Maleficent

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Director: Robert Stromberg.
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton.
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins, Kenneth Carnham, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt.

I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me

Better known for his visual effects supervision on such films as “Life of Pi“, or more significantly, as production designer on “Oz: The Great And Powerful” and winning consecutive Oscars for “Avatar” and “Alice In Wonderland“, Robert Stromberg now delves into his first directorial outing with a reimagining of the classic fairy tale, “Sleeping Beauty“. Much like the aforementioned “Oz“, the characters from this well known children’s story are playfully recreated in a lush and involving fantasy and with Stromberg’s expertise who better to take us on that journey?!…

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In a Kingdom halved by both fairies and humans, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a fairy who protects her half from human intruders. However, a childhood relationship she developed with a human named Stefan (Sharlto Copley) proves to be her undoing. Stefan has ambitions to be King one day and in achieving it, he betrays the trust of Maleficent. As a result, she curses his first born child, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) to a sleep like death on her 16th birthday, that only true-love’s kiss can break.

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Opening on a wondrous, enchanting land with fairies, nymphs and magical powers, we are introduced to the young Maleficant – the winged guardian of her idyllic, peaceful forest. From the outset we’re definitely back in the realm of the fairy tale where Maleficent wasn’t the evil villain with a grudge to bare but a caring fairy, pure of heart and who, quite frankly, got fucked over. And this is exactly where “Maleficent” succeeds. It twists what we’ve come to know and invents a whole new story by ditching the mysogynistic reveries of righteous King’s and handsome Prince’s who’s lip-locking charms can save a damsel in distress with a mere peck. This is more of a feminist revisioning as we get more of a backstory and focus on what is predominantly seen as the antagonist of this story. Much like Mila Kunis’ portrayal of the Wicked Witch in “Oz” and Julia Roberts’ Evil Queen from Snow White’s story in “Mirror Mirror” we learn that their motivations derived from being scorned or abandoned by the men in their lives, lending a welcome complexity to these female characters – which brings me to Angelina Jolie’s titular role. Throughout a film awash with CGI it’s her that shines the most. She brings the requisite emotional depth and her motivations are entirely clear and understandable when really they were skimmed over in the classic 1959 Disney animation. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being as perfectly suited to Maleficent as Jolie is and the film ultimately works on her committed, three-dimensional performance alone.

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Although some may find it tonally uneven, I found Stromberg’s ability to combine both the light and the dark a welcome addition to the proceedings. His experience in the visual department is certainly on show and can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike but as much as Linda Woolverton’s script dares to venture into the emotional turmoil of Maleficent, it doesn’t bring much scope to the other characters. Fanning’s Princess Aurora is given little to do but looked perplexed in this magical land and Copley’s King Stefan has a slightly misplaced Scottish accent (see also his recent turn in “Oldboy“). As the title suggests, though, it isn’t really about anyone else other than Maleficent and on that front, both the character and Jolie’s performance, deliver the goods.

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Despite it sagging slightly around the midway point this is, largely, an engaging and successful retelling that isn’t afraid to conjure up some darkness from it’s fantastical melting pot.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Two characters called Queen Ulla and King Kinloch were the fairy queen and the fairy king of the Moors, and the aunt and uncle of Maleficent. Miranda Richardson and Peter Capaldi were cast and both shot their scenes, but they were edited entirely from the final cut of the film.

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45 Responses to “Maleficent”

  1. Not a film that appeals to me but great review dude.

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  2. Great review Mark, will check this out as I do like Angelina Jolie.

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  3. Mark, nice review. I’m going to wait to watch it for home viewing. I’m glad you liked it. Seems like it’s better than Oz and better than mediocre. Great!

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  4. Thanks for the review don’t think its my cup of tea. But I think my wife will love it

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    • Thanks for reading, man. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it was for me either but I ended up having a lot of fun with it. Jolie is the real draw here. She’s fantastic.

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  5. Will be taking my daughter to this soon!

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  6. Great review, Mark. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect when I went into the theater, so there weren’t any big surprises with the story, but Jolie was perfect as Maleficent and the visuals were beautiful.

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  7. Top work Mark. For some reason Maleficent hasn’t quite caught my attention, looks like it’ll be a home video watch in a few months for me!

    Adam.

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  8. Good review Mark. Jolie and the beautiful visuals save this movie, but barely. Everything else is sort of like an after-thought that was just cut-out and pasted together to keep something cohesive.

