while this new take on the story is a compelling effort, it can also be a little confusing. As I'm finishing this review, I'm still trying to decide where it might fit and, while I thought it was entertaining, it's not a movie that will stick with me very much farther into the year.

I did not see the movie in 3D so I'm not able to comment on whether it's worth the upgrade. In the past, Disney's live action efforts have come with mixed results in this regard so sticking with 2D would at least be a safe bet.


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