In the history of fairy tales, there is a lot of prominent female villains from Cruella de Ville to Ursula up to The Queen and Lady Tremaine. But there’s one name that probably tops them all: Maleficent. This year, Robert Stromberg brings the biggest of them all into the big screen in Disney’s film title of the same name.
Forced to act the way she did, Maleficent’s back story was tackled way back from she was once a sweet naïve girl up to the moment where she started to cause havoc and cast a spell on a young Aurora. It is then when she discovered that maybe there’s more than casting a spell to regain back what is hers.
At first, I find the approach quite refreshing. The past few years we’ve seen darker versions of other prominent fairy tale stories via Jack the Giant Slayer, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Oz: The Great and Powerful. So seeing that they went the other way around is an exciting take on this tale…
…or so I thought.What potential they could have amassed with this approach suddenly went awry when the film decided not only to tone things a bit, but to tone it AT ALL. This is as sugary sweet as one can get. But I think Maleficent is not the character to use for that type of total sweetness. I want my Maleficent to be flat out cruel and live up to her villainess image. I prefer her to be portrayed as how she was accustomed and not to be a sweetheart. I appreciate that there were some feminist undertones in it, but I think they were applying too much of the Frozen meets Wickedpackage for it to totally work.
Pacing seems to be an issue as well. I’m surprised to know that the film runs only at 97 minutes and it seems like the rumor of them cutting 38 minutes from the actual cut hurt the film’s ability to be smooth flowing. The third act in particular seems to be so rushed and everything just happens so quickly. It also did not help that the earlier acts weren’t on the same beat as the last one.
But leave it to the magnificent Angelina Jolie to be the film’s saving grace. She perfectly captured Maleficent’s coldness and her performance fits like a glove. Those protruding cheekbones – which could slice some apples – were so on point and her lines were deliciously delivered that I could have watched two hours of her just speaking random lines in Maleficent tone. If only she was asked to be more villainous, I think I’d love her performance even more. Elle Fanning was alright, and her accent did not bother me even a bit.
The film used a narration style which is reminiscent of when children were read with fairytales. Janet McTeer’s narration, albeit a bit unnecessary, was captivating, and James Newton Howard’s score was quite good as well, if not a tad late to be appreciated.
Some fairy tales are meant to be portrayed the way they originally were, and Maleficent belongs to that camp. It was too toned down for me to gush about and it left me wanting for an altogether different tone to it. One thing I’d take from this film though is Angelina Jolie and her cheekbones which will definitely reach classic status in the future.