Warning time. Do not read this if you haven't seen Maleficent. I will be talking in detail about the movie. Spoilers will abound. This isn't a wash over review it's a dissection. Back out now if you want to see it fresh without my take on it. And with the movie unsullied and unspoiled.
Okay? Are we clear?
Everyone still here knows what is coming? Good.
Now for the second warning. I am a Maleficent fangirl. She is my favorite Disney character. Flat out, hands down. My favorite. So with that being said it's hard to please a true fangirl or fanboy when a movie comes out that dares to touch their hero. And we tend to say things that make other people roll their eyes and mutter "fangirl" under their breath. And I am not only aware of this, I am okay with it. When we left the theater the first question Brent asked was, "How mad are you?" See? He knows there was no way to please me completely and it would just be a degree of mad. So take all of the rest of this review with that in mind.
When the news first hit that they were making a live action Maleficent I had visions of Snow White and the Huntsman roll through my head and I was not okay with them doing that to my Maleficent. Not at all. But then the first pictures of Angelina Jolie came out and...wow. She looked so perfect for the part. Maybe this was going to be okay. And the first trailers hit and it looked beautiful and ominous and I started to get excited about the film and look forward to opening weekend.
Also keep in mind that Maleficent is really unformed in the Disney universe. It's not like Sleeping Beauty was about her, it was about the princess right? We know very few things about her. She wasn't invited to the party, she cursed the baby, the other fairies tried to fix it but could only lessen the effects. She had a raven and could turn in to a dragon. We are left to fill in her story. And for those of us who are fans, we have. We've given her more. All based on that basic framework. And now there is a movie that is going to fill in the gaps for us. To change the story we have all filled in on our own. How was this going to play out?
So let's begin. Did it live up to the trailer? Yes. It was beautiful. The movie is gorgeous. Angelina Jolie is perfect as Maleficent. Beautiful. Beyond. And the addition of the wings? Just so impressive. She commands every scene she is in and she is in most of them. Also very good was the addition of her raven being more developed as a character. The shape shifting elements when he was in human form or as the wolf or the horse and still had ravenesque qualities? Gorgeous. Stunning. The chemistry between the two of them was also wonderful. Crackling. So good. The back story with her and Stefan? Shows how a protector of her lands and people could turn in to a villain against his. And the first battle scene? The power she showed as a fae warrior? Loved it.
Okay, let's begin again. Did it live up to the trailer? No. It just wasn't...and here is where I've struggled trying to figure out what was wrong with it. I kept telling the boys, "Now I am a huge Maleficent fan so..." and qualifying my critique of the film. And I honestly just couldn't put my finger on what I didn't like about it. I can tell you what C didn't like. I can tell you what Brent wasn't fond of. But I couldn't really grasp what my biggest issue was. C put it this way, "Disney had a hard time committing to a villain being the main focus of the story." Brent said, "They couldn't seem to decide what story they wanted to tell." And those are both parts of my issue.
And finally it came to me. They made her less than. They not only literally clipped her wings but figuratively as well. Maleficent is the best Disney villain. She is scary. She is powerful. She turns in to a fucking dragon. How bad-ass is that? Her curse is so strong that the other fairies can't get rid of it, they can just lessen it. But here...well...the curse is lessened from the start, she doesn't condemn Aurora to death, but to a death like sleep only to be awakened by true love's kiss. Now the catch is Maleficent doesn't believe there is such a thing as true love so it would be death for all intents and purposes, but still... I didn't like it when I saw it in the preview and still didn't like it in the movie. I get that it was a slap at Stefan, but still. Nope. Death. She cursed her to die. The stakes are supposed to be huge.
And one of the cool effects in the movie is when Maleficent turns her raven companion Diaval (mentioning his name because I will come back to it) in to other forms as she needs them. She saves Diaval from death and tells him that she needs him to be her wings. And also her wolf and her horse. She also turns him human from time to time so they can chat. Which was great, as I said before the two of them were incredibly good together. And the effects here were wonderful. Wolf with feathers instead of fur. You never forgot his nature. Which is where to movie really slips for me. You never forget his nature, but they forgot hers.
Take the original name of the raven. His name was Diablo. Her raven was named devil. She was evil and her raven was devil. There isn't a lot of subtlety there. (they changed the names of the three faeries as well which bothered me but C pointed out the original names weren't all that great either) And for those of you that saw the movie you've noticed I keep skipping one of the things she turned him in to. Yes. The dragon. She turns Diaval in to a dragon when she needs one. And this is where my heart breaks for Maleficent. Not when Stefan cuts off her wings, but when the movie does. Okay, I lied, my heart broke when he did it as well. But to me, this was adding insult to injury. And they could have fixed it in my opinion. If they had shown that before he stole her wings she could transform but after she couldn't I would have been okay. But no. We are left with a Maleficent that is bad-ass, up to a point, wicked, kind of, and can turn a raven in to a dragon.
The movie did a good job showing why she was so evil. You would be too if someone told you that they loved you then mutilated you to gain the favor of a king who had just tried to conquer your land by unprovoked war. Though I still like the original that she was mad because she didn't get an invitation to a party. I like the sly smile that comes with "don't be rude" in my mind. But I liked this well enough.
And I don't really have a problem with her watching Aurora growing up and becoming slightly fascinated with her. She can play as the light to Maleficent's dark. I'm cool with that. Up to a point. It doesn't sit quite right for me but I'm willing to go with it, up to a point. Aurora's father was awful (not just the acting, but that wasn't great) but an awful person. Driven by the desire to have power. Then turned bitter and paranoid, as one would probably do if they knew they were responsible for the death-like curse on their daughter. But I still have issue with Maleficent becoming the hero. The good guy.
In a world where we watch The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and are fascinated by our anti-heroes why do we need to make Maleficent a good guy? The took the story of the biggest bad-ass on the block and turned it in to a redemption story. And that's my basic problem. I never thought she needed to be redeemed.