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    • I see what your saying Dan. I found that it dipped mid-way through but still ended on a high note and if taken as pure escapism then it was good fun. Can’t disagree with the visuals or Jolie. Both were great.

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  9. Great review, Mark! We’re pretty much in agreement on this one. Jolie was great!

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  10. I liked Angie and her chemistry with Fanning but I’m kinda torn on that whole feminist thing and the motivation you mention – women being hurt by men. It is believable, but it’s kinda…sad that those strong characters become evil just because some douche abandoned them. Especially in this movie that whole plot was so underdeveloped. They didn’t even make a reference to it in final confrontation, Maleficent could at least call him a coward or something.

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    • That’s a fair point, Sati. I did see it as a feminist revision where the female characters took no shit but I suppose it was still motivated by some asshole men. Still, I appreciated that Prince Charming had little influence or impact and that the whole true love’s kiss deal had nothing to do with him.
      There were definitely flaws and underdeveloped storylines but as a piece of entertainment, I really went with it.

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  11. Great review Mark! Y’know to be honest I didn’t think you’d be interested in this one. Glad you enjoyed it for the most part. I didn’t know Robert Stromberg hadn’t directed anything before, it seems there are more and more big projects w/ first-time directors lately. I’m curious about this one but more as a rental. I loved Sleeping Beauty so that’s the main draw for me to see a different point of view of the classic story.

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    • I wasn’t sure about it beforehand, Ruth but my kids wanted to see it, so I was roped in. Turns out it was dark enough for adults to enjoy too. Jolie was marvellous as Maleficent and the visuals were great too. It’s a great bit of entertainment!

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  12. For whatever reason this just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t like the fact that they’re trying to further their formula of marrying CGI with real people in an effort to re-tell all these classic stories. Sounds like Jolie nails her character, so I must give the movie that credit. But not sure if I’ll see it or just wait for it to come out on DVD.

    Splendid write-up all the same good sir

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    • Many thanks good sir! It’s a certainly a flawed flick and I understand your aversion to these “revisions” but I couldn’t deny how entertaining it was. It wasn’t sweet and light either. There’s was a nicely pitched darkness to it too. Worth a look on the big screen but I’m sure there’s plenty more to choose from before it.

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  13. You’re getting soft Mark. Watch more Scorsese! Can’t say as the trailer made it look terribly appealing, although a DVD rental will most likely be made. Loved the write-up as always Mark.

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    • Haha! Sometimes I must see these kind of flicks for the sake if the kids, mate. That being said, it is quite dark in places as well and that side of it definitely appealed to me. It was much better than I expected.

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  14. my review was similar on most points. i was annoyed by how broken the story was in its narrative, jumped around way to much, and kept me from really knowing when the story was actually happening. i was also annoyed by the iron fencing around the castle when maleficent approached. she easily walked through the maze. if they had just made a fence, then that would have kept her out. it was stupid.

    however, jolie’s performance was enough to make it worth watching, and the costumes/make up on her, both as a child and adult, were terrific. loved the vine creatures, hated the blobby frog-like things.

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    • Yeah, when I read yours I realised we were on the same page with many things, Rich. The narrative was certainly disjointed but it was the lack of focus air attention on all the supporting characters that annoyed me most. Still, like you say, Jolie made up for that. She was spot on. And, yes, those blobby things weren’t that appealing I have to say. Cheers buddy!

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  15. Interesting review Mark, wasn’t expecting to see this one show up I’ll be honest! Glad you kinda liked it though mate. Might give it a whirl if there’s not much else on.

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    • Cheers Chris. It wasn’t bad at all. I expected of to be and maybe that’s why I accepted what I got. Flawed for sure but I found it easy to look past these and just let it wash over me.

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  16. I thought Angelina Jolie was really terrific. Great review Mark.

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  17. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was a successful retelling! What did people expect from a film made by Disney targeted for a young audience!??? And Angelina IS that movie.

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    • I’m with you on that Courtney! I expected it to a lot worse and found myself really enjoying it. A LOT of that was down to a marvellously fitting performance from Angie. Thanks for dropping in. It’s good to hear a bit more positivity on it. 🙂

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  18. Nice review Mark! Still not something I am rushing to see, but should I come across is on DVD or so I won’t mind checking it out. Glad to hear Jolie was worth checking out still!

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  19. This film answers the question, is it possible for a performance to be so wonderful that it rescues and entire film? In the case of Maleficent, the answer is YES! Glad you enjoyed it too.

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