Friday, June 20, 2014

Mousey Movie Review - Maleficent

With an opening weekend of $69.4 million in the United States, Maleficent, is a hit!  But should this retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty deserve to be?  Maleficent is the strongest of the fairies and the protector of the Moors from the encroachment of man.  She learns about pain and love in this live-action take of a classic.  And really as I look at this Mousey Movie I cannot help but compare it to the animated original: 

  • The Icon: Angelina Jolie is fantastic as Maleficent.  It is a Johnny Depp like performance.  And she does a good job mimicking some of the classic scenes, like the cursing, from the animated movie.  Now it is not a perfect depiction.  Jolie’s Maleficent is too white for me, with her creamy colored skin showing off her fresh lipstick. I would have preferred a green tone to the fairy’s skin.     
  • Murdock: I am a huge fan of Sharlto Copley!  I love his depiction of Murdock in the 2010 A-Team, he does an excellent job channeling the original in a terrific fanboy homage.  And I can remember my introduction to him in District 9, where I kept questioning who this odd guy was.  By the end of the movie I was completely caught in his story.  And I am the guy who defends Elysium because I love his villain Kruger.  Copley’s Stefan has made it so I can never look at King Stefan in the same way again.  He is not quite as creepy as Kruger, but there were parts to Kruger that I could find redeemable.  Though honestly Stefan might be as brutal as Kruger.  I do not know if I feel that way about Stefan.  In reclaiming Maleficent, the cost has been the good name of Stefan.  I do need to add that in my house I am the Copley fan.  And some of the Between Family do not believe that his looks fit the role, with them wanting Stefan to be more traditionally handsome.  And I will admit Stefan does not seem to have the personality found in a character like Kruger or Murdock.  But honestly the writing probably limited one of my favorite current actors.  Or at least I am remaining his apologist.    
  • The Frozen Playbook: I thought we were told that Disney was doing too much girl stuff and not enough stuff for boys.  Because Maleficent really is a movie about strong female characters.  And like in Frozen the male figures are firmly supporting figures.  Now as someone with several young women in his life, I am glad that not everything is male superheroes.  But it feels like Disney has done a better job balancing male and female characters in movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier than in their fantasy line of animated and live-action films  I definitely felt that Merida and Elsa could relate to Maleficent and would easily enjoy a girls night out together.     
  • Adventures in Babysitting: The kindly fairies are horrible.  Flora, Fauna and Merryweather may be silly but at least you feel like they love Briar Rose.  Knotgrass, Fittle and Thistlewit as presented in Maleficent are narcissistic, selfish, and entirely too self-centered.  There is little to indicate to me that they either love Aurora or like each other.  But worst of all they are incompetent.  Aurora is gone constantly from their protection both day and night and they never seem concerned that their charge is not firmly under their watch.  These fairies should be endearing to the viewer, and there is nothing likable about these magical ladies. 
  • Avatarland: I still do not understand why Disney is paying a fee to build Avatarland.  I guess I might have said that years ago about Star Wars, but I like Star Wars.  But if I am going to say something positive about this movie is that the Moor seems to me to be the type of fantasy environment that would fit in well within Animal Kingdom.  I guess I just wish Disney would take a creation of their own like the Moor and use it instead of paying a license for another company’s fantasy world. 
  • I Know You:  For me the most iconic song from Sleeping Beauty is “Once Upon a Dream” as Briar Rose meets Prince Phillip.  Maleficent mirrors this scene with Aurora and Phillip meeting each other in the forest.  I listened carefully hoping to find a musical homage to this classic.  It would have been perfect but it was nowhere to be heard.  Honestly, Disney owns the music so it is not like they had to free rights up to include the tune in the score.  Instead at the end we get Lana Del Rey’s version of the song in the credits.  And this darker version which I believe is coming from Maleficent’ s perspective failed for me with it seeming to lose the heart of the song.  This is reinforced by the fact that Jolie selected Del Rey to sing the classic, it is the title character’s view.  I think an opportunity was lost and the movie is worse for it. 
  • Amazing Spider-Man:  In the end I may have wanted to like Maleficent but I found myself having to hold this movie to the same standards as Amazing Spider-Man 2, where my general pronouncement is sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  A good example is when the humans have to face a dragon, they conveniently enough have the tools to fight a dragon.  Have these people ever seen a dragon?  Hey if you are going to burn every spinning wheel, make sure you only do the job 20%!  If you a peasant boy who wants to be king, well let’s have really no explanation to how you can receive the respect of the ennobled.  All I can say is sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!    

In the end I will not be buying on home video this live-action hit.  I do not need to see this film again.  And sadly it has made me less excited about a live-action Cinderella, which I did not know I could be less excited about.  And I kind of feel sad that I am so low on this film!

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